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Top 10 Chemistry Jobs

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Everywhere in our modern world, we are surrounded by complex chemicals, from our fire-retardant carpets to the components that make up our smartphones and cars. Chemists are the people who study, test and analyze the compounds used today, usually at the molecular and atomic levels, and create new compounds to be used in improved products tomorrow.

What Chemists Do

The daily duties and routines of chemists often depend on the field they are in and the type of chemist they are. Generally, as a chemist, you could expect to work in a team environment, developing and testing new products, conducting research or developing new testing methods. You may also need to analyze substances to determine what they are made of, or to write technical reports.

Analytical chemists examine and identify compounds to determine their structure and composition. The work they do leads to innovation in food safety, pharmaceuticals and in controlling pollution.

Forensic chemists work with criminal investigators by testing evidence, including DNA analysis.

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Inorganic chemists work with metals and other chemicals that don't include carbon. They are responsible for developing new ceramics, superconductors and other compounds.

Medicinal chemists work in the pharmaceutical industry developing and testing new drugs.

Organic chemists work with chemicals containing carbon, including plastics, commercial products and drugs.

Physical chemists analyze and study chemical reactions and theorize how complex structures are created.

Theoretical chemists study, investigate and predict the outcomes of chemical experiments, usually using sophisticated computer software.

Top 10 Best-Paying Chemistry Careers

In 2017, there were 84,400 chemists employed across the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That year, they earned a mean annual income of $81,870, meaning half earned more than this amount and half earned less. Chemists can work in a variety of specialized industries and the pay can vary quite a lot between them. Pay can also vary, depending on whether you have a Bachelor of Science degree, a Master's degree or a PhD.

In 2017, the best-paying jobs for chemists were in the following industries and sectors:

  1. Petroleum and petroleum product wholesalers: $126,710.
  2. Waste collection industry:  $111,200.
  3. Government: $108,010.
  4. Oil and gas production: $103,830.
  5. Computer design: $101,930.
  6. Scientific research and development: $90,130.
  7. Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: $76,610.
  8. Basic chemical manufacturing: $74,600.
  9. Paint, coating and adhesive manufacturing: $74,730.
  10. Soap, cleansers and toilet preparation. manufacturing: $72,710.

Many of these jobs are located in the same regions of the country. Washington D.C. and Maryland for example, representing the seat of the federal government, have one of the highest concentrations of chemists, employing about 4,000 chemists with a median salary over $100,000. Other states that have high numbers of chemists include California, New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Other Chemistry Degree Jobs

Not everyone who gets a Bachelor's degree in chemistry necessarily wants a career working hands-on with chemicals. Almost any job that requires a scientific background can be a good fit for a chemistry degree. Medical doctors and medical scientists often get a degree first in chemistry before earning other degrees. Technical sales specialists, including pharmaceutical sales reps, often have degrees in chemistry.

Other jobs that use chemistry, or those that are a good fit for someone with a chemistry degree include:

  • Food Scientist.
  • Brewmaster.
  • Geophycisist.
  • Quality Controller.
  • Geological and Geophysical Technologist.
  • Pulping and Bleaching Manager.
  • Biochemistry Technologist.
  • Environmental Policy Maker.
  • Pharmacologist.
  • Health Care Administrator.
  • Hydrometric Technologist.
  • Art Conservator.
  • Pharmacist.
  • Technical Writer or Editor.
  • Medical Lab Technician.
  • Toxicologist.
  • Astrochemist.
  • Chemical Analyst.
  • Magnetic Resonance Technologist.
  • Plant Manager.
  • Sustainability Specialist.
  • Medical Researcher.
  • Energy Asset Manager.
  • Nanotechnologist.
  • Chemical Physicist.
  • Patent Agent.
  • Industrial Hygienist.
  • Environmental Consultant.
  • Public Relations Specialist.
  • Pathologist.
  • Pollution Control Technologist.
  • Epidemiologist.
  • Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologist.
  • Industrial Designer.
  • Geochemist.
  • Forensic Laboratory Analyst.
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist.

About the Author

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has been a hiring manager and recruiter for several companies and advises small businesses on technology. He has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles on careers and small business trends for newspapers, magazines and online publications including About.com, Re/Max and American Express.

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