Biochemical Engineering Degree

A Biochemical Engineering degree would allow you to analyze chemical changes in living organisms and determine how to use the power of these changes for the creation of new products and medicines. Biochemical engineering involves the development of new ways to use enzymes, cells, antibodies and other biochemical agents in the fields of medicine and environmental services, among others.

The following information would be helpful to those looking for a biochemical engineering degree.

How to Become a Biochemical Engineer

Entering this field requires extensive education and training. The educational requirements to become a biochemical engineer are as follows:

  • Minimum Degree Required: Bachelor of Science
  • Courses: Biology, chemistry, engineering
  • Key skills: Analytical, communication, math, listening

In addition to these, you will also need intensive on the job training, along with internships and practical experience.

Here are the 5 steps you need to become a biochemical engineer:

Step 1: Start from High School

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, if you have an interest in this field, you should start preparing for it as early as high school. Taking advanced placement courses such as life science, computer science and chemistry would help you with college admissions in the long run. Speech courses to develop good communication skills might also be a good idea. In addition to that, you might want to join engineering camps in the summer or intern with professionals in the field to get an idea about how things operate in the real world for biochemical engineers.

Step 2: Get a Degree in Biochemical Engineering

The first thing you need to do is look for schools that are accredited, typically by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Then you need to consider the kind of program you want. Programs might have varying focuses. For instance, some might be more focused on industrial careers, while others might look deeper into the field of human science. It is important that you choose a program that fits in well with your long term career goals. Bear in mind that you may have to enroll in a pre-engineering program before getting admission into certain engineering colleges for your bachelor’s degree in biochemical engineering. You can go for further education options in this field as well with Master’s and Ph.D. in Biochemical Engineering. Entry level jobs would accept you with a Bachelor’s Degree, but it is preferable to have either a doctorate or a master’s degree.

Here is a breakdown of the education level of most professionals in this field:

  • Doctoral Degree – 41%
  • Post-Doctoral Training – 32%
  • Bachelor’s Degree – 18%

Step 3: Do some Volunteer Work or Internships

Getting professional exposure is immensely important for aspiring biochemical engineers. For this reason, you should invest some of your time doing volunteer work or internships. The Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) offers several good opportunities for students who wish to get some experience during their studies. This kind of exposure would help you gain experience, network and discover new concepts along with expanding your knowledge and building your skills.

Step 4: Get a Fundamentals of Engineering License

Before you begin offering any kinds of services to the community, you must obtain your license to practice as a Biochemical Engineer. For this, you will need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam before you appear for the licensure exam. To be eligible for this license, you will need to have an ABET-credited degree in the relevant field. After you have cleared this test, you will need to work for four years in the field to be counted as your professional experience.

Step 5: Get a Principles and Practice of Engineering License

After you have cleared the FE exam and have gained the required years of experience, you need to get a passing score on the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. This exam is designed to test your abilities and competencies in the field of engineering. It is offered in different concentrations. Since there is no PE exam specifically for aspiring biochemical engineers, you can choose the PE exam you wish to take.

Career Outlook for Biochemical Engineers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Biochemists and Biophysicists usually work in laboratories and offices. Their main tasks revolve around conducting experiments and analyzing the results. Mostly Biochemists are full time workers. Here are some quick facts about the salary, work experience and job outlook in the field of biochemical and biophysical engineering:

2015 Median Pay $82,150 per annum
Preferred Entry-Level Education Doctoral or a professional degree
Work experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of jobs, 2014 34,100
Job Outlook, 2014-24 8%
Employment Change, 2014-2024 2,800

*Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

The typical duties of professionals in this field revolve around the following:

  • Plan and execute complex projects in research
  • Manage teams in the lab and keep a check on the quality of their work
  •  Conduct analysis on proteins, fats, DNA and other kinds of molecules
  • Carry out research activities to determine the effects of substances such as hormones, drugs and nutrients on tissues
  • Update your knowledge regularly by reviewing findings of new researches and attending biochemical conferences
  • Write technical reports, research papers and give recommendations based on your findings
  • Present your research findings to a community of engineers and scientists

The major chunk of your work as a biochemical engineer would be focused on research. Preparing technical reports and presenting them to others would be one of the most frequent work activities. Some biochemists might even decide to go into teaching. Important skills in this field are deductive reasoning, information ordering and writing comprehension. Being an active member in this field would involve a continuous learning process that involves a lot of critical thinking, learning and listening. Communication is a sought-after skill in the field and a strong college education will help you develop it along with your biochemical engineering degree

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