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Degree Overview: Master’s Degree Program in Biochemistry

Majors Overview April 24, 2015

Get information about master’s degree programs in biochemistry and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Master’s Degree Programs in Biochemistry

Students enrolled in Master of Science (M.S.) in Biochemistry degree programs engage in the examination of intricate biological systems with respect to the biological processes, functions, and structures of a variety of macromolecules and molecules within those systems.

Molecular genetics or molecular biology is integrated by some schools into their M.S. in Biochemistry degree program. They offer wide-ranging research topics, such as drug development, biochemical pathway regulation, non-invasive diagnostics, protein structure and conformation, and the biochemical basis of human diseases. Graduates become adept in the synthesizing of this knowledge and applying it to various laboratory applications.

Students use a master’s degree program in biochemistry as a preliminary step toward a doctoral program in biochemistry. Coursework in the master’s program is devised to give undergraduate degree holders in biology or chemistry an acquaintance with the biochemical knowledge they would need in pursuing doctoral research or in expanding their current career responsibilities.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree featuring extensive biology and chemistry training. Applicants are also often required to submit a personal statement and letters of recommendation. Students enrolled in certain schools are also required to pass a writing proficiency exam and placement exams before they are admitted to a master’s degree program.


Students take 30–32 credit hours to complete an M.S. in Biochemistry. Coursework comprises thesis research, lab rotations, and courses. Schools also offer non-thesis options. In completing the highly interdisciplinary coursework, students work alongside faculty in the microbiology, physiology, pharmacology, biology, and chemistry departments.

Coursework covers topic areas such as the molecular structure and function of various enzymes, in addition to an in-depth study of essential biochemical processes. Core coursework may include subject areas such as the following:

•Somatic cell genetics
•Molecular genetics
•Biopolymer structure
•Nucleic acid and protein interactions
•The function and structure of proteins
•Disease biochemistry
•Organic chemistry
•Cell fate biochemistry
•General biochemistry

Career Choices

While entry-level technical positions may be available to individuals holding a bachelor’s degree, advanced scientific research positions call for candidates with a doctorate.

Undergraduate degree holders seeking advancement in a career, strengthening of a biochemical background, or preparation for a doctorate program would be served by earning a master’s degree in biochemistry.

Graduates are trained to occupy research or teaching positions in the private and public sectors within organizations dealing with the biological or chemical sciences. They may choose from specific career titles such as:

•Clinical research associate and coordinator
•Biology teacher (community college or high school)
•Clinical laboratory technologist
•Research technician

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, much-faster-than-average job growth rate of 19% have been predicted for biochemists and biophysicists (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, these scientists brought in an average annual wage of $81,480. High school teachers, who are expected to see job growth of 6% during the 2010 – 2020 decade, earned an average annual wage of $55,050. While postsecondary teachers could enjoy job growth of 19% from 2012 – 2022, postsecondary biology teachers earned $68,970 on average per annum (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Graduates from the M.S. in Biochemistry degree program can pursue continuing education by earning a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Applicants to the master’s degree programs are expected to commit themselves to continuing into the Ph.D. program before such applicants are allowed to enroll.

The duration of this doctorate program is approximately 60 hours after completion of the master’s degree and focuses on researching, presenting, and defending a doctoral dissertation project. Once they receive the Ph.D., biochemistry graduates are allowed to conduct independent research as a biological scientist or biochemist.

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