Chemist Job Information

Chemist jobs occur in many industries. Industrial chemistry is a primary employment market, but academic, government, commercial research and other areas also employ large numbers of chemists. 

The Work Environment

Chemistry, as a science, contains many different streams of study and applications, and therefore many different forms of employment.

These are the primary employment areas:

Organic chemistry: This is the study of organic chemical processes, organic chemicals, and their properties and applications. This is a very advanced form of chemistry, dealing with extremely complex chemical processes. There's a very strong research element in this field. 

Analytical chemistry: Analytical chemistry is a very broad term for the process of analysis of chemistry across the spectrum of chemical applications and studies. Analytical chemists don't just "analyze chemicals". They may study entire chemical processes, analyzing the nature of chemical compounds, their interactions with other chemicals, testing properties, and doing detailed investigation of specific cases like environmental studies. 

Physical, macromolecular and theoretical chemistry: This is chemistry at the atomic level, with a very strong interface with physics. This chemistry is a major component in pure research, and frequently a testing ground for chemical compounds and products. It's particularly important in medical chemistry, and is the basis of many advanced methods of delivery of medication. "Targeted" medication systems are developed using this science.  

Materials chemistry: This is the study and development of industrial, scientific and commercial materials. The products of materials chemistry are everywhere. All commercially manufactured products, and the many new materials which come on the global market every day, are developed by this field of chemistry. 

It should be noted that in major chemical studies, all of these streams may be involved in a project. Each stream provides a unique form of services and analyses. The analysis and testing of a single organic compound may involve thousands of tests of various kinds. 

The Work:

In each stream, a lot of lab work, and sometimes field work, is involved in developing chemical data and applications. A job may require the chemist to test the interaction of a material, enzyme or other form of chemical with a large range of combination scenarios. A household cleaner, for example, may require extensive testing for safety purposes alone. In many cases, mapping the hazards involved with use of chemicals is a primary concern, and required by law. 

Research work may be specifically oriented to a material, or be pure research, requiring a strategic approach to testing and forms of analysis. Many materials in research exist only in the lab, and may have different properties requiring extensive development of new methodologies.

Wages: Variable depending on qualifications and experience. Median earnings are $80,000, with the top bracket at $120,000.

Hours: May vary considerably depending on requirements of contracts, research projects, etc. 

The Career Environment

Chemistry is an expanding area of employment, with an increase of 9 percent in the workforce expected in the coming decade. Job mobility in chemistry careers is variable, usually related to specialization. Career progression is based on experience, qualifications and specialties. There is some potential for chemists to move between streams, but specialists usually remain within their field, changing employers rather than the nature of their work.