Chemistry is the study of the chemical composition, structural organization, and characteristics of elements and compounds. Chemists study different types of materials and their interactions to better understand existing compounds, produce new ones, and discover novel chemical processes that are helpful. With 96% of most manufactured goods directly involving chemical processes and other relevant operations, chemistry careers are some of the most rewarding ones.
Through didactic and laboratory courses in natural science and mathematics, a chemistry degree educates students on the profession’s theoretical and practical parts. Chemistry provides possibilities to study and work in a range of intriguing disciplines through its branches of study, such as environmental science and chemical engineering.
Entry to a career in the industry can be through an associate degree in chemistry, which provides a core foundation on the subject, including related topics, such as physics, biology, and more. For full academic training, a bachelor’s degree in chemistry is a more appropriate academic track. This chemistry careers guide will walk you through chemistry careers that highlight your options after graduation.
Chemists study the characteristics of materials at the atomic and molecular levels. They measure proportions and reaction rates to better understand novel substances and how they behave or to build new compounds for use in a wide range of practical applications. They use a variety of analytical techniques and apparatus to accomplish these.
The industry attracts people who are passionate about science. Chemists are primarily investigative individuals, which implies that they are naturally inquisitive and curious people who enjoy spending time alone with their ideas on a regular basis. They also have a tendency to be realistic, which means that they frequently enjoy working outside or putting their hands to work on projects.
Between 2019 and 2029, the job outlook for chemists is expected to increase by about 5%, which is faster compared to other fields (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). Due to research on the human genome, which has led to the development of new medications, biotechnology organizations are driving some of the demand for chemists and chemical engineers. Chemists can also find employment in environmental research as a result of attempts to comply with government rules and clean up waste sites. Outsourcing to R&D corporations is likely to cause a decline in the manufacturing sector, but it also creates growth opportunities within those organizations.
Interestingly, choosing chemistry as a viable career has decreased between high school and college, according to the study “Trends and perceptions of choosing chemistry as a major and a career,” which was published in the Chemistry Education Research and Practice journal. Based on the study, “task-oriented self-efficacy was the factor which contributed the most to chemistry career choice…”
“Women tend to choose chemistry more than men at high school and university levels, and minorities tend to choose it more in high school but less in higher education compared to non-minorities,” the research added (Avargil et al., 2020).
Chemical and materials scientists will have an increase in employment of 5% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations during this period. Individuals with advanced degrees, notably doctorates in chemistry or materials science, are projected to have the best opportunities in their fields.
On average, chemists earned about $80,680 per year in 2020. Similarly, those working as materials scientists earn an average of $99.460 in the same year (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). As the career development plan in chemistry progresses, those in the field can expect higher salaries. Additionally, chemists have numerous opportunities to take on various roles such as:
|Researcher in Chemistry||$99,720||1.58%|
|Chemists in Engineering, Architecture, and Related Services||$67,050||0.66%|
|Chemists in Manufacturing||$91,480||2.32%|
|Chemists in Government and Federal Institutes||$120,510||0.27%|
A chemist is someone who seeks out a new understanding of chemistry and applies it to better our way of life. He or she may be involved in the development of items, such as synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. Oil refining and petrochemical processing are only a couple of the technologies that chemists are developing to reduce energy consumption and pollution. As such, they should possess the following technical and soft skills:
Furthermore, researchers are continuously evaluating and improving the way chemistry is taught in higher education. For example, the study “Teaching through Research: Alignment of Core Chemistry Competencies and Skills within a Multidisciplinary Research Framework” published in the Journal of Chemical Education highlights the benefits of adopting open-ended experiments in instructing college freshmen as it “allows full integration of training that is mandatory and accredited general chemistry skill sets with open-ended research experiences with unexpected outcomes in undergraduate science curricula.”
“This model enables undergraduates to be productive contributors to new knowledge and scientific discovery at the earliest levels of the undergraduate experience,” the researchers reported (Ghanem et al., 2017).
Source: Prospects UK, 2020
A bachelor’s degree is often the minimum educational qualification for an entry-level job as a chemist. However, if you choose to work as a researcher, you will almost certainly require a Ph.D., although a master’s degree may suffice in some cases.
You can pursue a career as a chemist by majoring in chemistry or a closely related field such as physical science, biological science, or engineering. Inorganic and organic chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and computer science are often the required STEM subjects. If you are considering a career in the environmental field, you may wish to consider taking courses in environmental studies, soil chemistry, and similar fields.
Researchers and scientists rely on the assistance of lab assistants to conduct numerous tests and research. It’s important to note that their key responsibilities include preparing test samples, maintaining research data, and documentation of processes and results.
