How Do I Become a Fragrance Chemist?

Explore the career requirements for fragrance chemists. Get the facts about degree requirements, salary, job duties and career outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Fragrance Chemist Do?

Fragrance chemists create scents for products like perfumes and foods, or they may conduct research into how to improve manufacturing efficiency or cut down on fragrance costs. They may work in both industry and academia. If they work for private companies, they may be tasked with more scent development. In academia, they may study the underlying biology of the sense of smell, such as olfactory receptors, and how the information may be applied to the development of new fragrances. Based on their findings, they write up reports for academic journals or company executives. A background in chemistry is necessary. The table below provides an overview of key information needed to work in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for entry-level work; Master's or doctoral degree for independent research positions
Education Field of Study Chemistry
Key Responsibilities Test and develop new scents, analyze fragrances
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% (for all chemists)*
Median Salary (2015) $71,260 (for all chemists)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Fragrance Chemist?

A fragrance chemist helps to develop fragrances for a number of different industries, including food, perfume, cleaning products or manufacturing. In this job, you'll often work with flavors, as well. You could be required to be proficient in gas chromatography, a method in which chemical substances can be analyzed, mixtures can be separated, compounds purified or thermochemical constants determined. This job could require you to perform scientific, technical and administrative duties. Job responsibilities might include the following:

  • Gas chromatograph operation
  • Flash point, refractive index and gravity analysis
  • Evaluation of raw materials
  • Data analysis
  • Fragrance formulation and development
  • Refractometer operation
  • Calorimeter operation

How Do I Get This Job?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that a bachelor's degree in chemistry is often a minimum educational requirement, though you might need a master's or doctoral degree (www.bls.gov). Degree programs in chemistry combine in-class instruction with hands-on learning. Bachelor's programs often offer opportunities for research and internships, and graduate programs focus primarily on research. Topics in chemistry courses include:

  • Organic chemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Chemical statistics
  • Physics
  • Physical chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Principles of cosmetic chemistry

What Is the Job Market Like?

The BLS reported that employment for chemists was expected to increase 3% between 2014 and 2024, which is slower than the average for all occupations. You might experience competition for jobs, especially in the manufacturing industry, due to outsourcing to lower-paying countries and specialized firms. The BLS stated that you could improve your marketability with a graduate degree, and you could supplement your employment by pursuing a teaching education and license.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a chemist, you could choose to focus your work on an area other than fragrance chemistry. For instance, you could study a topic within medicinal, analytical or even theoretical chemistry, depending on your area of interest. Like fragrance chemists, other types of chemists can work in academic or industrial settings, and jobs are available with bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. Alternatively, you could consider studying a different scientific subject, such as physics or astronomy. Leading academic researchers in these fields need to have a Ph.D., but jobs are also available for bachelor's and master's degree-holders in private companies and government agencies.

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