Home  -  Career Home  -  Career Profile
The Biochemist


Persons employed in this occupation in the United States:
2004: 16,100
Projected 2014: 19,500

Persons employed in this occupation in Iowa:
2002: 60
Projected 2012: 70

2004 Median National
Annual Wages: $68,700
2004 Median Iowa
Annual Wages: $68,900

***Source: America's Career InfoNet

Which area of biochemistry do you think will grow the fastest?
Human genetics
Food genetics
Disease research
  View Results


Her enjoyment of science was a driving force in Margit's education. In high school courses like biology, advanced biology, chemistry and physics were all influential in her career choice as a biochemist. Her father was a high school teacher and was friends with the biology teacher at her school. That teacher used to bring her slides with samples on them. She would examine them with her own personal microscope and enjoyed the scientific inquiry involved in it.

As a freshman in college, Margit knew she wanted to be a biology major so most of her elective courses were science-oriented. She earned her bachelor's degree in biology. After getting a job at an international company specializing in agricultural genetics, she went back to school to work on her masters of business administration (MBA) degree. She did this on a part-time basis while continuing to work full time. After receiving her M.B.A., Margit stayed with the company and continues to work there today.

Generally, a student wanting to be a biochemist would get a bachelor's degree in the areas of either biochemistry or molecular biology. Many students go on to earn a master's degree and even a doctorate. These advanced degrees would allow them to teach at the college level or to direct research.

Work Experiences and Internships:

Although she knew she was interested in a science career, in high school Margit wasn't presented with many opportunities for work experiences in this area. Instead, she concentrated on her high school science classes.

In college she worked as a lab assistant in a microbiology lab. She feels she gained invaluable experience working there and highly recommends it. "It's a very competitive field," she says. "And to get an edge over others, it's important to have lab experience." She suggests that college students definitely get a job in a lab. Sometimes it's even possible to set it up as a college-credit internship, depending on what college you attend. Either way, as work experience or as an internship, Margit feels lab experience is a big plus when it comes to finding a job as a biochemist.

Activities and Organizations:

Running on the cross-country and track teams was a big part of Margit's high school career. These types of activities can teach teamwork and discipline and are valuable components in helping students realize they can reach goals. In a science career such as biochemistry, goals are constantly set. Meeting those goals and finding new and different ways to do it is what it's all about. Margit also suggests becoming a member of an Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization (http://www.ffa.org). She has seen students from this organization tour her company and feels that being a part of it may be a good way to educate students in agriculture and biotechnology.

Margit continued her cross-country activities in college and also worked at two different jobs which involved speaking in front of people. She credits those experiences with her comfort in making presentations in front of groups in her current job.

She suggests that if college students want to work in a certain area of biochemistry (such as genetics), they should get a mentor in that area.

Setbacks and Obstacles:

Acting on a suggestion from a teacher, Margit changed majors for a quarter when she was in college. But she soon realized her first love was biology, so she switched back to a biology major and hasn't regretted it since.

Margit feels that once she graduated from college, her biggest obstacle was lack of lab experience. There always seemed to be someone who had more experience. After no success in her job search, she decided that all she needed was for someone to take a chance on her. So at an interview with a leukemia research project, she said, "I know I don't have directly related experience, but I went to a good college, and I have a good understanding of what I need to do. I just need someone to give me a chance." This got her the job!


A career in science was always Margit's goal. Science had always been fascinating to her, and she had enjoyed it since her childhood. Biochemistry just seemed like a natural fit for her. She knew she either wanted to be a biochemist or pursue a career in the medical field. As a freshman in college, she realized she liked biology best, and the quest for scientific discovery kept her going.


In fifth grade Margit received a microscope from her parents as a gift. She was thrilled and had fun conducting her own scientific studies on blades of grass and water samples from a lake. Her mother even participated by pricking her finger and letting Margit look at the blood cells under the microscope. It was all fascinating to her, and even at that young age she knew she wanted a career in science.

Next: A day in the life of a Biochemist.



Contact Us: lashell@iptv.org
Copyright 2009, Iowa Public Television
The School to Careers project is supported by funds from a USDE Star Schools grant.
Enhanced Careers made possible through a generous grant provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

The views presented on this site do not necessarily reflect those of Iowa Public Television; nor does IPTV endorse the businesses represented. Our mission is to make students aware of a variety of careers with as much objective information as possible.