Oil Chemistry Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an oil chemist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Biomedical Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Oil chemists work in the petroleum industry and assist in the extraction and refinement of crude oil, as well as the manufacturing and distribution of petroleum products. The following chart gives an overview of what you need to know to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree minimum; PhD for research positions
Education Field of Study Chemistry, chemical engineering, petroleum engineering
Key Skills Develop new techniques for oil refining & processing; investigate oil spills; create polymer products
Job Growth (2012-2022) 6%*
Average Salary (2013) Oil/gas extraction chemist: $110,750*
Polymer chemist: $91,430

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need for a Career in Oil Chemistry?

Most oil and petroleum chemists who hold research positions in the petroleum industry hold a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). However, it's possible to find oil chemistry positions that only require you to hold a bachelor's or master's degree. Thus, enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in chemistry could get you started on your oil chemistry career. You could expect to take courses in math, physics and various subfields of chemistry, including organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. Additionally, you would complete laboratory sessions and complete a number of electives.

After obtaining your bachelor's degree, you could enroll in a PhD program in chemistry or a Master of Science or PhD program in chemical or petroleum engineering. An advanced degree in one of these fields, combined with an undergraduate degree in chemistry, could be especially helpful because you likely would acquire a strong background in theoretical chemistry, along with practical engineering skills that would be useful in the petroleum industry.

What Jobs Could I Apply For?

As an oil chemist, you could work for oil companies or refineries. For example, you might develop new and more efficient catalysts for use in the refining process or use chemical fingerprinting to investigate oil spills. You could also work for companies that produce chemicals used by the petroleum industry. Alternatively, if you have a background in polymer chemistry, you could work for a company that converts crude oil into polymer products, such as plastics or resins.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

Salary data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that in May 2013, oil and gas extraction chemists earned the highest salaries among all chemists, with an average of about $110,750 (www.bls.gov). Those specializing in polymer chemistry earned about $91,430.

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