SOC: 19.1021.01


Pay Band(s): 4, 5 and 6          (Salary Structure)


Standard Occupational Description: Research or study chemical composition and processes of living organisms that affect vital processes such as growth and aging to determine chemical actions and effects on organisms such as the action of foods, drugs, or other substances on body functions and tissues.


Biochemist positions in the Commonwealth are assigned to the following Roles in the Life and Physical Science Career Group:

Scientist I


Scientist II

Scientist III

While Biochemists within the Commonwealth are all located within the Life and Physical Science Career Group, individuals may want to pursue other opportunities within the Commonwealth depending upon individual training, education, knowledge, skills, abilities, and interests.   


Other Career Group(s) that may be of interest are:


Laboratory and Research Technicians and Specialists

Environmental Services

Education Administration

Program Administration

Training and Instruction


(Technical and Functional Expertise)



Note: The technical and functional skills listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Biochemists commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the skills listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.


1.      Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.

2.      Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

3.      Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

4.      Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.

5.      Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

6.      Using mathematics to solve problems.

7.      Determining the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job.

8.      Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

9.      Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.

10.  Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.



Note: The technical and functional knowledge statements listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Biochemists commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the knowledge listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.


The Knowledge of:


1.      Chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.

2.      Plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.

3.      Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.



Note: The technical and functional abilities listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Biochemists commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the abilities listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.


The Ability to:


1.      Combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

2.      Read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.

3.      Apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

4.      Communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

5.      Arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).

6.       See details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

7.      Tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.

8.      Generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.

9.      Remember information such as words, numbers, pictures, and procedures.

10.  Add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.



Note:  The following is a list of sample tasks typically performed by Biochemists.  Employees in this occupation will not necessarily perform all of the tasks listed. 






1.      Studies chemistry of living processes, such as cell development, breathing and digestion, and living energy changes, such as growth, aging, and death.

2.      Researches methods of transferring characteristics, such as resistance to disease, from one organism to another.

3.      Examines chemical aspects of formation of antibodies, and researches chemistry of cells and blood corpuscles.

4.      Develops and executes tests to detect disease, genetic disorders, or other abnormalities.

5.      Develops and tests new drugs and medications used for commercial distribution.

6.      Design and build laboratory equipment needed for special research projects.

7.      Analyzes foods to determine nutritional value and effects of cooking, canning, and processing on this value.

8.      Cleans, purifies, refines, and otherwise prepares pharmaceutical compounds for commercial distribution.

9.      Prepares reports and recommendations based upon research outcomes.

10.  Develops methods to process, store, and use food, drugs, and chemical compounds.




Like people, occupations have traits or characteristics.  These characteristics give important clues about the nature of the work and work environment, and give you an opportunity to match your own personal interests to a specific occupation.  When you choose a job in an occupation that matches your own interests you have taken an important step in planning a successful and rewarding career.


The occupation of Biochemist has Investigative and Realistic characteristics as described below:


Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.



Generally this is not required for Biochemist positions in state government.




The Department of Labor provides the following information:


Biochemists study the chemical composition of living things. They analyze the complex chemical combinations and reactions involved in metabolism, reproduction, growth, and heredity.


A Ph.D. degree usually is necessary for independent research, industrial research, and college teaching, and for advancement to administrative positions. A master's degree is sufficient for some jobs in basic research, applied research or product development, management, or inspection; it may also qualify one to work as a research technician.  The bachelor's degree is adequate for some nonresearch jobs.


Additional information is found on the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology's web site:


The State Council of Higher Education lists the following Virginia educational institutions offering programs in biochemistry: Eastern Mennonite University, Hampton-Sydney College, Old Dominion University, University of Richmond, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, and Washington & Lee University.



Competencies are a set of identified behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that directly and positively impact the success of employees and the organization. Competencies can be observed and measured.  When consistently demonstrated, competencies make employees particularly effective in their work.  Competencies help lay out a road map to career success.  You can use the Commonwealth Competencies to help improve your individual performance by adopting behaviors that make high performing employees successful in their jobs. In this way, you can use the Commonwealth Competencies for your further professional development.


