Chemists work in a variety of industries, manipulating chemicals and conducting research. As of 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that about 82,000 chemists were employed in the United States. While a bachelor's degree in chemistry is often enough education to obtain a chemist position, higher degrees can lead to a bigger income and greater responsibility.
Starting Salaries by Degree
According to the American Chemical Society, chemists who held a bachelor's reported a median salary of $40,000 in 2011. Those who graduated with a master's earned a median starting salary of $46,700 per year. Chemists who held a Ph.D. reported a much higher median starting salary, $85,000, nearly double the starting salary of those with less education.
Starting Pay by Size of Employer
In general, chemists employed by larger companies tended to earn higher starting pay in 2011. For example, the ACS reports that companies and organizations with fewer than 50 employees paid a median starting salary of $32,500. Companies with between 50 and 99 employees paid a median starting salary of $35,000, while firms with between 100 and 499 employees started chemists out at a median salary of $37,000 per year. The highest median starting salary, $55,000 per year, was reported at firms with between 10,000 and 24,999 employees.
Starting Pay by Job Type
As of 2011, the ACS found that professional services paid the highest starting salary to recent chemistry grads, a median of $58,500 per year. Starting salaries at development firms were nearly as high, at $56,000 per year. Research firms paid a median starting salary of $45,000, while production and quality control chemists started at a median of $41,000. Chemists working in other capacities reported a median starting pay of $40,000.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for chemists is mixed. Job growth among chemists is expected to occur at a rate of 4 percent between 2010 and 2020, much slower than the average rate of 14 percent expected for the American economy. Those with master's degrees and doctoral degrees are expected to have better employment opportunities. According to the ACS, starting chemists have been finding more part-time positions and fewer full-time positions in recent years. As of 2011, most chemists have found jobs either in academia or in the chemical industry.