Biochemists are highly skilled scientists who specialize in the study of living things. They analyze the chemical reactions that occur during life's natural processes, such as metabolism, aging and disease. This work can involve advancing the understanding of living things, or it can involve using that understanding to create biological substances, like hormones, to improve life. Because biochemists can perform in a wide variety of disciplines and work for a wide variety of organizations, their starting salaries cannot be accurately pinpointed with one number. Instead, it is useful to look at average starting salaries across the discipline, factoring in variables like education, employment type and specialty.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an entry level biochemist with a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry or other life sciences earns a starting salary of $34,953 a year, on average. This is a blanket figure which looks at the discipline as a whole and doesn't consider variables that affect starting pay. Some of these variables include employer type, job duties and area of specialty. Each niche offers its own unique salary considerations and the differences can be as large as $50,000 from one biochemist to the next. It's important to consider these variables when trying to calculate a starting salary.
Starting Salary by Employer Type
According to researchers at PayScale.com, employer type is one consideration that can greatly affect the starting salary and overall earnings potential of a biochemist. For example, the median average salary for biochemistry professionals working for private foundations is $25,000 annually, while state and local government employees earn $43,000. Hospital biochemists come in at around $62,000 per year. Self employed biochemists and those who work as consultants enjoy the highest earnings, bringing home around $70,000. While these represent the median average income levels for bachelor's degree level biochemists, the conclusion can be drawn that starting salaries would trend slightly lower.
Starting Salary by Specialty
Biochemistry professionals can chose from a diverse range of career paths. According to PayScale.com researchers, scientists with biochemistry degrees who teach high school science are on the lower end of the pay scale, expecting starting salaries in the mid $30,000 to $40,000 range. Biochemists specializing in research and development in clinical laboratory settings jump up to starting salaries of around $55,000. Those who specialize in biochemistry within biotechnology can expect around $45,000.
Salary by Education
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the highest earning 10 percent of biochemists exceed the $100,000 per year mark. This is due, largely, to the level of educations these workers received. Starting salaries for a PhD level position can nearly double that of a biochemist with a bachelor's degree. Master's degree level biochemists can begin to take on managerial responsibilities in laboratories and research facilities and can work on more highly specialized projects, earning a significant jump in starting pay as well.
Overall Salary Range and Outlook
The salary range for biochemists over all ranges and education types, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is less than $35,000 to more than $110,000. Most biochemists earned from $50,000 to $80,000 in 2007. Job growth has exploded over the last decade due to technological advances and efforts by the federal government and private sectors to fund cutting-edge research, however; this growth has begun to slow and is expected to continue slowing over the next ten years. Currently the field is experiencing a 9 percent growth rate, which is the national average for all careers. The slow growth is making jobs more competitive, and funding cuts are lowering salaries.
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