Biochemists study the way living organisms work. They study the chemistry of living cells at all levels, from viruses and bacteria to plants, animals and human beings. If working in the area of human health, they are also called clinical biochemists or clinical scientists.
You could be:
researching DNA and the ways in which it can be modified to benefit people
researching the effects of drugs, hormones and other medical substances on the human body
researching the effects of nutrition, or pollution, on the body chemistry of plants or animals
testing and analysing samples, such as blood, to diagnose disease
developing new products and checking the production process for safety and quality
setting up and carrying out complex experiments, collecting and analysing specialist data
writing reports and making recommendations based on the results of experiments and observations
developing new ideas and new products for medicine or agriculture such as pest resistant and high yield crops
working as part of a team of scientists and other staff, perhaps leading and planning projects.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Registered clinical scientists (biochemistry) in the NHS are generally on Agenda for Change Band 7, £46,244 to £53,789 a year. Principal clinical biochemists are on Band 8a, £56,992 to £61,522 a year and Band 8b, £67,285 to £71,978 a year. Pre-registration trainees are on Band 6, £37,831 to £46,100 a year.
You could also work as a specialist biomedical scientist (biochemistry) within the NHS on Band 6, £37,831 to £46,100 a year.
The current pay scales are from April 2023.
Pay rates in the private sector vary.
Salaries for research posts at universities range from around £30,000 up to £45,000 a year.
You would probably work in a laboratory, which could be in:
a factory making pharmaceutical or agricultural products, or processing food or drink
a college, university or research institute.
In all cases:
you would normally work regular hours but you might have to work some evenings and weekends
you may have to travel to conferences
you may work with hazardous substances, such as bacteria that can cause disease
there may sometimes be a risk of infection but employers train staff to reduce this
you may need to wear protective clothing such as a lab coat, a face mask or gloves
you may have to sit or stand at a bench or equipment for long periods.
You usually need an Honours degree (SCQF Level 10) in biochemistry but other degrees in biological or chemical sciences may be accepted.
For entry to a degree, you normally need 4-5 Highers, including at least 2 from Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Biology or Chemistry is often necessary.
To train as a clinical biochemist you would need a 2:1 Honours degree or above in a pure or applied science subject specialising in biochemistry to be eligible for the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).
Some entrants have a specialist postgraduate qualification (SCQF Level 11) in biochemistry. This is essential for research posts in higher education.
In order to practise in the UK as a clinical scientist you need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). (See the Training section below).
Adverts for posts for clinical biochemists in Scotland usually appear in professional body journals and in the New Scientist. You will also find posts advertised on the NHS Scotland Recruitment website.
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is the UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards of professional training, performance and conduct in the following health care professions: Arts Therapists; Audiologist; Biomedical Scientist; Chiropodist and Podiatrist; Clinical Scientist; Dietician; Dramatherapist; Occupational Therapist; Operating Department Practitioner; Orthoptist; Paramedic; Physiotherapist; Practitioner Psychologist; Prosthetist and Orthotist; Radiographer; Speech and Language Therapist. (The HCPC may regulate other healthcare professions in the future.) The HCPC website contains a register of all approved courses in the above professions.
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