What Is a Bioinformatics Scientist?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover what a bioinformatics scientist does. Explore daily tasks and responsibilities, learn about the requirements for the job, and find out about possible next steps.

[Featured Image] A bioinformatics scientist works in a lab.

If your interests include biology, computer science, and information technology (IT), you may want to consider becoming a bioinformatics scientist. Blending all three disciplines, bioinformatics science plays a crucial role in important biological research. Read on to learn more about a future career in bioinformatics science, including what you'll do, what education and skills you'll need, what salary you could earn, what career path you might follow, and more.

What is a bioinformatics scientist?

A bioinformatics scientist attempts to answer and solve biology-related questions and problems using technological research methods. Working with programming languages like Perl, PHP, and MySQL, a bioinformatics scientist develops tools for analyzing, managing, and storing data. This data might involve genomes (genetic instructions within cells), proteomes (sets of proteins expressed by genomes), or metabolomes (sets of small molecules within cells called metabolites).  

Bioinformatics scientists often work as part of a multidisciplinary team. In this role, you might collaborate with other professionals like:

  • Biostatisticians

  • Biotechnologists

  • Computer scientists

  • Forensic scientists

  • Marine biologists

  • Microbiologists

  • Plant biologists

  • Wildlife biologists

What does a bioinformatics scientist do?

A bioinformatics scientist collaborates with other professionals and uses computer skills and scientific knowledge to solve specific problems. Places where you can work as a bioinformatics scientist include colleges and universities, environmental agencies, genetics labs, technology firms, medical facilities, or the military. 

Bioinformatics scientist tasks and responsibilities

To better understand the role of a bioinformatics scientist, it helps to learn more about daily tasks and responsibilities. Common tasks associated with this position include:

  • Choose computational approaches and analytical tools based on research goals.

  • Create software and applications or modify them as needed to meet research goals.

  • Create data models and develop and maintain databases.

  • Perform genetics work such as genome examination and sequencing, gene isolation, gene transfer, and gene marker identification.

  • Create algorithms to process genomic information.

  • Perform statistical analyses.

  • Provide expertise and support to research and development staff and other team members.

  • Supervise or train assistants, technicians, and other IT employees.

  • Create written reports for company heads, stakeholders, and professional conferences.

  • Present research findings orally or through reports or scientific publications.

  • Read academic literature and attend conferences.

  • Advise team members about bioinformatics developments.

Bioinformatics scientist skills 

Having a career in bioinformatics science requires certain skills. These include technical skills, which help you perform job-related tasks, and workplace skills, which help you interact with others on the job.

Technical skills

As a bioinformatics scientist, you'll need various specific technical skills to perform your work. Examples of technical skills that might help you in this role include:

  • Background in science and mathematics

  • Data analysis 

  • Database management 

  • Statistical analysis 

  • Familiarity with programming languages like C++, Java, Perl, Python, and R

  • Knowledge of Linux and Unix systems

  • Knowledge of machine learning

  • Familiarity with presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint

Workplace skills

As a bioinformatics scientist, you'll likely collaborate with a multidisciplinary team. You may also train or supervise others and communicate regularly with company heads and stakeholders. Workplace skills that can help you in these roles include:

  • Ability to solve complex problems

  • Ability to stay organized

  • Ability to work well alone or as part of a team

  • Attention to detail

  • Leadership skills

  • Oral and written communication skills

  • Critical thinking skills

  • Time management skills

Bioinformatics scientist salary and job outlook

According to Glassdoor, you can expect to make a median annual salary of $110,060 per year as a bioinformatics scientist. This figure represents base pay without extras like bonuses and profit-sharing [1]. 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't offer specific job outlook information for employment in bioinformatics science. However, they expect jobs within the life, physical, and social sciences to grow faster than average in the decade spanning 2022 to 2032 when compared to other fields. This equates to an average of 136,800 job openings per year within this group [2].

Getting a position as a bioinformatics scientist often requires some experience working in a lower-level position. Examples of these positions might include research assistant, research associate, or bioinformatics technician. 

Bioinformatics scientist career path

Your career path after working in a bioinformatics scientist position can vary depending on your experience, job success, and interests. Possible career paths could look like this:

  • Bioinformatics Scientist→Senior Bioinformatics Scientist→Research and Development Manager

  • Bioinformatics Scientist→Senior Software Engineer→Chief Technology Officer

  • Bioinformatics Scientist→Consultant→Project Manager

Education and training needed for a bioinformatics scientist career

Bioinformatics scientists benefit from specialized education and training. Read on to explore various degree choices and certifications.

College degree options

For a career in bioinformatics science, you'll need a bachelor's degree in a related field. Bachelor's degree fields you might choose from include:

  • Biochemistry

  • Biophysics

  • Biostatistics

  • Molecular biology

Although roughly 42 percent of bioinformatics scientists have bachelor's degrees, many people in the career have master's degrees (30 percent) or doctorates (24 percent).

Professional certifications

Getting professional certifications can also help increase the knowledge and skills you need for a career as a bioinformatics scientist. Examples of certifications that might benefit you in the role include:

  • Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS), offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)

  • Certified Computer Scientist (CCS), offered by the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP)

  • Certified Clinical Data Manager (CCDM), offered by the Society for Clinical Data Management

Getting started on Coursera

To help solidify your decision to follow a bioinformatics scientist career path, consider taking

Genomics: Decoding the Universal Language of Life on Coursera offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Throughout the course, you'll learn what genomes are and why they're important, how they help us understand the body and fight disease, and how they help predict health issues before they happen.

Each module in this seven-module course presents a variety of guest instructors. You'll gain valuable insight from biology, bioinformatics, biotechnology, computer science, genomics, microbiology, and physics experts, among others. Dedicating 12 hours per week, you should complete this course in about three weeks, but you're free to learn at your own pace. You'll receive a shareable career certificate for your professional social media profile or resume when you finish the course.

Article sources


Glassdoor. "How much does a Bioinformatics Scientist make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/bioinformatics-scientist-salary-SRCH_KO0,24.htm." Accessed  January 1, 2024.

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