Chemistry : Careers

Career Information and Further Study

The chemical industry introduces over a thousand new chemicals every year. Research chemists make new substances to order, predicting beforehand what characteristics can be expected. They prepare small amounts of the substances, while other scientists test samples. A new pharmaceutical, for example, must be widely tested for effectiveness and for possibly dangerous side effects. Chemical engineers design equipment and develop process details for large-scale economic production and packaging. Processes are tested on a small scale in a pilot plant before full-scale production begins.

Skills gained in this program include:
  • Preparing chemicals by combining other chemicals
  • Developing new products for specific purposes
  • Using heat, light, energy, and chemical catalysts to change substances
  • Improving industrial processes
  • Developing new, more economical methods for making chemicals
  • Setting up, standardizing and using scientific instruments and equipment
  • Devising new equipment for making, analyzing, storing, or transporting chemicals
  • Analyzing substances (such as ores or drugs) to discover their composition
  • Analyzing biological substances, such as herbal cures or hormones, and finding ways to duplicate them artificially
  • Testing products to see if they meet specifications
  • Identifying contaminants in products or in the air and water
  • Finding uses for chemicals, including byproducts
  • Predicting what will happen when chemicals are mixed under various conditions, and warning of hazards
  • Using logic, scientific thinking, and knowledge of natural laws to solve problems in industry, agriculture, mining, medicine, or space
  • Organizing large projects by harnessing the talents of diverse groups of people and allocating responsibilities accordingly
  • Teaching, instructing, and consulting various people and organizations on complex issues and theories
  • Using complex pieces of equipment for data input and analysis
  • Impacting political environments to produce changes
  • Writing and explaining complex information in a way that is readily understandable to others

Career Choices

Various specializations are possible in chemistry. Environmental chemists study the chemistry of air, soil, and water pollution. Organic chemists specialize in carbon compounds. Biochemists study the chemical reactions (involving acids, proteins, steroids, and enzymes) that make life possible. Clinical chemists specialize in diagnostic tests, pharmaceutical chemists in drugs, and metallurgists in metals and alloys. Forensic chemists work with law enforcement to solve crimes.

What percentage of graduates goes on to find related employment?


Potential career areas include:
  • Education
  • Electronics
  • Environmental science
  • Food and drug administration worker
  • Forensic science
  • Government lab research
  • Industrial research
  • Medicine and health related fields
  • NASA
  • Oceanography
  • Patent or environmental law
  • Petroleum products
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Pollution analysis
  • Specialty chemicals
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Waste disposal research

Work settings include:
  • Ceramic/glass distributors
  • Chemical/pharmaceutical sales and retail
  • Chemical producers
  • Clothing manufacturers companies
  • Conservation labs
  • Dairy producers
  • Drug research centers
  • Engineering rirms
  • Equipment (chemical) manufacturers
  • Food manufacturers
  • Government agencies
  • Government health agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Industrial firms
  • Industries with pollution
  • Insurance companies
  • Law office/self employed lawyer
  • Medical schools
  • Mining companies
  • Museums
  • National/state parks service
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Pharmacy
  • Petroleum refineries
  • Private research foundations
  • Secondary schools
  • Technical libraries
  • Technical publishers/journal editors
  • Universities/colleges
  • U.S. Patent Office

Degree Level Required

An advanced degree is needed for research; a Ph.D. for teaching in a college or university. Without an advanced degree, chemists work as assistants or technicians, doing analyses, preparing chemicals to formula, or doing quality-control work. According to the ACS salary survey 2004, the median base salary for bachelor's degree graduates is $52,766 (with median salaries of $63,000, $58,000, and $36,000 for industry, government, and academia respectively). The median base salary for chemical engineers was $73,000 with a bachelor's degree.

Salary Information

Salaries can vary greatly among different occupations, geographic areas, organizations and companies.

What percentage of graduates goes on to graduate school?


Updated: 13 Nov 2012 06:00:38 EST