Is Biochemistry Hard – and What Is It?

Is Biochemistry Hard – and What Is It?

As a college student, you might be curious to learn more about the buzz around biochemistry coursework. Biochemistry is a required pre-medical course that lays the foundation for understanding the complexities of biological processes in medicine. It lies at the intersection of biology and chemistry, delving into the chemical processes that occur within living organisms at a molecular level.


Is biochemistry hard – and what is it?
Nicolette Natale


May 7, 2024

As you enter any advanced science degree program, ranging from physician assistant school to dental medicine to medical school, you are bound to take a biochemistry course.

But what is biochemistry? How does it apply to a career in medicine? And what can you do with a degree in this fascinating field?

Read on to discover the answers to these questions and better understand biochemistry.

Medicalcourse biochemistry

Take the Course: Biochemistry

Cover all biochemistry essentials with Kevin Ahern, PhD

What is Biochemistry the Study of?

Biochemistry is the study of chemical substances and processes that occur in plants, animals, and microorganisms.

Its study seeks to uncover biomolecules’ structure, function, and interaction, particularly carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids. These biomolecules are the building blocks of life, and they play an essential role in many biological processes. 

Studying the interactions and functions of biomolecules allows scientists to gain insights into the molecular mechanisms that underlie biological processes, from cellular metabolism to the development of diseases like cancer. Through research, scientists in this field can contribute to advancements in medicine, agriculture, and even environmental science. 

Subfields of biochemistry

Biochemistry encompasses many subfields that focus on different aspects of living systems. Subfields of biochemistry include:

Genetic biochemistry

Genetic biochemistry, or biochemical genetics, studies the molecular mechanisms of gene expression and regulation. This subfield examines how genetic information is stored, duplicated, and transmitted in the body. The study of genetic biochemistry has uncovered advances in the underlying causes and treatment of genetic diseases.

Structural biochemistry 

Structural biochemistry studies the three-dimensional structures of biomolecules and their complexes. Scientists use techniques such as X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to help biochemists visualize and understand atoms. The more profound understanding of atoms enables them to uncover the functions and interactions of biomolecules. 

Metabolic biochemistry

Metabolic biochemistry focuses on the study of the metabolic pathways in the human body. These metabolic pathways are the interconnected series of chemical reactions within our cells. Unraveling the metabolic pathways behind energy production, nutrient utilization, and waste elimination all shed light on the processes behind human life and can contribute to preventing and treating metabolic diseases such as diabetes or Gaucher’s disease.

Cellular biochemistry 

Cellular biochemistry is the study of biochemical processes that occur within the cells. This branch of biochemistry explores cellular signaling mechanisms, cellular respiration, protein synthesis, and regulation of gene expression. Cellular biochemists are responsible for understanding these processes, which provides insight into the mechanisms that underlie cellular development, differentiation, and response to external stimuli. 

Chemistry vs. biochemistry

If you want to take a biochemistry course, you may be curious about the differences between its closely related field, general chemistry, and its study. Chemistry and biochemistry are closely related disciplines that offer different focuses and scope within their study. 

Chemistry is the study of matter, its properties, and the changes that it undergoes. This is typically the first course a person will take in the chemistry field to understand its principles. This field of science explores the behavior of atoms, molecules, and compounds and the well-known theories and principles behind chemical reactions. 

Biochemistry, on the other hand, is a more advanced field of chemistry. It specifically investigates the chemical processes that occur in living organisms. This field examines biomolecules’ unique properties and functions, their interactions, and their roles in maintaining life. 

Biochemistry vs. organic chemistry

Another advanced chemistry course is organic chemistry, which studies carbon-based compounds. This field of chemistry examines the structure, properties, composition, reactions, and synthesis of organic molecules. Organic chemistry courses deeply dive into the carbon-carbon bonds that form these compounds and their functional groups, which typically determine their behavior. 

Why Study Biochemistry, and Is Is Difficult?

