Career Profile: What is a Bioinformatics Scientist?
Bioinformatics is an exciting, emerging field of science that combines two seemingly unrelated fields: biology and computer programming. A bioinformatics scientist is someone who is trained to analyze biological data using computer software. Computers have become so ubiquitous and their capabilities so advanced that we can apply their power to helping answer questions regarding gene function, protein structure, molecular evolution, drug targets, and disease mechanisms. If this sounds like something you would be interested in pursuing, read on for more information on this career.
How do I become a bioinformatics scientist?
Bioinformatics scientists require extensive education. After earning a four-year undergraduate degree in biology or computer programming, the aspiring scientist would pursue graduate studies. It is usually during this time that you would specialize in bioinformatics. To work as a bioinformatics scientist, you need at least a Master’s degree or preferably a PhD in this field—note that these programs are a minimum of five years. Alternatively, you may attend medical school and then after graduation, enroll in further training specifically in bioinformatics. All in all, bioinformatics is a complex field and you need to be prepared to study for several years.
Where do bioinformatics scientists work?
Bioinformatics scientists are in high demand! They may work for a variety of employers, including universities, hospitals, private corporations, and government agencies. Bioinformatics scientists, given their specialized knowledge, are commonly asked to consult with other scientists and researchers. If hired by a university, they may have their own lab, supervising laboratory technicians and mentoring students. The working hours are typical nine-to-five, but longer hours or weekend work may be required.
What is the career outlook for bioinformatics scientists?
Very positive, in fact! The average US salary is a very comfortable $75,000. A quick search on Glassdoor indicated that in Canada, average salaries are around the same figure. Salaries are likely to increase as demand goes up—and demand is expected to rise. In the US, this career has grown by 16% since 2004 and 7,170 vacancies are expected to be filled by 2018.
Becoming a bioinformatics scientist is a difficult but rewarding career choice. If you love biology and you love computers, this may just be the perfect fit for you!