How to Become a Biophysicist

Biophysics is a scientific discipline that studies biological systems using methods of physical chemistry and physics. Biophysicists are highly trained scientists that specialize in biophysics and study how physics relates to living cells and organisms.


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What does a biophysicist do?

Biophysicists study the physical properties of living cells and organisms and their related mechanical and electrical energy. They conduct research to examine a variety of topics such as biogenetics, electrophysiology, and body mechanics. They strive to find explanations of why and how the environment behaves. Biophysicists often use computers for the collection and analysis of data. They also create and perform a variety of experiments using lasers, telescopes, cyclotrons, mass spectrometers, and other specialized equipment. They use their research to try to discover and provide explanations to laws that describe the forces of human and physical nature. Biophysicists often perform research in fields including bioinformatics and neuroscience. Some publish their research findings in scientific journals. Many biophysicists work with a variety of other professionals to conduct their research.

What kind of training does a biophysicist need?

Biophysicists typically need a doctorate degree in biology or a subfield of biology. A master degree may be sufficient for some applied research positions. Prospective biophysicists typically complete courses in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering. Doctoral degree programs typically involve classroom instruction, laboratory research, and a dissertation or thesis. Many biophysicists complete internships or obtain part-time jobs as research assistants while pursuing their education to gain practical experience in the field. Biophysicists that provide university instruction typically complete postdoctoral education. Biophysicists must complete continuing education on a regular basis throughout their careers to keep their skills current and stay up to date with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a biophysicist?

Employment of biophysicists is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 21% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growth of biotechnological research and development will fuel job growth.

Job prospects should be good with strong competition. Biophysicists with advanced training and extensive experience will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will stem from the need to replace biophysicists that leave the occupation.

How much do biophysicists make?

As of March 2010, the middle 50% of biophysicists earn annual salaries between $52,272 and $66,496. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $74,774 (2).

A career as a biophysicist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in biophysics and performing a wide variety of research. Biophysicists must have a solid understanding of the principles and practices of biophysics and be familiar with many different research methods. Detail orientation, patience, perseverance, accuracy, and good problem solving skills are necessary characteristics. Biophysicists must be able to effectively work independently and as part of team. They must have good communication and be able to present their research findings to a variety of people.

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