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21st Century Careers: Biochemical Engineer

By Veena Nesarikar (‘22)

Photo courtesy of Wix

The job of a biochemical engineer is to study living organisms and biological processes such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease. They then use this information for the production of biopharmaceutical products. This profession requires dedication, patience, and problem solving skills. The job isn’t easy, but the work that people do in this field makes a huge impact on the world.

In order for someone to become a biochemical engineer, they need extensive preparation. The types of schools to attend include Pharmacy and Engineering Schools. To be able to advance in the career of a biochemical engineer, earning a Master of Science is recommended, but it is not required. A bachelor’s degree is necessary, and takes around four years to earn. A master’s degree takes about two extra years.

Other degrees that would be useful are a Doctor of Pharmacy, or a PhD in pharmaceutical science, which both take five to six years to earn.

One college that provides programs related to this career is the Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. As stated in the school’s website, there are a great variety of graduate courses that they offer such as Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biochemical Toxicology and Advanced Pharmaceutics.

Tuition and fees range from $16,984-$18,004 in-state, and out-of-state is $35,230-$38,316. To pay for education and training, someone could earn a scholarship, take student loans, take up a part-time job, apply for financial aid, or could see if their employer offers education benefits to help pay for tuition.

According to an interview with a retired biochemical engineer, Ms. Cynthia K. Ulrich, one of the most important tasks of a biochemical engineer is to stay updated with new improvements or knowledge gained within someone’s particular industry. The work hours for a biochemical engineer are typically 40 hours a week.

When in this line of work, it is key for a person to be patient, keep a positive outlook, and have creativity.

Ms. Ulrich said, “Some days you can be wildly successful at work and other days can be terrible. You have to have persistence to achieve your overall goal.”

To work in science, someone needs to have the ability to see things from multiple perspectives. New discoveries are made possible by creativity.

For someone to gain the skills and training that would be helpful for this job, Ms. Ulrich said, “It is vital to actually get your hands and head involved with the process or equipment you will be using ultimately for commercial supply of products.”

Other than this, reading books, attending lectures, and performing experiments are also good ways to train to be a biochemical engineer.

According the 2019 Engineering Salary Statistics, the median entry-level salary for this job is $62,459. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median salary is $88,040. The projected number of new jobs from 2016-2026 is 1,500, and the projected growth rate is 7%. The Labor Force Statistics for the Current Population Survey says that the unemployment rate of architecture and engineering occupations is only 2.3%.

Ms. Ulrich concluded saying, “As long as you have faith and belief in yourself, you will persevere, succeed and you will have your own personal confidence that no one else can give you.”

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