What Kinds of Jobs Are in Chemistry?

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Scientists drawing chemical diagrams on glass.
Scientists drawing chemical diagrams on glass. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The industries employing the largest number of chemists as of May 2010 were scientific research and development services, followed closely by the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry. However, careers that require knowledge of chemistry go beyond the traditional work of a chemist. Some people who have college degrees in chemistry sell and market chemical products or work as technical writers. The average salary of chemists as of was $73,240, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2010 wage report.

Career Options

Chemistry has a role in nearly every other science, so people who have a degree in chemistry can choose to work in a wide variety of careers. Chemists create new drugs, fibers, electronic components and numerous other products through their research. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that many jobs in chemistry require that applicants have at least a bachelor's degree. Chemists interested in leading chemical research projects usually need a master's degree or a doctorate.

Consumer Products

Food chemists work to develop nutritious, better-tasting foods. They also try to extend the shelf life of food products, and they analyze the safety of various foods. Dietary scientists aren't classified as chemists, but Alabama University notes that these scientists may have backgrounds in chemistry to determine how people's diets affect their health. The cosmetic industry also employs chemists to create new skin treatments, hair dyes and fragrances.

Health-Care Industry

Lab technicians who have chemistry degrees may work at hospitals and medical offices, analyzing samples that physicians use to diagnose patients' diseases. Technicians also may prepare drug treatments under the direction of a physician. Pharmaceutical companies sometimes patent new drugs they develop to treat various diseases. The federal government needs people who understand chemistry to determine if a company's drug patent application is novel enough to receive a patent. The chemistry department at the University of Alabama also notes that some people seek chemistry and law degrees to become patent attorneys who help scientists apply for patents and pursue companies who infringe on those patents.

Writing and Research

Some chemists include English and journalism courses in their studies to become technical writers. They write for scientific journals and trade magazines that focus on industrial concerns related to chemistry. Science libraries hire chemists and others who have scientific backgrounds and training in library science to work as research librarians at college, government and corporate libraries. Some people who have chemistry degrees maintain computer databases of scientific literature and make them available for public use.

Chemical Manufacturing

Chemical manufacturers hire salespeople who have backgrounds in chemistry to sell their products. Their salespeople need to understand chemistry to help customers select the correct chemical products for their needs, according to Alabama University. Chemistry graduates also may seek business degrees to work in marketing at chemical firms. Marketing professionals at chemical companies create advertising strategies and predict future trends and sales in the chemical industry that may impact the firm.

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