Median Salary: $32,375
Assists scientists in conducting quantitative and qualitative analyses of various materials, chemicals, or products. Responsibilities include quality control, compliance, and maintenance.
Median Salary: $54,959
Chemical laboratory technicians work alongside chemists and chemical engineers to conduct research, perform experiments, and create new products and chemical processes. They assist with the design, execution, and monitoring of experiments as well as recording and reporting outcomes.
Median Salary: $51,670
Chemists perform laboratory experiments to evaluate chemicals, produce new products, and enhance current ones. They may specialize in one or more fields of chemistry, for example, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and inorganic chemistry.
Median Salary: $80,680
Materials scientists conduct research and analysis on both natural and man-made objects in order to understand them better. Their results may be utilized to create new materials, modify existing materials, or make decisions on how to use materials differently.
Median Salary: $86,315
Pharmacologists conduct investigations on the effects of new and current medicines and other pharmaceuticals on people and animals. They do research on the origins and chemical composition of medicines. They may be accountable for ensuring that medications are safe and compliant with applicable laws and regulations.
Median Salary: $94,193
Certificate programs in chemistry below associate’s degree are typically not offered as students need at least two years of academic training in order to qualify for entry-level positions. However, graduate certificate programs in chemistry are available to those with at least a bachelor’s degree in the same field or adjacent sectors. These are designed to expand the student’s academic training in order to further one’s career, gain technical skills in chemistry, or supplement research experience in a specific field in chemistry.
After going through a bachelor’s degree, most chemist career paths continue to masters degree programs, which lead to a doctorate. While there are various opportunities for bachelor’s in chemistry graduates, if your career goal in chemistry involves landing managerial positions, you need advanced career and professional experience.
Industrial production facilities, such as chemical factories and refineries employ production chemists. These chemists apply their expertise to enhance existing industrial processes or develop new ones. They may oversee production, assist in the design of plant equipment and procedures, or supervise quality control. They frequently collaborate with chemical engineers.
Median Salary: $69,551
Chemists who do research on chemical compounds utilize their findings to develop and enhance processes and products, ranging from novel medications and medical treatments to manufactured items such as cosmetics, electrical appliances, and food and beverage. The majority of research chemists work in laboratories.
Median Salary: $66,631
Chemistry instructors organize lessons, prepare and present lectures, and oversee students’ laboratory activities. Instructors assess students’ performance and keep classroom records. They offer courses on the physical and chemical characteristics of substances, as well as their compositional variations.
Median Salary: $58,000
Chemistry teachers continue to do research in chemistry to stay current on new discoveries and adapt their teaching materials accordingly. They continue to do independent research for the universities where they work and attend frequent meetings on a variety of chemistry-related issues.
Median Salary: $79,550
Chemical engineers spend their time developing and constructing systems and machinery utilized in biological, environmental, industrial, and chemical processes, as well as optimizing them. These same professionals collaborate directly with the food and pharmaceutical industries to produce safer and more efficient goods for the public.
Median Salary: $108,770
Environment Scientists and Specialists
Environment scientists and professionals apply their scientific expertise to identify dangers within a specific environment and develop strategies for mitigating or eliminating their impact. They collect data on food, soil, water, and air in order to identify strategies to conserve and maintain the ecosystem.
Median Salary: $71,360
The certification program’s objective is to recognize chemists and chemical engineers who possess a minimum level of education and/or experience and have engaged in professional career development and continuing education activities during the last one to three years. The program promotes a variety of strategies for practitioners to maintain and enhance their abilities. Additionally, it acts as a vehicle for formally recognizing educational programs and other professional activities aimed at enhancing the chemical scientist’s or engineer’s present competency in his or her specialty.
Source: Chemical & Engineering News, 2019
While traditional job options for chemistry majors may include working in a laboratory, doing research, or working in the medical field, there are various other career options that chemistry majors may be interested in exploring.
Chemistry itself is a diverse industry with various subfields where professionals can specialize in. After finishing their bachelor’s degree, most graduates begin planning their next step, which typically involves taking advanced degree types, testing for certifications, or focusing on a specific sector in chemistry. Because the demand for chemists and similar professionals increases, those in the field get to enjoy numerous chemistry careers. As professionals gain more experience and training in chemistry, salary increases and promotions are inevitable.
Furthermore, career goals in chemistry may evolve into much higher positions such as managers, consultants, or even businesses owners. Indeed, chemistry careers are some of the most exciting and dynamic professions out there. A such, they are worth considering in your career exploration efforts.