Chemists are usually specialists in a particular branch such as analytical chemistry where they determine composition, nature, and structure of substances by identifying different elements. They are very important in the pharmaceutical industry; organic chemistry where they focus on the carbon compounds that make up living things; inorganic chemists, on the other hand, study compounds other than carbon; physical and theoretical Chemists study the theoretical properties of matter and the physical characteristics of molecules and atoms. They also investigate chemical reactions and try to find new and better sources of energy. Macromolecular chemists study behavior of atoms and molecules; medicinal chemists study properties of compounds for use in human medicine; materials chemists create new materials that can be used to make new products and improve existing ones.
Most chemistry employment is involved in research and development. In basic research, chemists investigate all matter, its composition, properties and structure and also the laws governing the combination of elements and the reaction between these different elements. In applied research, chemists create new processes and products and improve currently existing ones using knowledge obtained from basic research. Combinatorial chemistry and other new and more efficient techniques have been made possible for practice by chemists through the use of computers and developments in technology. These techniques allow chemists to produce compounds much more quickly and efficiently.
Chemistry career require a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry or other closely related discipline at the entry level. Material scientists commonly have degrees in chemistry, electrical engineering or physics as well as a degree in material science. Research level chemistry jobs usually require at least a master’s degree or doctorate. You can acquire bachelors, masters or doctorate degrees in chemistry from many colleges and universities in the U.S. as well as more advanced degree programs. Students who plan to have careers in chemistry must take science and math courses and like performing lab experiments and computer modeling. In addition to the various required chemistry courses undergraduates also study some biology, math, physics and computer science. Recently, computer courses have become essential because employers prefer hiring applicants with skills in computer modeling and simulation tasks and able to correctly operate computerized lab equipment. Add to this statistics courses since chemists make use of statistical techniques in their work. Most employers that focus on a particular subfield do provide entry level chemists with additional training. Most chemists who have just entered the work force first work in testing and analysis, quality control, or assist senior chemists in research and development labs. Senior chemists working in production and quality control in chemical manufacturing prepare instructions given to plant workers specifying the ingredients, the mixing time and ideal temperatures for each stage in a process. To qualify as a head chemist in basic and applied research you must have a master’s degree or doctorate in chemistry. It is also helpful for chemists to have an understanding of business or economics and have good oral and written communications skills and leadership abilities. All around experience is very useful because employers, particularly the pharmaceutical industry, prefer more experienced chemists because they usually have more knowledge.
Employment outlook for chemistry jobs is not so bright and job growth is slower than the average for all occupations because there has been a decline in the chemical manufacturing industries that have mostly chosen to outsource their research and development operations. Job growth is projected to be around 3 percent for the period 2008 to 2018. Having a master’s degree or doctorate will give you some advantage for job opportunities especially in large pharmaceutical and biotech firms that have become the primary employers of chemists as the chemical manufacturing industry employs fewer chemists. Chemists will also be employed in developing and improving the present technologies and processes used in the production of chemicals used for various purposes and monitor pollutants of air and water to comply with environmental regulations. New opportunities have been presented to chemists in environmental research. Other areas to look for job opportunities are in science related jobs in management, marketing and sales. Chemistry degree holders can also become chemistry teachers in high schools or chemical technicians and technologists or qualify for assistant research positions. As of 2008 the median annual wage for chemists was $66,230 with government agencies giving higher salaries than private firms.
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