What Is the Job Outlook for a Chemist?

Learn about a career as a chemist. Read about education requirements, work responsibilities, salary and potential job growth to see 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 Is a Chemist?

Chemists analyze the molecular makeup of matter and study how substances react with one another. They research and develop new products and processes that are used in a wide range of industries, pursuits and professions. Chemists do this by conducting complex experiments and testing materials for their composition and compliance with safety and quality regulations. They will often oversee the work of technicians and other lab workers, as well as training them in the proper testing procedures and lab techniques. Chemists prepare scientific reports and present their findings to other scientists and colleagues. The following chart gives you an overview of a career as a chemist.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for entry-level positions; master's or doctorate for research positions
Education Field of Study Chemistry
Key Skills Math, including calculus and statistics; lab expertise; precise documentation skills
Job Growth (2014-2024)3%*
Average Salary (2015) $77,860*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Job Prospects?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, there were 91,100 chemists employed in the United States. During the 2014-2024 decade, the BLS estimated there would be a 3% increase in jobs in this field, slower-than-average growth when compared to other occupations.

Competition was expected to be keen for chemist positions. Those with advanced degrees may have better prospects, with a doctoral degree leading to the best opportunities, particularly at larger biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms.

Where Could I Find Work?

Chemists are mainly employed in chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, scientific research and development, architectural and engineering services. The Federal Executive Branch is also a significant employer. Most are employed in highly industrial areas, with the highest concentration of workers found in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York (BLS).

Some chemists, particularly those with bachelor's degrees, may pursue careers as chemical technicians or technologists, teachers, or they may find related positions in marketing, sales or management.

Which Industries are Growing or Declining?

Biotechnology firms are driving some of the demand for chemists, due to research related to the human genome which has led to the development of new pharmaceuticals. Environmental research is also a developing industry that is creating job opportunities for chemists due to efforts to comply with new government regulations and clean up waste sites. The manufacturing sector is expected to experience some decline due to outsourcing to research and development firms; however, that provides a growth opportunity at those organizations.

What Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2015, the mean salary for chemists working in all sectors of the economy was $77,860. Chemists working in scientific research and development earned an average of $90,130 per year, while those employed by pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing companies were paid an average of $76,610. Chemists with jobs in architectural, engineering and related services took home an average of $64,740 a year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related jobs that require at least a bachelor's degree include chemical engineers, geoscientists and materials engineers. Chemical engineers use math and science to solve production issues of a variety of products, such as chemicals and food. They may develop new manufacturing processes and oversee the operation. Geoscientists study the history of the Earth through its physical attributes. Materials engineers develop and test new materials and substances that make up different products.

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