How Do I Begin a Career As a Chemist?

Explore the career requirements for chemists. Get the facts about salary, job skills, career outlook and degree requirements 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 Chemist Do?

Chemists study the ways in which different substances interact with each other in order to develop products and to test the quality of existing goods. Their duties include but are not limited to leading research projects, directing scientists and technicians, and preparing and analyzing solutions. They work in both basic as well as applied research. Entry-level work as a chemist will typically require a bachelor's degree in the field. Find out more helpful employment information in the table.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Chemistry
Key Skills Math, problem-solving, analytical, communication
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3%*
Median Salary (2015) $71,260*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Begin a Career as a Chemist?

If you have your high school diploma or a GED certificate, you may enroll in a 4-year bachelor's degree program in chemistry, which involves a combination of core classes, electives and hands-on lab work. A few of the courses you can expect to take are biochemistry, quantitative analysis, calculus, cell biology, inorganic chemistry, genetics and physical chemistry. To deepen your knowledge and increase your salary and desirability to employers, after graduation you might consider enrolling in a master's or doctoral degree program in chemistry.

What Does a Chemist Do?

Chemists study, research and work with the substances that compose matter on an elemental, molecular and atomic level. Chemists work for a wide variety of industries, developing new products, medicines, farming methods and ways live our everyday lives. There are many kinds of chemists, and the area of expertise you choose affects your job prospects. Types of chemists include, but are by no means limited to, biochemists, industrial chemists and medicinal chemists.

What Is the Job Market Like?

The type of job you might look for depends largely on your area of expertise and the skill sets that you've chosen to develop. In academia, there are many jobs available in secondary school education as well as research. Research positions are not limited to university campuses; there are jobs available for chemists at hospitals and medical centers. Chemists are also at the core of the pharmaceutical industry. Chemists are needed to develop a multitude of products for food and agriculture, industrial companies such as plastic and consumer product manufacturers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there is an expected increase in jobs for chemists of 3% between 2014 and 2024, which is slower than the national average for all occupations. As of May 2015, the BLS stated that the median annual wage for chemists was $71,260 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Agricultural and food scientists do similar research but in the area of improving agricultural establishments and products. Chemical engineers use science and experimentation to test and solve problems that involve chemicals, fuel, drugs, and food. Both require a bachelor's degree. Biochemists require additional education as they study the chemical and physical principles and processes of living organisms and processes.

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