Chemistry Career Opportunities

  • Chemistry Lab

    Career Opportunities

    Our chemistry students go far. Here are some of the career paths our graduates have taken.

    • research chemist
    • medical doctor
    • pharmacist
    • lab supervisor
    • forensic scientist
    • high school teacher
    • professor
    • public health professional
    • biochemist
    • dentist

    For more information on starting salaries and employment rates, see American Chemical Society survey of new graduates in chemistry and related fields.

  • Chemistry Career Possibilities

    General Information
    • Undergraduate degree sufficient for entry-level positions such as lab coordinator, research assistant, product testing or analysis, technical sales, or service representative.
    • Maintain high grade point average and secure strong recommendations for graduate school.
    • Master's degree sufficient for most applied research positions, industrial work, and some community college teaching.
    • Find research opportunities with professors and other experts in the field to gain experience.
    • Ph.D. degree required for university teaching and advanced positions in management and research and development. Postdoctoral experience is preferred for research positions in industry, universities, and government.
    • Advanced degrees help speed career advancement.
    • Develop strong computer, mathematics, and science skills/knowledge.
    • Obtain part-time, volunteer, co-op, internship, or summer experience.
    • Obtain practical experience using various laboratory equipment and high-tech scientific equipment and data.
    • Complete an undergraduate research project.
    • Consider electives in computer science, engineering, business, public speaking, and writing.
    • Join related student professional organizations.
    Analytical

    Areas

    • Research
    • Development
    • Analysis and Testing
    • Consulting
    • Environmental
    • Forensics

    Employers

    • Federal, state, and local government
    • Federal agencies including National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    • Manufacturing firms including textile, petroleum, food, electronics, glass, paper, packaging, machinery, cosmetics, paint, drug, and chemical industries
    • Industrial production and inspection agencies
    • Research laboratories and organizations
    • Environmental protection organizations
    • Colleges and universities

    Strategies

    • Familiarize yourself with federal, state, and local government job application processes.
    • Gain experience in a laboratory setting.
    • Develop proficiency with high-tech scientific equipment.
    • Take electives in your area of interest.
    Biochemical

    Areas

    • Research
    • Development
    • Analysis and Testing
    • Consulting
    • Quality Control
    • Medical
    • Environmental
    • Industrial Health & Safety
    • Hospital Administration

    Employers

    • Research laboratories and organizations
    • Pharmaceutical and medical research firms
    • Biotechnology firms
    • Plant and animal breeders and growers
    • Food processors
    • Industrial production and inspection agencies
    • Environmental protection organizations
    • Federal, state and local government, such as the Centers for Disease Control
    • Colleges and universities

    Strategies

    • Take additional courses in biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, cytology, and physiology.
    • Develop excellent laboratory and computer skills.
    • Get involved with undergraduate research with professors.
    • Join related professional organizations.
    • Complete a related internship with an organization in the area of your interest.
    Organic

    Areas

    • Research
    • Development
    • Analysis and Testing
    • Quality Control
    • Consulting

    Employers

    • Industries related to petroleum, coal, wood products, plastics, textiles, and food
    • Manufacturing firms developing new synthetic materials and new production processes
    • Research organizations
    • Federal and state government
    • Colleges and universities

    Strategies

    • Gain additional laboratory and research experience through internships and summer jobs. 
    • Get involved with undergraduate research with professors.
    Geochemistry

    Areas

    • Environmental Remediation
    • Research & Development
    • Analysis & Testing

    Employers

    • Research laboratories and organizations
    • Industries involved in mining, electronics, and synthetic materials
    • Federal and state government
    • Colleges and universities

    Strategies

    • Take geology & environmental science electives.
    Inorganic

    Areas

    • Research
    • Analysis and Testing
    • Quality Control
    • Consulting

    Employers

    • Environmental organizations
    • Water processing plants
    • Natural resources organizations

    Strategies

    • Choose appropriate coursework to specialize in an area.
    • Develop additional laboratory skills and experience.
    Polymer Chemistry

    Areas

    • Analysis & Testing
    • Research & Development

    Employers

    • Industries involving textiles and plastics

    Strategies

    • Gain research experience through internships, part-time employment, and summer jobs.
    Physical

    Areas

    • Research
    • Development
    • Analysis and Testing
    • Quality Control
    • Consulting

    Employers

    • Research laboratories and organizations
    • Industries involving electrical, nuclear, gas, heat, or light energy
    • Federal government
    • Colleges and universities

    Strategies

    • Take related courses in social sciences and economics.
    • Develop strong mathematical background.
    Education

    Areas

    • Teaching
    • Research
    • Administration

    Employers

    • Private and public secondary schools
    • Colleges and universities

    Strategies

    • Obtain certification/licensing for teaching in public schools.
    • Acquire a master's degree for community college teaching and a Ph.D. for colleges and universities.
    • Take courses in public speaking.
    Business

    Areas

    • Technical Sales/Marketing
    • Pharmaceutical Sales
    • Management
    • Consulting
    • Industrial Quality Control
    • Research & Development

    Employers

    • Manufacturing firms
    • Drug stores
    • Medical/Pharmaceutical supply companies
    • Industries including textiles, petroleum, food, electronics, glass, paper, packaging, machinery, cosmetics, paint, drugs, and chemicals.
    • Agricultural product companies
    • Environmental management organizations
    • Waste management firms

    Strategies

    • Obtain a minor in business.
    • Develop strong verbal and written communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills.
    • Hold leadership positions in campus organizations.
    • Join related student organizations, e.g., American Marketing Association, Financial Management Association, Public Relations Student Society of America, etc.
    Technical Writing

    Areas

    • Writing
    • Editing

    Employers

    • Research product development departments and organizations
    • Publishing firms including books, scientific and research journals, technical press, large newspapers, and wire services
    • Internet sites

    Strategies

    • Take advanced technical writing courses.
    • Develop word processing and desktop publishing skills.
    Law

    Areas

    • Patent Law
    • Legislation and Lobbying

    Employers

    • Manufacturing firms
    • Research and development firms
    • Law firms
    • Private practice
    • Environmental agencies

    Strategies

    • Obtain law degree to become an attorney.
    Information Specialists/Technical Libraries

    Areas

    • Special libraries
    • Research organizations
    • Colleges and universities
    • Large manufacturing firms, especially chemicals and pharmaceuticals

    Strategies

    • Obtain master's degree in library and information science.
    • Develop computer retrieval skills. 
    • Join Special Libraries Association, Chemistry Division.
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