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How Much Money Does a Chemist Earn Each Year?

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In ancient times, alchemists were philosophers who tried to turn lead into gold and concoct potions to give themselves long lives. Their efforts were fruitless, but early scientists drew on the knowledge of compounds accumulated by alchemists to create the powerful discipline of chemistry. Today, chemists are skilled professionals who play an integral role in modern research, technology development and manufacturing.

The Work of Chemists

The stuff of chemistry is matter – the composition, interactions and properties of materials and compounds. Research chemists design and perform experiments, tests and analysis to discover how chemicals behave. Applied chemists investigate different compounds to find ways to develop them into useful products and processes. Chemists supervise technicians and monitor manufacturing operations to ensure quality and safety. As scientists, chemists also prepare presentations and write papers to communicate their findings to colleagues.

Salaries and Employers

The median salary for chemists in 2020 was $77,300, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pay ranged from less than $44,970 for the bottom 10 percent to over $139,650 for the top-paid 10 percent.

The largest employers of chemists were research and development firms, where the average salary was $84,300. Manufacturers of drugs and other pharmaceutical products were the second largest employers and paid an average of $75,980. Other major employers of chemists were federal government agencies, academic institutions and engineering services firms.

Top-Paying Industries

In 2020, chemists working for the federal govenrment earned the highest average salaries at $116,990 per year. Computer and electronic product manufacturing came in second, followed by clay product producers at $94,000 and aerospace manufacturing firms with an average salary of $93,450. Firms manufacturing synthetic materials like artificial rubber, resins and fabrics also paid chemists a high average salary of $91,940.

Career Prospects

Job opportunities for chemists are growing, but at a slower rate than most occupations. The BLS projects 6 percent growth from 2020 to 2030. Employers are outsourcing chemical work abroad or to research firms and universities. On the other hand, the BLS says work related to environmental concerns offers good opportunities. Companies are investing heavily in technologies to reduce pollution, improve energy storage systems and improve energy efficiency.

Chemists and Materials Scientists salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $142,010 ($68.27/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $80,680 ($38.79/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $45,370 ($21.81/hour)

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.

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