A chemistry degree offers a number of opportunities in related fields -- such as teaching chemistry -- and in fields that might not seem to be closely related, such as technical writing. In other cases, it can be a springboard to a career in medicine, law or engineering. Whether the degree is an associate, bachelor’s, master’s degree or doctorate may affect your choices.
The Technical Aspects
Chemical technicians work with or under the supervision of chemists and chemical engineers according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They might help research, develop and produce chemical products and processes. In manufacturing plants, technicians often monitor production processes. Although they receive on-the-job training, an associate degree or two years of postsecondary training is usually the minimum educational requirement. The demand for this occupation is not high, with only seven percent growth expected through 2020. Average salary for the occupation was $46,130 in 2012.
The Science of Chemistry
With a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, you could become a chemist or materials scientist. Some research jobs require a Ph.D. or doctorate, however, according to the BLS, especially in the pharmaceutical field. Chemistry is basically a research-oriented profession, which studies various substances, their properties, structure, compositions and reactions. Demand is expected to be slower than the average for all occupations, with a 4 percent growth rate through 2020. Those with a Ph.D. or doctorate will have more opportunities. Average annual salaries for chemists and material scientists in 2012 were $78,687 and $89,740.
If You Love Teaching
Postsecondary teachers in chemistry need a master’s degree, Ph.D. or doctorate, according to the BLS. Community colleges might hire you with a master’s degree, but advanced education is necessary to teach at the university level. In addition to teaching, curriculum development and mentoring students, you might be expected to perform research at the university level. Research may be optional or have less time devoted to it in a community college. The projected growth rate for postsecondary teachers is 17 percent through 2020, about as fast as average. Postsecondary chemistry teachers earned $81,460 in 2012.
A Dual Field
Biochemistry is one chemistry occupation in which growth rate is projected to be higher than average, at 31 percent through 2020, according to the BLS. Biochemists work in laboratories, conducting research on the chemical and physical properties of living things -- hence biochemistry, for biology and chemistry. Although a bachelor’s degree might help you get an entry-level position, you’ll need a Ph.D. to perform independent research or work in development. The average annual salary in the occupation was $89,470 in 2012.