The basic requirement for becoming a chemist is a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry or a related field. Classes in computer science, physics, mathematics, and biology are usually mandatory and you'll have coursework in organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry.
Continue reading to learn about the top fields in chemistry including the ones that are related to the field, the salary of chemists in America, the qualifications you'd need to work as a chemist, and some of the companies you could work for with a career in chemistry.
Top chemistry fields
There are many fields you can pursue as a chemist and below you'll find a list of the professional paths chemists typically follow:
- Analytical chemist - analytical chemists use their skills and knowledge of chemistry to analyze substances and materials. Some of these may be food, drugs, and other products consumed and used by humans and animals.
- Nanotechnologist - this field encompasses science, physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and computer science. Having a Bachelor's degree in chemistry won't suffice, but it can be a start. As a nanotechnologist, you’ll manipulate matter and learn to develop new materials, equipment, drugs, or diagnostic tools.
- Pharmacologist - the job of a pharmacologist is to study and investigate how drugs interact with biological systems. These scientists also carry out research to aid drug discovery and development.
- Academic researchers - these are usually graduate and Ph.D. students who want to produce original, high-level research that generates new knowledge and progresses current understanding. There can be academic researchers for different fields and with different years of experience.
- Chemical engineering - chemical engineers are involved in the design and development of new products from raw materials. They use their knowledge of chemical properties and reactions to transform materials from one state to another, for example making plastic from oil.
- Biotechnologist - in this job, you will study the genetic, chemical, and physical attributes of organisms, tissues, and cells to develop new products, technologies, and processes that will address some of the biggest problems in society.
- Forensic scientist - if want to become a scientist and a chemist but also feel passionate about crimes and solving puzzles, then you should consider pursuing a career or career in this field. Forensic scientists are responsible for analyzing materials (like droplets of spit, hairs, blood) found in crime scenes and working alongside detectives to find clues and suspects.
- Scientific laboratory technician - a lab technician is usually responsible for making sure that all the equipment in the lab works correctly, is clean, calibrated, and cared for. They also participate in different research and help other scientists develop their thesis and hypothesis.
- School or university teacher - if education is your passion, you should consider working in different school programs as a chemistry teacher. You could be a high school, university, graduate, or Ph.D. teacher and work at the level you're at to help other students achieve their goals in the field.
What are the top chemistry fields?
Salary for different chemistry jobs
Your salary doesn't determine your level of success but it does determine many important things in your life. This is why you should know what is the aspirational salary of someone that has a similar career path to yours. A salary may vary depending on the company and industry you work for.
As you could see above, there are plenty of fields, jobs, and companies you could seek employment from with a career as a chemist. Keep in mind that for many of those jobs and job positions you'd need another degree, diploma, or specialization.
For example, if you want to become an engineer you'll also need a degree in engineering. If you feel passionate about careers like nanotechnology or biotechnology, you'll need degrees in biology, computer science, and other subjects to fulfill your dreams.
Don't forget that each of these jobs belongs to a different industry, and since each of them needs a different level of preparation, the salary on average for each job can differ on the level, company, and location.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national average annual wage of a chemist is $83,850.
Keep in mind that this is a national average and the information doesn't reveal the reality of many states, which is why we recommend you go check out the salary for a chemist in each state of the country on this Forbes article or go do some digging on the BLS website.
What is the salary for a chemistry job?
What qualifications do you need to be a chemist?
Qualifications and skills are two different things but you need both to secure a job and build a successful career.
Skills refer to abilities in specific and these can be developed in any area of our lives. For example, we can develop skills in our jobs, relationships, school life, physical abilities, and more.
On the other hand, a qualification refers to your accomplishments in the professional and personal aspects of life. For example, getting accepted to university, getting your degree, finding good jobs, different work experiences and positions, and so on.
For example, developing an analytical brain is a skill but having a Bachelor's degree in law with a minor in political science is a qualification.
Chemists earn their qualifications through years in school, graduate school, and experience through employment.
To become a chemist you must learn how to properly use a laboratory, know every element in the periodic table, have an understanding of the physical and biological world, develop an analytical brain, be ready to react quickly in case of a dangerous chemical reaction, and so on.
As you could see, there are plenty of fields you could go into with a degree in chemistry, but to pursue any of them you need to get a graduate or master's degree, or some sort of specialization through continuing education and relevant industry experience.
Chemists and scientists spend a lot of years of their lives working inside a laboratory and many of them will tell you that the path to grow in the industry and get important job opportunities can be challenging, but not impossible, especially if you work hard.
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As a chemistry student, you'll have practical classes in a laboratory and you'll spend a lot of your time studying and reading science and chemistry books.
During your years in university, you should start defining which professional path you'd like to pursue and make a conscious decision of which classes you're taking and how well you're doing in school.
You should ask yourself, would you like to work in a lab, do research, be out of the lab, work with other people from different fields, or what else? You don't have to decide everything right away, but having an idea will save you time and energy over the years.
Make sure that during your last years as a college student you find internships and apply to different programs that'll open doors of opportunities for you in the future. An internship can turn into real employment or your boss can write a recommendation letter for you, and so on.
Are there any specific qualifications you need to be a chemist?
Notable chemistry companies
Biotechnology, as was explained above, is a branch of biology that involves the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products. This technology can be used to check the quality of food, the development of sensors used for different research, machines used for forensic science, and more.
Below you'll find a list of some of the common American companies in the field of biotechnology:
- Life Technologies
- Promega Corporation
If you desire to work in a laboratory developing drugs to cure disease, there are plenty of companies you can apply to both on American soil and abroad. This job is usually for people who have an analytical and scientific brain and typically enjoy spending the entire day checking the quality of different substances in a lab.
Below you'll find a list of the most popular pharma companies across the world:
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical segment)
- Bristol Myers Squibb
Chemical engineering is a job that is currently in high demand because you can apply your knowledge to different fields. You can work in industries like food, oil, technology, and much more with a degree in chemical engineering, and not all of these jobs are based inside a lab.
Below, there's a list of popular companies that are constantly searching to employ chemists with education in chemical engineering:
- Schreiber Foods
- Holcim (US) Inc.
Forensic science and technology
If you want to go into forensic science you can apply to different companies, positions, and programs. Scientists typically apply to job opportunities in American entities like government organizations, state investigation departments, and so on.
However, if you wish to work in the private sector, there are plenty of opportunities too. You should check out the following companies:
- Cellmark Forensic Services
- SPEX Forensics
- Thermo Scientific
- Sorenson Forensics
Follow the link to learn about notable chemistry companies.
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