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Careers in Chemistry
There are lots of career
options for someone with a degree in chemistry. In fact, a chemist can work
almost in all industries and government agencies. This is because chemistry
covers every aspect of life.
Careers in chemistry can be grouped into four categories: careers in industrial
chemistry; academics, government, and careers in related fields.
Careers in Industrial Chemistry
The chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, food processing, breweries, and
other industries are areas where most chemists usually seek for employment after
completing their studies. There are wide varieties of careers for chemists
there, including working in the business side of the firm, such as sales and
customer support departments. Here are some of them.
Research and Development Chemist: Research and development chemists help their
companies to research and discover ways to improve on their products so as to
provide more and better value for the customer and thereby remain competitive in
the market. They also discover new marketable products which brings more revenue
to their companies.
For instance, chemists in the cosmetics industry use their knowledge of
chemistry to research and develop new fragrances, skin treatment solution, dyes,
and other formulations that the company can market.
Research and development chemists usually have PhD in chemistry fields; however,
there are still numerous opportunities for BS or MS degree holders to work in
the research and development department as technicians performing researches
under the supervision of the chemist.
Quality Control Chemist: Quality control chemists in the industry help to check
that the quality of their company’s products is up to the desired standard
before they are released into the market.
Production Chemist: Production chemists are responsible for translating the new
products developed by the research chemists into something that can be mass
produced by a manufacturing process. In performing their job, production
chemists work closely with plant engineers in coming up with the right design of
plant equipment to use for better productivity and costs.
Production chemists supervise production and make sure production process
complies with environmental protection policies. They also check quality
Food Chemist: In the food processing industry, food chemists use their knowledge
of chemistry to create foods with desirable qualities, such as better taste,
longer shelf life, improved nutrition, healthy and safe to consume.
Chemical Sales Career: Chemists can pursue sales careers in the chemical
industry. Chemical manufacturing companies need people with chemistry background
to sell their products directly to target customers. Chemists are able to work
with customers and to determine the type of products that would best enable the
customer to realize their goal.
This job involves one-on-one dealings with customers and so requires a great
degree of interpersonal relationship skills.
Chemical Marketing Career: Chemists can also be involved in the marketing of
chemical products. In addition to their chemistry background, chemists who wish
to pursue a career in marketing will need to take some training in marketing.
As a marketing professional, you will be involved in all processes that
adequately publicize and compel target customers to buy your products. The job
entails identifying and understanding your target customers and designing
effective marketing strategies to reach and make them buy from you. It also
involves studying sales and trends to predict the future.
Technical Service Career: The technical service professional’s job involves
helping customers to solve problems relating to the workability of the product
and troubleshooting for customers with problems, questions or challenges. It
also involves generating new applications for the products and creating
instructional manuals to guide customers on how to use the products.
Chemistry Careers in Schools
Schools offer the second largest places after the industries where graduates of
chemistry can work. Chemistry teachers are needed to impart chemistry knowledge
to students in high school, community college, college or university.
High School Teacher: All high schools need chemistry teachers to teach the
subject. To teach in a public school you will also be required to have an
additional qualification in education. Private schools may not however demand
education qualification; with a B.S. degree in chemistry you can be hired
Community College Teacher: Graduates with MS or PhD degrees in chemistry are
qualified to teach general and organic chemistry in community colleges.
Undergraduate College or University Teacher: To be faculty member in a primarily
undergraduate institution, you will almost need a PhD in chemistry. Your work
will include to teach classes and labs, and to direct students’ research
Teacher at Research Universities: You will need to have PhD and some years of
post doctoral experience may be required to be faculty in research universities,
which offer BS, MS, and PhD degree programs. You will be involved in teaching
undergraduate and graduate courses, and directing research projects for groups
of undergraduate and graduate students.
Careers in Support Positions: With background in chemistry, you can work in a
number of support positions that require technical background in colleges and
universities. These job positions include lab technician and staff scientist,
safety officer, and stockroom manager.
