Analytical Chemist: Career and Salary Facts
Research what it takes to become an analytical chemist. Learn about job responsibilities, education requirements, and salary information to find out if this is the career for you.
What Is an Analytical Chemist?
Analytical chemists use sophisticated instrumentation to analyze the properties of matter, such as air, water and pharmaceutical drugs. They identify the elements in a substance to understand its structure and composition and how different parts interact. Analytical chemists may conduct extensive research projects and oversee the work of other lab technicians assisting in the process. They may need to train technicians to use specific equipment or testing techniques. These professionals present their work and findings in complex technical reports that are available to their colleagues and other interested groups. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.
|Degree Required||Bachelor's degree for entry-level work, master's or doctoral degree required by some employers|
|Education Field of Study||Chemistry, analytical chemistry|
|Job Duties||Analyze chemical and physical properties of substances, analyze and present data, operate complex instruments|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)||4%* (for all chemists)*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$76,890* (for all chemists)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Education Do I Need for a Career as an Analytical Chemist?
If you'd like to be an analytical chemist, you could enroll in a bachelor's degree program in chemistry. As a chemistry major, you could expect to take courses in calculus, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry. Additionally, you'll complete chemical laboratory courses.
Once you've obtained your bachelor's degree, you would qualify for many entry-level positions in analytical chemistry. However, because many employers require applicants to research positions to hold a master's or doctoral degree, you might choose pursue a graduate degree in chemistry in order to broaden your career opportunities.
What Jobs Could I Apply for?
Because analytical chemistry is useful in a variety of industries, as an analytical chemist you'll have many career options. You could work as a quality assurance specialist in the food, pharmaceutical or cosmetics industries. You could also apply for research positions with companies that manufacture and sell analytical instruments or biochemical assay kits. There, you might work on developing new instrumentation or assays that can more effectively detect the presence of a small amount of target compound, such as protein or DNA, in a more cost-effective manner.
Alternatively, you might choose to work for a federal agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency, where you would test food products and drugs for contaminants or air and water for pollutants. If you possess entrepreneurial instincts, you could also start your own consulting firm and offer services to other companies that need to have their products tested or their instruments calibrated.
What Job Duties Might I Have?
As an analytical chemist, you'll likely operate complex instruments to analyze the chemical and physical properties of various substances. Common instruments that you might use include high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) instruments, mass spectrometers, microscopes and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machines. You could also use computational and statistical techniques to analyze data and present the data in a fashion that clearly communicates your results to non-scientists.
What Salary Could I Earn?
Salary data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that, in 2018, chemists earned a mean annual wage of $83,850. The BLS reported that chemists working in petroleum and coal products manufacturing earned an average annual salary of $87,750 in 2018, the highest salary for chemists among all the listed industries.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Some related careers that require a bachelor's degree for entry-level work include those of high school teachers, materials engineers and natural sciences managers. High school teachers may teach students chemistry or other subjects to prepare them for college or a career. Materials engineers test the substances in existing products and may work to improve or develop new materials to use instead. Natural sciences managers oversee teams of scientists to coordinate research efforts.