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Chemistry 1001: The Chemical Community. Careers in Chemistry. What can I do with my degree after I graduate?. Chemistry is often referred to as the central science, because chemistry plays a vital role in nearly every other scientific field. .

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Chemistry 1001: The Chemical Community

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What can I do with my degree after I graduate?

Chemistry is often referred to as the central science, because chemistry plays a vital role in nearly every other scientific field.

This presentation outlines some of the common areas where chemists work.

This is by NO means an exhaustive list!!


Chemistry Careers in Brief(


Industrial Chemistry Careers

The bulk of chemists are hired to work in the chemical industry either as chemists working in the plant or on the bench, or as technically knowledgeable people who work in the business side of the company.

◊Industrial R&D and Production:

An important aspect of any industrial enterprise is the development of new technology that can be turned into new products.


Industrial Chemistry Careers - cont’d

Research Chemist:

• Work to develop new or improved technologies for the companies.

• Typically work at a bench carrying out chemical reactions and/or determining chemical structures or properties.

• Often a Ph.D. chemist, or someone working under one.

Production Chemist:

• Works to translate the work done by the research chemist into something that can be performed on a large scale as part of a manufacturing process.

• Work with plant engineers to maximize the design and use of plant equipment, supervise production, ensure quality control and ensure compliance with environmental protection policies.


Industrial Chemistry Careers - cont’d

◊Industrial Sales, Marketing, and Technical Service:

Each of these careers involves a product-customer relationship. A background in business is required to a varying extent for each of these careers.


• Work with customers to identify what products would most help the customer achieve their goals.

• Often requires technical background.


• Deals primarily with analyzing groups of customers known as "markets."

• Often requires a background in advertising.


Industrial Chemistry Careers - cont’d

Technical Services:

• Laboratory work and customer interaction are intertwined.

• Responsibilities include:

developing new applications for products

writing instruction manuals

troubleshooting for customers with problems or questions.

Added Note:

Many companies support and encourage employees who wish to go on for further education as they work.

This support might include partial or full payment of graduate tuition, released time (with or without pay), or even a chance to do research on company time that will both serve the company as well as be applicable to an M.S. degree.


Academic Chemistry Careers

A second major option for people with degrees in chemistry is as teachers of chemistry at the high school, community college, college, or university level.

◊ High School:

Students with a B.S. degree in chemistry would likely need to obtain additional training in education to be hired at a public high school.

Private high schools may directly hire someone with a B.S. degree in chemistry.

◊ Community College:

Community colleges will typically hire faculty members with MS or PhD degrees in chemistry to teach general and organic chemistry.


Academic Chemistry Careers - cont’d

◊ Undergraduate Colleges or Universities:

Faculty members at primarily undergraduate institutions will teach classes and labs in their area.

They will also typically direct students in original research projects.

Faculty may write grants to fund their research, write papers and give presentations on the results of their work.

A PhD is almost always required for 4-year college positions in chemistry, often post-doctoral experience after the PhD is desired.

◊ Research Universities:

Faculty are expected to teach undergraduate and graduate courses as well as direct research groups of undergraduate and graduate students.

These positions require PhD degrees and almost always will require post-doctoral experience.


Academic Chemistry Careers - cont’d

◊ Support Positions:

Colleges and universities often have a number of support positions that require technical backgrounds:

• Lab Technicians - perform support roles for teaching and research, such as operating research equipment.

• Stockroom managers - order and maintain inventories of chemicals and supplies for the research and teaching effort.

• Safety officers - handle hazardous waste and help enforce EPA and other safety guidelines.


Government Chemistry Careers

Federal, state, and local governments offer a variety of opportunities for students with chemistry degrees.

◊National Labs:

U.S. government operated national research labs employ B.S., M.S., and PhD scientists who carry out research on a wide variety of topics.

National labs offer an environment that is a cross between industrial and academic research.

◊Regulatory Agencies:

Departments such as the EPA, FBI, FDA, ATF, etc. employ chemists who carry our research and perform analytical services in support of the regulatory role of these agencies.


Chemistry-related Careers

Not every student who earns a chemistry degree ends up as a chemist or chemistry teacher.

Opportunities in fields as varied as medicine, law, business, and science are available.

◊Forensic Chemistry:

Analytical chemistry and biochemistry form the basis for much of forensic science.

A general training in chemistry is one of the best preparations for a career in forensic science.

There is a significant need for people interested in working for local, state, and national forensic science labs.


Chemistry-related Careers - cont’d


Biotech takes advantage of biochemistry to produce materials for our modern way of life.


Toxicologists are principally involved in the discovery of new knowledge concerning how toxic substances produce their effects.

Industries employ toxicologists to assist in the evaluation of the safety of their products.

Federal laws require that manufacturers provide adequate testing of products (such as therapeutic drugs, food additives, cosmetics, agricultural chemicals ) before releasing them into commerce.

◊Food Science:

Analysis of foods to ensure they are safe and nutritious.

Develop better tasting, longer lasting, and healthier foods.


Chemistry-related Careers - cont’d

◊Dietary scientist:

People with chemical backgrounds can work to understand how our diet affects our health and well being.


Opportunities for chemists in the cosmetics fields include the development of new fragrances, dyes, and skin treatments, and formulations.

◊Environmental Science:

Environmental scientists attempt to understand how the environment operates and how human interaction affects the environment.

Career opportunities exist with academic, government, and industrial employers.


Chemistry-related Careers - cont’d

◊Health Professions:

Students use chemistry degrees as a stepping stone to a variety of health professional schools.

• Physicians

• Dentists

• Veterinarians

• Pharmacists

• Hospital Lab Technicians

Chemistry provides critical thinking skills that are important for these professions.


Chemistry-related Careers - cont’d

◊Chemical Information Specialists:

• Scientific writing for technical journals, trade magazines, and industry

• Abstracting/database production

• Museum jobs

◊Intellectual Property:

This is the general term used to describe patentable discoveries.

The two main categories are:

• Patent Agents - work for government to examine patent applications

• Patent Attorneys - lawyers hired by those applying for patents

Often requires a law degree!!


Chemistry-related Careers - cont’d

◊Chemical Engineering:

Often confused with “straight” chemistry, chemical engineering usually involves:

• Producing useful chemical products in commercial quantity

• Designing plants required for the production

• Developing waste management systems

Generally speaking, chemists develop the basic ideas, and the engineers make them more practical!

◊Material Science:

Developing new materials with industrial applications.


What Next?

It is clear that many of the jobs mentioned require further education beyond the 4-year BS degree.

Depending on what you want to do, you can either look for a job directly out of college, or consider a graduate program or professional school.

Before making the decision, really think about what you want to do and where you want to be.

No decision has to be final! You can always change your mind!