The lab technician and staff scientist operates research equipment and performs
support duties for teaching and research. The safety officer is responsible for
handling and disposing of harmful waste, and to ensure that all safety
guidelines, including EPA are enforced. The storeroom manager is responsible for
ordering and maintaining inventories of chemicals and supplies to support the
schools research and teaching programs.
Chemistry Careers in Government
A variety of job opportunities are available for graduates of chemistry in all
levels of government – federal, state, and local government. For instance, the
federal government runs national research laboratories across the country, which
employ BS, MS and PhD graduates, including those with chemistry degrees, to
research on a wide range of issues.
Other places that chemistry graduates can find employment with government are in
government’s regulatory agencies, such as the ATF, EPA, FBI, and FDA. These
agencies employ chemists to carry out research and analysis so as to be able to
effectively perform their role.
Also, chemists can build careers in forensic science and work with local, state,
or national forensic science laboratories. This is because forensic science is
based mainly on analytical chemistry and biochemistry.
Careers in Related Fields
Graduates of chemistry can also build career in non-core chemistry fields based
on their training, which makes them suitable for such jobs. Some of these areas
Biotechnology: Chemistry and biochemistry graduates are qualified to pursue
further training and career in biotechnology if they so desired.
Toxicology: This is an area interested chemists can get further training and
build a career. Toxicologists study toxic substances to find out how they
produce their effects and so create solutions for dealing with them. Some
industries, including manufacturers of therapeutic drugs, cosmetics, food
additives, and agriculture chemicals are often required by federal laws to
perform thorough testing on their products before they are released into the
These industries therefore are compelled to employ toxicologists to
perform the required tests and confirmation of the safety of their products.
Environmental Science: This is an area open to chemistry graduates to make a
career. This is because chemistry is central to the study of the environment. As
environmental scientists, you can work in the industries, with government,
not-for-profit organizations, and in the colleges.
Dietary Science: With chemistry background, you can build a career in dietary
science after taking some courses to properly integrate you into the profession.
Dietary science is the study of how what we eat affects our health and well
Career in the Medical Professions: If you are interested in pursuing medical
careers such as being a medical doctor, pharmacist, dentist, veterinarian, and
nursing, your degree in chemistry can qualify you to be admitted into the
training program for the particular course.
Medical Laboratory: Chemistry background can enable you to work as laboratory
technician in medical offices and hospitals. Medical lab technicians analyze
patient samples for doctors to be able to effectively diagnose diseases. They
may also be required to prepare drugs and other materials used in treating
Technical Writing: If you have writing skill and are interested in combining it
with your chemical training, technical or scientific writing is a good career
path you can take. There are opportunities for technical writers to work for
trade magazines and technical journals. You can also work as a writer in the
industries to produce product manuals and other informational materials that
enable the company to inform its customers about its products in the way that
they will understand. A course in English and/or Journalism would help to
achieve success in this profession.
Scientific Libraries: With a background in chemistry and some training in
library science, you can work in science libraries. If you did a graduate study
in library science, you could work as research librarian with government
libraries and university research libraries. You could also work with large
companies as a research librarian.
Museums: A background in chemistry combined with training in information
technology can qualify you to work in museums. Your work may involve researching
and producing materials for exhibits, making presentations, and procuring
materials for the museum.
Patent Agency: A degree in chemistry can enable you to work as a patent agent
with the federal government. The job involves analyzing patent applications to
confirm if they are actually novel and worthy to be awarded a patent. The
analytical skill which you gain from studying chemistry makes you suitable for
Patent Law: You can become a patent lawyer after your chemistry degree by going
to law school. The job of patent lawyers include helping scientists to prepare
patents that are legally enforceable; helping their clients or employers to
ensure that their patents rights are not infringed on; and going after those who
infringe on their clients or employers patents.
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