Chemist Job Description
Chemists conduct chemical analyses and experiments to develop new knowledge, materials, processes, and products. Many chemists work in a laboratory, while others are able to use computer software to conduct research and develop theories.
The majority of chemists work as part of a team. Since many research projects require scientists from different backgrounds, it’s common for chemists to work alongside biologists, engineers, physicists, and computer scientists, each of whom are able to contribute to different aspects of a project.
In recent years, computers have become very influential in a chemist’s every day life. Through the use of specialized programs, chemists are able to view and understand the molecules they create and work with in ways that were previously impossible. For this reason, many chemists choose to take some computer science courses in college.
Some chemists decide to become teachers, either at the high school or university level.
Work Environment and Schedule
Chemists most often work in laboratories, where they perform many experiments and analyze the results.
Since many chemicals are hazardous and can cause sickness in humans, chemists have to be very careful to take every precaution to keep themselves healthy. Gloves, goggles, and masks are commonly worn in the laboratory setting.
The majority of chemists work full time, though the hours required can vary between employers. Chemistry can be a deadline driven business in many cases, and in those types of environment it’s common for chemists to work long hours.
How to Become a Chemist
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in chemistry is required for most entry level chemist positions, though some employers (particularly those who specialize in advanced research) require a master’s or doctorate degree.
For all positions, working in an university laboratory or at an internship while in college can increase your chances in getting a job. While good grades are nice, most employers prefer to hire those with real working experience.
In graduate school, chemists choose an area of specialty depending on the type of employer they want to work for or their personal interests. Examples of specialties within chemistry include inorganic, organic, and analytical chemistry.
There are currently 82,200 chemists in the United States, with 2,990 new chemist job openings created each year.
Chemist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Chemist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most chemists make between $51,200 – $93,300 per year, or $24.59 – $44.87 per hour.