Jobs for a PhD in Chemistry

Getting a PhD in chemistry is a crucial step for working in academia. However, the options don't end there. Chemistry PhDs can find rewarding teaching, research, and leadership positions in other sectors. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Careers With a Ph.D. in Chemistry

Postsecondary Chemistry Teacher

Postsecondary teachers work in colleges and universities, doing a combination of research and teaching. Typically, the teaching load is higher for lower-ranking academics, while full professors can devote more time to research. A Ph.D. is required to teach in most colleges and universities, except for some community colleges.

Postdoctoral Researcher

Postdoctoral Researchers, commonly known as 'post-docs,' work on fixed-term contracts at colleges and universities. These positions are typically research-only and help recent PhD-graduates obtain further experience in a laboratory to build their research profiles before applying for permanent positions. As the name would suggest, these positions are only open to candidates who have completed a Ph.D.

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians work with evidence connected to crimes by collecting it at the scene, analyze it in a lab, or both. Their knowledge of chemistry allows them to, for example, understand how material evidence might degrade over time based on the conditions to which it has been exposed, or match DNA samples to a suspect. Entry-level candidates for this job are required to have a bachelor's degree, but a Ph.D. may gain direct entry to advanced positions within prestigious organizations like the FBI.

Agricultural and Food Scientist

Agricultural and food scientists study the chemical composition of food, whether that means altering foods in a lab to make them taste better, or testing them to ensure that they are free from harmful contaminants. They may work directly with farmers to analyze the composition of the soil or develop chemicals to control weeds. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals with undergraduate degrees in chemistry or biology would be advised to continue studying at the PhD-level to work in an agricultural or food science laboratory.

Environmental Scientist

Someone with a Ph.D. in chemistry looking for a green job might consider becoming an environmental scientist. Environmental chemists specifically study the effects that certain chemicals have on the environment, which can later inform policies that affect global health. They may also develop ways to treat contaminated sites to lessen the negative impact of chemical spills. According to the BLS, individuals wanting to begin their degrees in environmental science after a Ph.D. are better off with a Ph.D. in chemistry or another natural science than with a general environmental science degree.

Chemist / Material Scientist

There are many types of chemists and materials scientists, whose basic job is to study the chemical composition of matter. Green chemists, for example, try to develop environmentally friendly products. Medicinal chemists develop drugs, while physical chemists develop new materials - both Prozac and plastic originated from chemistry labs. According to the BLS, chemists who are educated to the PhD-level can lead research teams.

Natural Science Manager

Natural science managers are in charge of managing scientific staff, but they often started as scientists themselves. Because they are part of higher-level management, they liaise with management on other teams in companies. For example, they may work with other executives to align their team's research goals with the objectives of the company as a whole. A Ph.D. in chemistry allows a natural science manager to troubleshoot the really difficult technical problems when approached for help by their team.

High School Teacher

High school chemistry teachers teach basic chemistry concepts to their students and prepare them for university study. While the traditional route to becoming a high school teacher requires a bachelor's degree in education, some individuals start in a different field and decide to become a teacher later in life. In this scenario, a teaching certification can be earned more quickly, or, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, bypassed entirely, by candidates with a Ph.D. in the subject that they would like to teach.

Job Median Salary (2018) Job Outlook (2018-2028)*
Postsecondary Chemistry Teacher $79,550 6%
Postdoctoral Researcher $48,455* 4% (Chemist)
Chemical Engineers $104,910 6%
Forensic Science Technician $58,230 14%
Agricultural and Food Scientist $64,020 7%
Environmental Scientist $71,130 8%
Chemist / Material Scientist $78,330 4%
Natural Science Manager $123,860 6%
High School Teacher $60,320 4%

Sources: *Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **

A Ph.D. is required for most research jobs in chemistry labs, academia and the private sector. Where a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for some careers, a Ph.D. will allow you to gain quicker access to advanced positions as a team leader, teacher, or researcher.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • University of Nevada

    Campus Locations:

    • Nevada: Reno
  • Oakland University

    Campus Locations:

    • Michigan: Rochester Hills
  • University of Illinois

    Campus Locations:

    • Illinois: Champaign
  • Yale University

    Campus Locations:

    • Connecticut: New Haven
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute

    Campus Locations:

    • Massachusetts: Worcester
  • Wichita State University

    Campus Locations:

    • Kansas: Wichita
  • West Virginia University

    Campus Locations:

    • West Virginia: Morgantown
  • Wesleyan University

    Campus Locations:

    • Connecticut: Middletown
  • Washington University in St Louis

    Campus Locations:

    • Missouri: Saint Louis
  • University of Tulsa

    Campus Locations:

    • Oklahoma: Tulsa