An increase in population and depletion in resources has the dark clouds of famine and climate change hovering over our heads. The need for innovative biotechnological and biochemical inventions is high, more than ever. There have been a lot of over-heated discussions, and lots of money is invested in biotech and biochemical related startups. Thus, it is already indicating a high need for human resources in these fields in the near future.
Biochemistry is the branch of science concerned with the chemical and physio-chemical processes and substances (bio-molecules and their reactions) that occur within living organisms. Biotechnology is the exploitation of biological processes for industrial, mechanical, technological, and other purposes, especially the genetic manipulation of microorganisms for the production of antibiotics, hormones, etc.
As a result of both being high in demand and interesting course-field, it has encouraged a lot of students to choose either biotechnology or biotechnology majors in their degree. However, it isn’t easy selecting a major. Moreover, it becomes even more difficult when both the options have huge similarities yet are quite different at the same time. If you are one of those who are confused about whether you should select major as biotechnology or biochemistry, this article is for you.
Major Differences Between Biochemistry and Biotechnology
The article explains the differences between biotechnology and biochemistry in terms of subject matter, further studies, and career.
1. Pure Science vs. Applied Science
Biochemistry is a pure science field, while biotechnology is an applied science field. Biochemistry is one of the subjects you will study under biotechnology. Quite clearly, it won’t be as detailed. Biochemistry deals with the process and pathways happening inside the living cell, while biotechnology deals with the techniques to study those processes, and applications of those processes.
2. More Options For Further Studies (After Graduation)
Biotechnology is a vast field that includes various topics like biochemistry, immunology, genetics, genetic engineering, microbiology, proteomics, etc. It provides you with a lot of choices to specify during further studies. However, biochemistry limits your study to the chemistry in living organisms. So, you will have fewer topics to choose to specify for higher studies.
3. The Options As A Major (During Post-Graduation)
An undergraduate with a major in biotechnology can do his/her masters has an option from a wide range of subjects like bioinformatics, immunology, cancer biology, genetics, biochemistry, microbiology, public health, etc. to select from. However, a biochemistry major will have a limited number of subjects to choose from, such as medical biochemistry, toxicology, analytical chemistry, etc.
4. Research Subjects
Biochemists perform research and analysis on normal processes happening inside the living cell like respiration, photosynthesis, apoptosis, etc., while biotechnologists research and create products like proteins that are used in factories. Modern biotechnology also involves the creation of genetically modified organisms, ex. Golden rice, pharmaceuticals, and so on.
5. Research or Entrepreneurship
Biochemistry promotes mainly research and service, while biotechnology promotes research and entrepreneurship. Establishing an industry with knowledge of biotechnology is not an uphill task. With knowledge of different fields, biotechnology allows us to target any small problem and solve it with biotechnological innovations. For example, Plant tissue culture lab can sell seeds and plantlets of crops to farmers, food and beverage industries, diagnostic labs, etc. As biochemistry is a theory-based subject, it’s quite easy to get jobs in research and diagnostic center. Still, it will require a lot of effort and study to establish an industry.
6. Easy Availability of Jobs
Regarding jobs, a biochemist can easily get jobs at the medical diagnostic center, disease center, research labs, forensic labs, analytical chemistry labs, etc. A biotechnologist also may be employed by a lot of companies like food, beverages, and medicines (for quality control), diagnostic labs (for research and diagnosis of diseases), research labs (based on the research topics), etc.
However, in every field, a person with a major in related subjects (like food-tech in terms of food and beverage industries, chemistry/biochemistry in analytical chemistry labs) would be preferred than a fresh biotechnologist. A biotechnologist may have to master specific fields during their masters/Ph.D. level to be desirable for those jobs in some cases.
A biochemist has an average annual salary of $60,000, while a biotechnologist has an average annual salary of $70,000 in the US (as per Payscale.com). In both cases, the salary depends on skills like molecular biology, research analysis, bioinformatics, etc. Also, with the increasing demand for the skill-set, the salary will increase accordingly.
8. Preference for Studying Chemistry
For those students who don’t enjoy chemistry very much, biochemistry would be a tough major as biochemistry includes a lot of chemistry, reactions, processes, and pathways. They can opt for biotechnology as there won’t be as much detailed biochemistry in biotechnology.
However, biotechnology will require knowledge from a lot of fields like physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, communication skills, etc. So, you need to be creative enough to grasp concepts from different fields and apply them to your convenience to excel in biotechnology.
You can choose to study biotechnology if you are not sure of your area of interest during your undergraduate studies. However, if you love chemistry, you can study biochemistry as the major and learn various skills along the way. In both cases, further education up to Post-Graduation is a must, and a Ph.D. is desirable for employment or research purposes.