Studying biochemistry offers many benefits and can lead to exciting career opportunities. Some of the key reasons people choose to study biochemistry include:

Unlocking life’s secrets

Biochemistry opens a window into the intricate molecular processes that underpin life. By mastering the structure, function, and interaction of biomolecules, biochemists uncover the mechanisms that drive cellular function, disease development, and the functioning of living organisms. 

Contribute to medical advances

Biochemistry plays a crucial role in medical research and the development of new treatments and therapies. Understanding the molecular mechanisms behind diseases allows biochemists to identify potential targets for drugs, develop diagnostic tools, and design targeted treatments. Biochemistry discoveries have led to breakthroughs in cancer treatment, discovering the causes of genetic diseases, and preventing infectious diseases.

Pursuing diverse career options

A degree in biochemistry leads to diverse career opportunities ranging from working in research labs, academics, and pharmaceutical companies to healthcare. No matter what field a person chooses, they can be sure to make a lasting impact on the world through their scientific contributions. The wide array of career opportunities makes a degree in biochemistry both desirable and flexible. 

How hard is biochemistry?

A lot of people consider biochemistry to be one of the more intimidating subjects in medical school. Click here for a complete study guide from a med student who’s been through it!

Career Opportunities

The most common career opportunities for someone who earns a degree in biochemistry include:

1. Biochemistry research scientist

A biochemistry research scientist will often work in academic institutions, government, or private research organizations. In this role, biochemists design and conduct experiments, analyze data, and contribute to scientific publications. Biochemistry research scientists play a pivotal role in advancing the understanding of biological processes and creating solutions to various scientific challenges.

2. Pharmaceutical industry

Many biochemists choose to work in the pharmaceutical industry, where they can apply their knowledge of biochemistry to discover and develop new drugs. Biochemists in this role often play a part in conducting preclinical and clinical trials for the new medicines they discover to ensure the drug’s efficacy and safety. Biochemists working in the pharmaceutical industry may work for a pharmaceutical company, research institutions, or regulatory agencies. 

3. Clinical biochemists

Clinical biochemists work in medical laboratories or other healthcare settings to analyze patient samples to diagnose and monitor diseases. These scientists use lab techniques to measure biomarkers, interpret test results, and provide information for patient care. They are pivotal in disease diagnosis, treatment monitoring, and patient management. 

4. Academics

Biochemistry graduates with a passion for teaching can pursue a career as an academic educator. A job in academics may look like working as a professor or lecturer at the university or college level or teaching at research institutes or medical schools. In this role, biochemists serve to inspire and mentor the next generation of biochemists. 

5. Advanced degree in medicine

Graduates with a degree in biochemistry may decide to pursue a career within the medical field. Biochemistry is often a required prerequisite course for many of these programs. 

Due to their strong understanding of the biochemical processes that underlie diseases, biochemists are excellent candidates for medical school, physician assistant school, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and more. In this role, biochemists play a part in directly managing and treating patients.

Final Thoughts 

Biochemistry is a fascinating field that sits at the intersection of biology and chemistry and plays a role in unraveling the mysteries of life at the most minute levels. By becoming proficient in the chemical processes in living organisms, biochemists gain insights into the mechanisms behind cellular function and disease development. 

This scientific field has a diverse range of subfields, making it particularly easy to tailor its study to your unique interests. 

Additionally, studying biochemistry provides a broad knowledge base with ample career opportunities in research, healthcare, and academics. 

Whether you decide to take one biochemistry course in college, major in this exciting field, or pursue an advanced degree in one of its subfields, numerous impactful career opportunities can lead to a rewarding, fulfilling, and impactful career in science.

Further Reading

In learning anything, it’s always best to start with the fundamentals. But why do the fundamentals have to be so ...
Anatomy is one of the most fundamental subjects you learn in medical school. It’s the bread and butter of any ...
If you’re thinking about becoming a medical student, then great! The world could use more doctors. You may have heard ...

User Reviews