Major Description

Biochemists deal with the chemical composition of living matter and the molecular nature of the processes of living systems. We seek to learn the chemical structure of biological molecules and to define chemical principles underlying biological functions.

Questions that we might ask include: What is the composition of cells? What chemical reactions go on inside cells, how are they regulated, and what are their functions? What is the chemical mechanism of inheritance, of growth, of cell division, of differentiation? How are the energy and material of food stuff converted to the material of new cells and energy of movement, heat, and so on? What chemical and physical properties of naturally occurring molecules enable them to carry out such highly specific functions? Our work also encompasses the practical application of this fundamental knowledge about biological processes. Biochemists are involved in medicine, pharmacology, agriculture, nutrition, microbiology, cell biology, food technology, pollution control, and biotechnology.

Courses That Introduce the Major:
  • CHEM 102/103—General Chemistry I / General Chemistry Lab I
  • CHEM 104/105—General Chemistry II / General Chemistry Lab II
  • MATH 220—Calculus
  • MCB 150—Molecular & Cellular Basis of Life

Students should consult with an academic advisor regarding course selection prior to the advanced registration period.

Possible Career Opportunities:

The career possibilities for students trained in the life sciences have never been better. Biochemists may work in industry, pharmaceutical houses, hospitals, universities, or private research labs. The federal government employs many biochemists, as do state and local government agencies, and the rapidly growing field of biotechnology has a great need for biochemists. Many jobs in biochemistry involve high-level research and require advanced-degree training. However, with the demand for biochemists at all levels and the excellent quality of University of Illinois's training at the undergraduate level, a variety of employment opportunities can be found with a bachelor's degree.

The undergraduate biochemistry major is excellent preparation for professional schools, such as medicine, dentistry, optometry, or veterinary medicine. This major also provides a sound background for pursuing advanced master's or PhD degree work in the biological sciences. In general, jobs for graduates with master's degrees involve more responsibility and higher pay. For positions designing or directing research projects, a PhD is a must.

  • Analytical & quantitative abilities
  • Biology theory & practical knowledge
  • Curiosity and creativity
  • Independent worker
  • Information handling & organization
  • Innovative talents
  • Numerical computation
  • Operate scientific equipment
  • Oral & written communication
  • Problem solving
  • Statistical awareness
  • Teamwork
  • Technical skills
  • Air Pollution Specialist
  • Analytical Biochemist
  • Biochemist
  • Bio-Organic Chemist
  • Clinical Laboratory Technologist
  • Criminalist
  • Dentist
  • Food Scientist
  • Genetic Technician
  • Geneticist
  • Immunologist
  • Industrial Salesperson
  • Medical Technologist
  • Microbiologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Pharmaceutical Salesperson
  • Pharmacist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Physician
  • Plant Biochemist or Physiologist
  • Quality Control Technician
  • Research Assistant
  • Science Librarian
  • Technical Writer
  • Toxicologist
  • Weights & Measures Assistant

Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree.

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:
  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Undergrad Chapter: links together students interested in Biochemistry and provides a medium for students to pursue and discover the plethora of fields associated with Biochemistry.
Further Information:

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Biochemistry.  Their websites might be able to provide a glimpse in the world of Biochemistry.  These organizations include American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and American Association for the Advancement of Science.