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How Do I Get a Biochemistry Degree?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2014
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Obtaining a biochemistry degree takes hard work, whether studies are conducted at the undergraduate, masters or doctoral level. Clearly, students need a strong aptitude for science, and they can begin preparing for an undergraduate or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in high school. Those who plan to continue on to graduate level work, must view BS studies as a proving ground and have excellent grades, particularly in their major.

In high school, teens can get ready for a biochemistry degree by taking four years of high school science. This should preferably occur in Advanced Placement (AP) courses, since these give college credits when students pass a test after taking them. Schools may differ as to the types and number of AP courses they offer, but in many cases, a school may have several classes, and they are often in the sciences, math, and upper level English. AP work in biology, chemistry, and physics are helpful preparation. An added bonus is to take AP calculus, since this may get math classes out of the way at college, leaving more time to pursue electives.

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Though advice typically tends toward students taking the hardest classes possible to prepare for a degree, teens who don’t have AP programs at their high school or who aren’t quite ready for advanced studies shouldn’t despair. Good grades in academic or regular science classes tend to be enough to get into many biochemistry programs. Studying hard and doing well in classes that do not have college credits is good grounding in subject matter. Excellent grades at the high school level are often enough to get into many schools that offer a biochemistry degree.

Once accepted to a college, there is very little mystery in obtaining a biochemistry degree. Most schools have required courses a student must take, and these will include in the first two years’ classes that are in the general education department. Each department sets its standards for major requirements, which students will begin to fulfill in the first two years and continue to complete in the final two years of study. College students in a major typically get to choose a few elective courses too. By completing all required coursework and earning a specified number of units or credits, most students get their degree.

There may be one more component, common in a number of science programs. A biochemistry student at the undergraduate level may need to complete things like oral exams or final or senior projects. Students usually have ample time to prepare for either of these final requirements.

With excellent grades, many people move on to either masters or doctoral studies in biochemistry and this is highly recommended. There are many more jobs for those with advanced degrees. If students want to pursue this option, they will need to begin looking at graduate programs in their junior year. It helps to have one or more professors that can advise on school choice, and that will be willing to write glowing letters of recommendation.

In graduate work, master’s studies usually take about two years to complete, while doctoral students should expect at minimum three years, and sometimes as many as five to seven years of studying. Graduate schools may be highly different in their individual requirements. Again, the goal in graduating with a biochemistry degree is to fulfill these any and all requirements for the major.

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