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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 control.

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 directly.

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 projects.

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 include:

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 market.

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 being.

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 patients.

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 the job.

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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