- study the molecular makeup of diseases
- create improved instrumentation and biological markers
- assist in the diagnosis process
- provide analysis for labs
- provide advice for doctors, researchers, and other medical professionals
What Exactly Is Clinical Chemistry?
Clinical chemistry, as a discipline, is also called chemical pathology, pure blood chemistry, or clinical biochemistry. This is the area of pathology that focuses on the analysis of bodily fluids. This science originated in the late 1800s, beginning with the use of simple blood and urine tests. Other techniques were then rapidly developed. These included the use of enzymes, spectrophotometers, immunoassays, and electrophoresis. Laboratories today are now highly sophisticated and use closely monitored and quality controlled assays.
Who Would Be Interested in a Clinical Chemistry Career?
Clinical chemistry is an exciting career for people who have an interest in medicine and want to be involved in innovation, discovery, and major breakthroughs in medicine. These professionals play a crucial role in applying biochemical findings to the world’s healthcare. Doctoral-level scientists can have a rewarding career path involving many aspects of medicine which connect modern clinical biochemistry and high-level technology. These professionals are at the forefront of developing and using the latest, most advanced biochemical and physical techniques relating to healthcare.
Where Does a Clinical Chemist Work?
The field of clinical chemistry is broad and allows many different scientific specialists to collaborate and contribute to the healthcare system. A person in this field also has many options as to where he/she wants to work and how connected to patients he/she wants to be. One can choose to work solely in the lab, where studying biological markers, which are the indicators of diseases, allow for the initial diagnoses of diseases. Or one can become a specialist in differential diagnosis, which focuses on distinguishing between similar disorders. Some of the various career paths and employment opportunities include:
- developing assays or instrumentation for a company/institution
- performing customer services in hospitals
- doing basic research in a lab
- working at research institutions
- working for pharmaceutical companies in development
- doing sales
- running clinical trials
- teaching at an institution or school
- working in healthcare management
- working for a healthcare association
Clinical chemistry is experiencing enormous growth due to new technologies. There are increasing numbers of new discoveries pertaining to molecular mechanisms. These new areas include molecular diagnostics, bioinformatics, pharmacogenomics, and diagnostic proteomics. These disciplines include the application of new and different imaging techniques joined with biochemical findings.
What Are the Education Requirements of a Clinical Chemist?
Clinical chemistry it is an offshoot of laboratory medicine and pathology. Most professionals in this field have a doctoral degree. A postdoctoral fellowship of two years in an accredited clinical chemistry program is usually required. Of course, since things in our modern world are changing so rapidly, the learning is never done. This field requires constant reading and investigation.
A clinical chemist must also be board certified. This certification sets the standard for a mandatory level of competence. A candidate may become certified by the ABCC, the American Board of Clinical Chemistry, and then apply to become a fellow at the NACB, the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry.
What Might the Job Functions of a Clinical Chemist Entail?
A large lab may have about 700 different kinds of tests running at one time. These tests are sub-categorized into sub-specialties of general or routine chemistry; however; even the largest of laboratories rarely do all these tests themselves, often outsourcing work to other labs.
Jobs as chemists may include any or all of the following:
- preparing reference standards
- performing syntheses
- troubleshooting and resolving production issues
- monitoring purity standards
- testing raw materials
- documenting and reporting results
- developing in-process stability and validation methods
As far as salaries are concerned, these vary greatly depending on the institution where one is employed, the experience one has, and the level of the job title. The mean salary is typically $60,000 per year. Many of these professionals also earn substantial money from published works or from private consulting jobs.