Getting the education and training required for a biochemist
Online programs typically include the same coursework as their on-campus counterparts. Science-based degrees, however, always include a hands-on laboratory work component. This level of experiential learning is an essential part of any useful science degree.
Biochemistry refers to the structures and processes of living organisms. If you enroll in a BS in Biochemistry program, you will study the structure and properties of biological matter from a molecular perspective to gain a fundamental understanding of biology and then take this knowledge back to your career. Your coursework will address problems that cross multiple disciplines, and you will work with course material that reflects real-world issues. You can apply what you learn to fields such as drug research, disease control and intervention, gene engineering, energy conservation and more. Biochemistry is also a popular choice for students who want to enter graduate health programs, particularly dentistry, pharmacy or medical school.
Even if you’re not certain what career you want, an online BS in biochemistry prepares you for a large number of graduate degrees and job possibilities. Some of the positions you can get with a biochemistry degree include the following, with salary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some career paths may require further education beyond the bachelor’s level:
- Forensic science technician (median salary: $57,850)
- Biochemist or biophysicist (median salary: $91,190)
- Health services manager (median salary: $98,350)
- Physician’s assistant (median salary: $104,860)
- Pharmacist (median salary: $124,170)
- Surgeon (median salary: $208,000)
The benefits of studying biochemistry online
Studying biochemistry online allows you to earn a natural science degree in a learning environment that is flexible and fits to your schedule, so you can conduct the bulk of your studies in a manner that’s convenient for you. As you may not be able to take all of your classes on campus, an online offering could be what you need to balance your personal and professional lives with your added schoolwork.
The purpose of hands-on lab work
Hands-on laboratory experience is a critical part of science degree courses and of your biochemistry education. Laboratory skills are likely to be a fixture in your career as a biochemist or related role, and hands-on laboratory experience is essential for your degree to be taken seriously by potential graduate programs and employers.
As noted by O*Net OnLine, using data from the U.S. Department of Labor, a critical task of a biochemist is managing or monitoring the work of laboratory teams. Biochemists study living organisms in a laboratory setting, educate others on biochemistry laboratory duties or conduct other types of research in a lab. Some biochemists may move on to the title of laboratory director. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sectors hiring the largest number of biochemists are research and development in physical, engineering and life sciences (47 percent); colleges, universities and professional schools (15 percent); and pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing (14 percent).
Lab work is a central component of biochemistry. Without demonstrated laboratory skills, prospective professionals will not be positioned for success in the field.
Drug developers, for example, need to understand the important molecular-level processes related to drug action, how drugs interact with the human body and what effects they have—all of which are revealed in a lab by performing experiments. Similarly, clinical trial managers need an extensive hands-on research background to properly design and conduct group studies.
Laboratory work helps you in many ways, such as learning:
- The skills to work with biochemical samples and materials
- To make accurate observations and combating bias to record authentic data
- Why and how slight changes to an experiment can drastically affect outcomes
- How to analyze and interpret observations and data at the molecular level’s structure, properties and processes, as well as how to test hypotheses and how they connect to basic molecular theory
- How to use contemporary scientific apparatus and instruments, such as centrifuges, electrophoresis, spectrometers and chromatographs
- Specific practices, such as DNA cloning and plasmid manipulation
- How to follow control and safety protocols and using necessary safety equipment for potentially hazardous materials
- To write scientific reports and present results
- To interact with other biochemistry students and professionals and developing the necessary soft skills required of research team members
- To work with properly sterilized tools and equipment
The soft skills you’ll need for a biochemistry career
Biochemists typically work with others in their field and experts in other professions. Therefore, it’s crucial that you develop the soft skills to analyze comprehensive information while working in a laboratory environment. These skills include:
- Critical thinking to interpret data and draw conclusions
- Communication to collaborate with coworkers, write research reports, publish articles in academic journals and present findings
- Perseverance to continue with research through trial and error
- Time management to prioritize certain tasks and meet research deadlines
Hands-on lab courses allow you to develop these skills in a safe, monitored environment. You’ll work with and around other students in a collaborative setting, which can give you insights that would be difficult to come across by yourself. You can improve your communication skills by discussing assignments, critical thinking skills by working together on solutions, time management by adhering to assignment deadlines and perseverance by working together through setbacks.
Study biochemistry with ASU Online
The online Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Arizona State University addresses this need for hands-on lab work and can provide the same valuable educational experience as its on-campus offering. All ASU undergraduate, graduate and certificate opportunities, including the ones offered online, are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the main accrediting body for universities across 19 states in the central U.S.
The ASU Online BS in Biochemistry is part of the School of Molecular Sciences, ranked #6 in the U.S. by Thomas Reuters with collaborative, interdisciplinary faculty who can convert their real-world expertise into engaging online courses. The primary difference between the on-campus and online programs is that the online biochemistry labs are taught in an accelerated format for students who may have other professional or personal commitments.
All on-campus lab courses are offered for completion either in your own home, in the case of general chemistry, or during the summer at the ASU Tempe Campus. The latter is conducted in a specialized laboratory, and these courses can be completed in one week. This innovative course format ensures that students have an opportunity to get the lab experience that is critical in an undergraduate Biochemistry program, while still retaining the flexibility of online learning.
The online ASU biochemistry degree program offers students low-cost options to travel to the campus for a short period of time to complete these invaluable, on-ground lab experiences. Although students also have the option of completing required lab courses at approved locations in their own areas and transferring these credits to ASU, attending the ASU campus courses can strengthen their connections to their peers and instructors.
The in-person laboratory courses that ASU online biochemistry students complete as part of their degree have been received favorably by professionals in the science industry and graduate programs. You will study at the most innovative university in the world as determined by U.S. News & World Report. You can potentially start your journey to a career that puts you on the cutting edge of research, medicine, biological science or whatever specialty you desire.
All photos credited to: Mary Zhu, ASU School of Molecular Sciences
10 Things Employers Think About Your Online Degree by U.S. News & World Report
Medical and Health Services Managers
Physician Assistants by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Pharmacists by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Biochemists and Biophysicists by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Physicians and Surgeons by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
ASU selected as nation’s most innovative school for third straight year by ASU Now
Online Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry by ASU Online
Biochemists and Biophysicists by O*Net OnLine