hold about 84,300 jobs in the United States. In addition, many chemists
hold faculty positions in colleges and universities but are not included
in these numbers.
About 42 percent of all
chemists are employed in manufacturing firms -- mostly in the
chemical manufacturing industry.
Firms in this industry produce plastics and synthetic materials, drugs,
soaps and cleaners, pesticides and fertilizers, paint, industrial
organic chemicals, and other chemical products.
About 18 percent of
chemists and material scientists work in
scientific research and
development services; ; 9 percent worked in testing labs.
Others work in architectural, engineering,
and related services. And, thousands of people with a background in
chemistry hold teaching positions in high schools and in colleges and
universities. Chemists are employed in all parts of the country, but
they are mainly concentrated in large industrial areas, unless they are
employed in education.
industry employs about two -thirds of all chemists. Private industry
offers excellent salaries and benefits and many different career paths
for chemists. Most industrial chemists work in research and development
(R&D), R&D management, sales, or marketing. Entry-level bachelor's
degree chemists may work in research or plant labs analyzing and testing
products. They may also work with senior researchers in R&D
laboratories. As they gain experience, they work more independently and
can advance to supervisory positions or change career tracks to work in
chemical sales or other business functions. Continuing education greatly
aids changing career tracks. Taking a minor in business or marketing can
aid bachelor degree chemists in beginning their careers with a sales or
Federal, state, and local government units employ many chemists. About 10%
of all chemists are employed by the government. Government salaries
often are lower than in private industry, particularly starting
salaries. However, the gap has narrowed in recent years. Despite
government cutbacks, jobs remain more secure in government than in
Chemists are the largest group of scientists working for the federal
government. Many work for large research laboratories such as the
National Institutes of Health and the Naval Research Laboratory. Others
work for Federal government departments such as Energy, Defense,
Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Justice.
There they may do basic or applied research. Much of this work is aimed
at developing the scientific basis for government regulations. Chemists
also perform testing work needed to enforce government regulations and
monitor their effectiveness. Chemists are also responsible for
administering government funding to universities and research
institutes. Other chemists work as program administrators within
government. Chemists also work writing and editing government
regulations and other documents.
Academia includes primary and secondary schools, community colleges, four
-year colleges, and universities. Teaching in academia often involves
teaching other sciences besides chemistry. Teaching in primary and
junior high school often involves teaching young people the scientific
method and the role of science in health and the environment.
Thinking back on your own pre-college education, you'll realize that, in
addition to teaching a subject such as science, teachers also counsel
and discipline students. They prepare examinations, meet with and advise
parents, and work with other teachers and administrators to keep the
school running smoothly. It is to fulfill these responsibilities that
states require teacher certification.
Due to a shortage of science teachers, many school districts are hiring
B.S. or B.A. chemists to teach provided they take the necessary courses
required to obtain a teaching certificate. These courses usually can be
taken in the evening, weekends, or the summers. Each department of
education in each state specifies the courses needed for certification.
These are uniform for all the school districts in a given state.
However, the courses required vary from state to state. Contact your
local school district to find out what courses you would need to
complete to be certified as a teacher in your state. Remember,
requirements vary from state to state. So if you plan to move after
graduation, determine the certification requirements in your new state.
Secondary School Teaching
Chemistry teachers in
secondary (high) schools often teach other science courses such as
general science, physics, math, and biology. These teachers often enjoy
the satisfaction of having students choose careers in science and
engineering as a result of their experiences in secondary school science
courses. To teach in public school, one must take the necessary
education courses to obtain a teaching certificate in addition to
courses in your major discipline. Many private/parochial schools do not
require a teaching certificate; however, they frequently pay less than
public schools. After you begin your teaching career, you will find that
additional courses, often culminating in a master's degree, will improve
your promotion prospects, job security, marketability. This is
particularly true for secondary school teachers. Depending on your
career goals, the courses you take may be primarily chemistry courses or
education courses. You may also find it advantageous to broaden your
skills beyond that of science taking the courses necessary to become
certified in other field.
College and University
Chemistry faculty members teach chemistry courses,
prepare and grade exams, counsel students (often providing career
advice), and participate in chemistry department and college governance.
At four-year institutions and universities with graduate schools
(research universities), research plays a major role. In addition to the
responsibilities listed previously, chemistry faculty members must
design and execute a creative research program. To do this, they must
obtain research funding by writing grant proposals, persuade students to
work with them as bench researchers, and supervise and guide these
students in their research while allowing them sufficient independence
to develop as creative chemists in their own right. Writing successful
grant proposals is critical to career success for faculty members at
research universities and some four-year institutions. Successful
graduate school and post-doctoral research is helpful. So is one's
previous success in independent research. This success is usually
measured by both the number and quality of one's publications in
chemistry journals. However, the ability to organize your thoughts and
write clearly and well is also critical in preparing successful grant
proposals. The ability to present oral research papers at conferences
and seminars at other universities is also important in developing a
good professional reputation that may influence grant proposal reviewers
in your favor.
Community College Teaching
At two-year colleges,
the primary emphasis is on teaching, not research. Faculty members may
hold either Ph.D. or MS degrees. The fraction of faculty members holding
Ph.D. degrees is increasing as the academic job market becomes ever more
competitive. Tenure is offered at most, but not all, two -year colleges.
Normally it is awarded after two to five years of probationary
employment. While any research the faculty member accomplishes will be a
positive factor in tenure evaluations, the primary emphasis is on
teaching. Usually the facilities for doing research are very limited in
four- year colleges. However, summer National Science Foundation
programs and other opportunities exist give community college faculty
members access to first-rate research facilities. Many two-year colleges
offer part-time positions teaching courses during the day as well as the
evening. Although the pay is often low and part-time employees do not
receive fringe benefit, these adjunct positions are very useful in
gaining the experience needed for obtaining full-time, tenure track
positions in 2-year and 4-year colleges and provide opportunities for
chemists to combine teaching with another job, education, or personal
commitments such as raising a family.
Success in research, measured
by research funding obtained for creative projects and publication of
interesting results in chemistry journals, is necessary for career
success at research universities. This is the major factor in deciding
whether to award an assistant professor tenure. Without tenure,
chemistry department faculty members are employed under a series of one-
to six-year contracts. At one or more times during an assistant
professor's first six years at a research university, he or she will be
considered for tenure. If the assistant professor does not obtain
tenure, a seventh year allows him or her time to obtain another
position. Some people in this position, particularly those who are
outstanding teachers, obtain positions in four-year institutions or
community colleges where research is not emphasized. Others enter
industry or obtain non-faculty research staff positions. Research
opportunities for chemistry faculty members at community colleges and
some four year institutions are more limited. Many who prefer teaching
to supervising research find teaching at community colleges more
rewarding. These faculty members often teach more courses than their
counterparts at research universities.
is the springboard for many careers in areas other than the more
traditional research laboratory or academic positions. A growing number
of chemical scientists at all degree levels are pursuing careers at
chemistry interfaces. Professionals use their training in chemistry to
launch careers in, for example, law, business management, journalism,
and computer science. They make broad use of scientific knowledge in
these career areas.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the
American Chemical Society.