Biophysics is the application of physical science to biology. Biophysics is highly interdisciplinary, and biophysicists use math, physics and chemistry, as well as biology, to study the structure and function of living organisms. Topics in biophysics research include the processes and methods by which the brain stores information or the heart pumps blood, or how plants use light in photosynthesis or the mechanisms by which genes are switched off and on. A growing number of women are also choosing careers in biophysics.
Virtually all biophysicists have a bachelor's degree in the natural or life sciences, and the large majority earn at least one graduate degree. Given the interdisciplinary nature of biophysics, it is important to get a broad background in science as an undergraduate. Those who want to direct their own research typically go on to complete a doctorate degree program.
Careers In Biophysics
Common careers in biophysics include forensics, pharmacy/pharmacology, neuroscience, microbiology, immunology, dentistry, genetics, cell biology, marine biology, biological oceanography and agriculture experts. Biophysicists are employed in a variety of research positions in academia, the private sector and by various government agencies. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies in particular hire biophysicists to work in product development and product safety.
Biophysicists design and conduct complex life-science research projects. Typical projects include the effects of substances such as drugs, hormones and foods on tissues and biological processes. They use a variety of lab equipment, including electron microscopes and lasers. They also manage and monitor lab teams, write technical reports and research papers and present research findings to other scientists and colleagues in journals and at scientific conferences.
Compensation And Prospects
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biophysicists earned a median salary of $81,480 in 2012. Biophysicists employed in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry earned the most, with an average salary of $123,890. Those employed in the pesticide, fertilizer and other agricultural chemical manufacturing industry earned the least, only earning an average salary of $49,400 in 2012. Job prospects for biophysicists are strong, with the BLS projecting a solid 31 percent job growth for the profession from 2010 to 2020.
2016 Salary Information for Biochemists and Biophysicists
Biochemists and biophysicists earned a median annual salary of $82,180 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, biochemists and biophysicists earned a 25th percentile salary of $58,630, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $117,340, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 31,500 people were employed in the U.S. as biochemists and biophysicists.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: OOH -- Biochemists and Biophysicists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: OES -- 19-1021 Biochemists and Biophysicists
- Biophysical Society: Careers in Biophysics
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Biochemists and Biophysicists
- Career Trend: Biochemists and Biophysicists
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.