What Is a Chromatographer?

Research what it takes to become a chromatographer. Read on to learn more about job duties, education requirements and employment outlook for this career path. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Chromatographer?

A chromatographer is a chemist who specializes in chromatography, which encompasses a variety of techniques that are used to separate compounds with exact precision. In this career field, you are responsible for breaking down chemical mixtures into individual substances for industrial, medical or academic research purposes. You would analyze and apply your results to larger questions in chemistry, and you would write them up for presentation to company executives (if you work in industry) or the academic community (if you work in a research institution).

Reference the chart below to get an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; master's degree or doctorate often required for research jobs
Education Field of Study Chemistry, physics, engineering
Key Responsibilities Separate and identify chemical compounds, undertake complex research projects
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% for all chemists*
Median Salary (2015) $71,260 for all chemists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Chromatographer Defined

A chromatographer is defined as a chemist who separates compounds with exact precision. As a chromatographer, you are responsible for taking chemical mixtures and breaking them down into individual substances. Using chromatography methods, you can separate most types of mixtures without causing harm or changes to individual substances. Your work may be used to help develop commercial products, discover new medications or create a new substance.

What Education Do I Need?

Typically, employers in chromatography fields require a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Academic and research positions usually require a graduate degree. Appropriate areas of study for a career as a chromatographer include organic chemistry or biochemistry.

In an organic chemistry or biochemistry program, you'll explore problems in organic chemistry, learn methods for preparing compounds for analysis, study compound properties, work with electronic theories in chemistry and investigate chromatography methods. Courses may include organic chemistry, quantitative chemistry, mass spectrometry, separation theories and biochemistry.

What Is the Job Outlook for this Career?

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report specific statistics about chromatographers, the information for chemists and biochemists may be helpful in gaining an understanding of the job outlook for the field (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS in 2015, chemists held 84,720 jobs. Scientific research and development services employed about 16% of chemists, while pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing employed about 17%. Another 12% worked in architectural, engineering and related services. The job growth expected for chemists from 2014-2024 is 3%, according to the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to become a chemist but aren't interested in chromatography, you could consider working as a researcher in a chemistry subfield in which chromatography is rarely used, such as theoretical chemistry. If you are more interested in applying the concepts of chemistry to real-world problems, you could consider getting a job as a chemical engineer. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree may boost your job prospects in the field.

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