What a degree in Biochemistry could mean for your future
Are you considering a career in Biochemistry? From taking a look at what this field of scientific study is about, to what biochemistry jobs entail, the Job Mail team also takes a look at your study options and the qualification you will need in order to become a biochemist.
What is Biochemistry?
Very simply put, this field of science entails the study of the chemical processes that happen within living matter. Bringing together chemistry and biology, this field of science is based in the laboratory and, by using their specific set of skills and knowledge, Biochemists are able to study, understand and solve biological problems.
Studying various components (including lipids and proteins), this field of science places focus on the molecular processes that take place within cells and how cells communicate with each other. This communication of cells takes place in various instances, like when they are fighting off infections.
Professionals in this field have a superior understanding of how the structures of different molecules relate to the functions it has. With this understanding, they can then predict how different molecules interact.
Studying to become a Biochemist
If you are interested in pursuing Biochemistry jobs in South Africa, there are a number of tertiary institutions and universities where you can complete your studies.
The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU)
You can complete a BSc at NMMU choosing two majors from Microbiology, Biochemistry and Chemistry. A three year study programme, approved subjects to choose from in this BSc programme extends to include Geology, Zoology, Physics, Botany and Mathematics, to name but a few examples.
Among the admission requirements to this programme, is a minimum of score of 34 points on the SPS rating scale of the university and a matric mathematics minimum of an E on Higher Grade and a C on Standard Grade.
The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)
Offering a BSc degree, the study programme at Wits also spans over three years and, with a major in Chemistry, allows you to choose from a wide selection of second major options. Some of these second major options range to include:
- Biochemistry: Opening opportunities in the medical research fields as well as in biotechnology.
- Biology: Opening up opportunities to work in environmental science fields.
- Geology: Opening up opportunities to work as a geochemist in exploration and mining industries.
Other majors offered along with Chemistry include Physics, Applied Chemistry and Microbiology to name but a few options.
The University of Pretoria (TUKS)
Found within the department of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, this BSc study programme offered by the University of Pretoria is also a three year degree programme that, in its first year, will expose you to a range of subjects (because this field of biology and science involves various areas of specialisation).
During your second and third year of studies you will specialise in both chemistry as well as biochemistry. In the third year of this study programme you will have the advantage of subjects such as genetics, chemistry, physiology and microbiology.
After successful completion you can move on to complete the one year Honours programme.
University of Stellenbosch
Offered in its faculty of Science under the Department of Biochemistry, you can study towards Biochemistry jobs by completing a BSc degree. During your second year of studies you will learn about the characteristics, functions and structures of bio-molecules as well as bioenergetics.
Your third year of studies will include Biophysical, System Biology and Bioinformatics, Specialised Biochemical Topics, Protein Structures and Protein Functions.
Other Universities in South Africa where you can complete a BSc degree in this specific field of science include the University of the Free State, North-West University, the University of Johannesburg and UNISA.
What do Biochemistry Jobs entail?
These jobs entail a number of scientific fields and disciplines including forensics, medicine, genetics, plant science and microbiology. Biochemists work with a number of other professionals including engineers, physicists, healthcare professionals and even policy makers.
Involved in our understanding of disease and health, biochemistry jobs and the professionals that fill these positions are extremely important. Over the decades, this field of science has contributed to understanding how serious diseases (like cancer, cystic fibroses and Alzheimer’s) work on a molecular level, in turn helping with both diagnoses and treatments.
A Biochemist can find work in a number of private and public industries including the food industry (where these professionals ensure the safety of our food and food products), at hospitals (where professionals are responsible for analysing samples and giving advice on appropriate treatments) and at cosmetics companies (where this science is used in order to create safe and effective products).
Other industries where this specific scientific field of study is necessary includes the pharmaceutical industry (where professionals are required for both drug development as well as research), at law firms that deal specifically with scientific cases and even in the publishing industry that deals in scientific articles.
Biochemistry jobs in South Africa can also be found at Universities, in forensic crime research, agriculture and education. Some companies that employ these types of professionals range to include Nestle, Adock Ingram, the Medical Research Council (MRC), national government departments (Water, Agriculture and Health), the South African Institute for Medical Research, companies like Sasol, and laboratories like Du Buisson and Lancet.
Professionals within this field of science also have a number of transferable skills that range to include everything from analytical thinking and planning, to communication, research and observational skills.
According to PayScale, a Biochemist on South Africa earns an average yearly salary of R 142 507 with yearly salaries falling between R 67 827 and R 361 671.
Biochemistry Jobs in South Africa
Already a qualified biochemist? Job Mail features a range of vacancies within various scientific fields. Some of the vacancies requiring this specific scientific set of skills and qualifications include:
Senior Laboratory Analyst
A vacancy in Gauteng, this position requires a national diploma or degree in either Biochemistry or Chemistry along with between five to ten years’ experience in the laboratory/pharmaceutical industry.
You will be required to prepare and analyse samples, develop and implement methods on GC-MS as well as validating these methods. While your primary function in this position will be to test and analyse products in the lab, you will also be responsible for managing reagents and the calibration of instruments.
Under the direction of the Lab Management you will work on specific projects under his/her direction, and also be responsible for recording and reporting data.
A company in the wellness and nutrition industry is looking for a Product Manager in South Africa. Some of the requirements for this vacancy include sales and marketing experience, as well as a Degree in Pharmacology, Pharmacy or Biochemistry.