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Biochemists and Biophysicists Job Outlook

Employment of biochemists and biophysicists is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 7,700 new jobs over the 10-year period. More biochemists and biophysicists are expected to be needed to do basic research that increases scientific knowledge and to research and develop biological products and processes that improve our lives.

The aging of the baby-boom population and the demand for lifesaving new drugs and procedures to cure and prevent disease will likely drive demand for biochemists and biophysicists involved in biomedical research. For example, biochemists will be needed to conduct genetic research and to develop new medicines and treatments that are used to fight genetic disorders and diseases such as cancer. They will also be needed to develop new tests used to detect diseases and other illnesses.

Aside from improving our health, other areas of research and development in biotechnology are expected to provide employment growth for biochemists and biophysicists. Greater demand for clean energy should increase the need for biochemists who research and develop alternative energy sources, such as biofuels. A growing population and rising food prices are expected to fuel the development of genetically engineered crops that provide greater yields and require fewer resources to produce. Finally, efforts to discover new and improved ways to clean up and preserve the environment will increase demand for biochemists and biophysicists.

Job Prospects

Biochemists and biophysicists involved in basic research should expect strong competition for permanent research and faculty positions at colleges and universities. Biochemists and biophysicists with postdoctoral experience who have had research articles published in scientific journals should have the best prospects for these positions. Many biochemists and biophysicists work through multiple postdoctoral appointments before getting a permanent position in academia. 

A large portion of basic research in biochemistry and biophysics is dependent on funding from the federal government through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Therefore, federal budgetary decisions will have a large impact on job prospects in basic research from year to year. Typically, there is strong competition among biochemists and biophysicists for research funding.

Most applied research projects that biochemists and biophysicists are involved in require the expertise of scientists in multiple fields such as microbiology, medicine, and chemistry. Biochemists and biophysicists who have a broad understanding of biochemistry and its relationship to other disciplines should have the best job opportunities.

For entry-level biochemist positions, strong competition is expected because of the growing interest in biochemistry and other biological sciences at the undergraduate level. Applicants who have previous laboratory experience, either through coursework or prior work experience, should have the best job opportunities.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition