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Do you have chemistry with these chemistry degree jobs? | ZDNet

A chemistry degree job allows you to work with everything from laundry detergents to medications to fuel.  

In its simplest form, chemistry is the study of substances. Chemistry professionals focus on the atomic and molecular aspects of substances. By conducting research, chemists learn about interactions between substances, how to manipulate and improve upon them, and how to create new ones. 

Chemistry specializations include analytical chemistry, chemical engineering, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. 

Chemical technicians, chemists and materials scientists, and chemical engineers are among the most common chemistry positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all three roles are projected to see increasing demand until at least 2030.

With a chemistry degree, you can work in manufacturing, research and development,  wholesale trade, education, or even government. Read on to learn about the best jobs available to chemistry majors.

Types of chemistry careers

Chemistry is a broad field with ample opportunity for degree and career specialization. Here are notable subfields within chemistry.

  • Analytical chemistry uncovers materials’ chemical composition and structure through standardized experimental methods.
  • Biological chemistry, also called biochemistry, studies chemicals and their interactions with living organisms.
  • Chemical engineering blends chemistry and engineering to produce and improve manufactured chemical products.
  • Inorganic chemistry emphasizes the properties and behavior of inorganic (non-carbon-based) chemical elements and compounds.
  • Organic chemistry focuses on the properties, reactions, and structures of organic (carbon-based) compounds.
  • Physical chemistry applies physics to study chemical interactions at atomic and molecular levels.
  • Theoretical chemistry develops theories to explain chemical systems, principles, and processes.

Best jobs for chemistry majors

Chemistry degree jobs vary by level, required experience, and environment. With an undergraduate chemistry degree, you have the skills for entry-level positions. Graduate programs prepare you for advanced roles. 

The jobs for chemistry majors listed here are just a few of the positions available to you. 

To rank the best jobs for chemistry majors, we assessed roles based on salary, job demand and projected growth, work-life balance, and work satisfaction. The criteria that we weighted the most heavily were salary, work-life balance, and work satisfaction.

1. Chemical engineer

Median salary (2020): $108,540

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s degree

Alternate job titles: Biochemical engineer, chemical process engineer, industrial chemical engineer

Important qualities: Works well independently and as part of a team, detail-oriented, chemistry and engineering knowledge, problem-solver

Description: Chemical engineers combine chemistry and engineering to solve challenges related to the use and production of chemicals. They monitor manufacturing processes, establish and follow safety procedures, troubleshoot problems, and assess performance throughout production. 

2. Environmental scientist

Median salary (2020): $73,230

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s degree

Alternate job titles: Industrial ecologist, environmental specialist, climate change analyst

Important qualities: Knowledge of environmental problems, enjoys working outdoors or in a lab, problem-solver, verbal and written communication skills

Description: Environmental scientists focus on solving problems related to the environment and human health. They collect and analyze samples to assess environmental threats and health risks. Environmental scientists may work within government agencies, manufacturing companies, or environmentally focused companies or nonprofits. 

3. Biochemist

Median salary (2020): $94,270

Minimum degree required: Doctoral or professional degree

Alternate job titles: Biological chemist, molecular biologist, cellular biologist

Important qualities: Able to work independently and part of a team, verbal and written communication skills, analytical, able to follow safety rules and regulations

Description: Biochemists research chemical principles of living organisms and biological processes. Basic and applied research on cell growth, development, and division requires collaboration with scientists across disciplines and fields. Biochemists may participate in product development related to medicine, agriculture, or industrial manufacturing.

4. Agricultural and food scientist

Median salary (2020): $68,830

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s degree

Alternate job titles: Animal scientist, soil scientist, plant scientist

Important qualities: Able to work in a lab or outdoors, likes to travel, can work independently or as part of a team, knowledge of challenges and issues related to field crops and farm animals

Description: Tasked with improving agricultural efficiency, agricultural and food scientists work to develop new food products and optimize existing agricultural and food resources. They also collaborate with fellow scientists, agricultural companies, government agencies, and food producers to improve agricultural safety.

5. Materials scientist

Median salary (2020): $99,460

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s degree

Alternate job titles: Nanomaterials scientist, semiconductor science specialist, organic scientist

Important qualities: Can follow experiment protocols, analytical, works well in a lab and in an office

Description: Materials scientists conduct experiments on specific substances to understand and assess them at atomic and molecular levels. Material scientists and their colleagues test and develop manufactured products, improve existing ones, and identify substances’ properties and composition. Specialty areas for material scientists include metals, glass, and polymers. 

6. Forensic science technician

Median salary (2020): $60,590

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s degree

Alternate job titles: Crime scene technician, crime scene investigator, forensic science lab technicians

Important qualities: Able to work flexible hours, attention to detail, can spend hours working in a lab, written and verbal communication skills

Description: Forensic science technicians work alongside law enforcement to collect and analyze evidence. Many field science technicians work in the field, while others focus on lab analysis. Forensic science technicians use chemistry, biology, toxicology, and other areas of natural science. They keep detailed records of their findings and prepare reports for colleagues. 

7. Chemist

Median salary (2020): $79,300

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s degree

Alternate job titles: Inorganic chemist, organic chemist, analytical chemist, theoretical chemist

Important qualities: Works well independently and as part of a team, collaborate with fellow scientists, abides by safety rules and regulations, verbal and written communication abilities

Description: Chemists study substances at atomic and molecular levels. They may focus on a subset of chemistry such as organic, inorganic, analytical, or theoretical chemistry. Chemists investigate substances’ properties and help develop new products such as detergents, plastics, and medicines.

8. High school chemistry teacher

Median salary (2020): $62,870

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s degree

Alternate job titles: Chemistry instructor, high school science teacher, natural science teacher

Important qualities: Patience, communication skills, technologically savvy, able to mentor students, observant, can manage a classroom

Description: High school chemistry teachers plan lessons, instruct students, oversee class experiments, and administer assessments. They coordinate with colleagues, interact with administrators, and communicate with parents about student performance and abilities. Many high school chemistry teachers have duties outside the classroom, including overseeing lunch, hallways, and extracurricular activities.

9. Chemical technician

Median salary (2020): $49,820

Minimum degree required: Associate degree

Alternate job titles: Lab technician, organic chemical technicians, chemical research assistant

Important qualities: Can follow complex experiment protocols, attention to detail, able to stand for hours in a lab, verbal and written communication skills

Description: Chemical technicians work alongside chemists and chemical engineers to conduct research. They set up and maintain lab equipment, monitor experiments, and keep records during experiments. Some chemical technicians may do their own research, compiling and interpreting data for fellow chemistry professionals.

In conclusion

Chemistry degree jobs exist for individuals who have an education and experience at all levels. However, not all chemistry careers involve spending all day in a lab.

Education, manufacturing, and law enforcement settings also provide opportunities for individuals holding a chemistry degree. 

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