The Commonwealth Competencies are:


1.      Technical and Functional Expertise

2.      Understanding the Business     

3.      Achieving Results

4.      Serving the Customer

5.      Teamwork

6.      Interpersonal and Communication Skills

7.      Leadership and Personal Effectiveness


The above competencies may be applied to employees throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.  They can be rank-ordered by agencies and hiring managers to represent the needs of a specific job.  The rank ordering will change depending upon the occupation, an organization's priorities, the actual job requirements, and the supervisor's preferences. 


Career success is both about what you do (applying your technical knowledge, skills, and ability) and how you do it (the consistent behaviors you demonstrate and choose to use) while interacting and communicating with others.  Hopefully, by studying the Commonwealth competencies, identifying your developmental opportunities, and working to refine your own competence, you can take charge of your career!


For additional information about the Commonwealth Competencies go to:  For the competencies, we first list the competencies and then define each.  Finally, we list competency indicators; to describe what successful performance looks like. 



Career opportunities in the Commonwealth are not limited to moving “up” to the next highest role and pay band, changing positions, or to becoming a supervisor.  That's because most roles describe a broad group of occupationally related positions that perform a range of work that requires increased knowledge and skills.  For that reason, Commonwealth roles describe the career paths within the same or higher-level role for the same or different Career Group.  The broad salary range and the Commonwealth's pay practices provide flexibility in recognizing career development and advancement. (Salary Structure)


For example: Biochemist








Scientist I





Scientist II



Scientist Manager I


Scientist III



Scientist Manager II





Scientist Manager III












Sample Career Path


Scientist I

This Scientist I role provides career tracks for biochemists that perform work in a laboratory, in the field, and/or for scientific research. Employees' responsibilities range from entry-level performing standardized scientific tests and research functions using established protocols, to performing independent analysis/studies and serving as technical advisors or lead workers. Employees conduct research, field and/or technical investigations and surveys, laboratory and/or statistical analyses and data interpretation.


Scientist II

This Scientist II role provides career tracks for biochemists that perform a preponderance of advanced work and serve as an expert in a laboratory, in the field, and/or for research; or, for scientist supervisors. The first career track in this role is for employees performing complex scientific research projects or program oversight having a broad scope of responsibility. The second career track is for scientists that continue to deliver scientific services while assuming supervision of professional scientific staff and performing administrative responsibilities.


Scientist III

The Scientist III role provides career tracks for biochemists or molecular biologists as advance-level to expert scientists in molecular biology or biochemistry.


Scientist Manager I

The Scientist Manager I role provides career tracks for managers in a laboratory or scientific research setting. Employees plan, manage and evaluate the work of professional staff working in one or more disciplines; establish program goals; establish and monitor budgets; develop and implement technical methodologies, section objectives, policies and practices; allocate staff and resources; ensure compliance with government regulations, quality control standards and safety procedures; prepare research proposals; prepare technical reports and papers or develop grant contract proposals.


Scientist Manager II

The Scientist Manager II role provides career tracks for senior level to director level managers with responsibilities in a laboratory or scientific research setting. Employees have responsibility for an agency-wide laboratory operation; serve as assistant director of a statewide laboratory; or serve as a manager over multiple operations within a statewide laboratory. Some employees direct statewide scientific research operations or multidisciplinary research operations.


Scientist Manager III

The Scientist Manager III role provides career tracks for executives that serve as directors of scientific research centers responsible for diverse research programs or, for a statewide-consolidated scientific laboratory responsible for diverse testing, reporting and research programs. Employees direct statewide research programs and strategic research direction through subordinate managers. The results of which are shared statewide, nationally and/or internationally with research groups, agencies, businesses and associations. Employees may direct a statewide program that provides analytical support to local, state and federal human and animal health, law enforcement, consumer protection and environmental programs.



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