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Where can a chemistry degree take you?


Chemistry is a fundamental science that plays an important role in everyday life. Chemical reactions take place everywhere around, being the key to numerous discoveries in different fields of science and thus it can lead the way to a fascinating and remarkable career. But studying for a degree in chemistry mean focus, determination and dedication and takes years of preparation that often needs to begin from high school.

It is a common misconception that a career in chemistry will lead to a life locked in the laboratory, when in fact, only a third of chemistry graduates choose to pursue a career that involves working in a lab.

Finding a chemistry program

Preparation for a career in chemistry starts from high school and it involves focusing on science-related classes, such as biology, mathematics and chemistry and students often choose to get involved in extra-curricular activities or even turn to online courses and tutoring in preparation for admission in Bachelor’s degree. Courses for obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree take three years and include course topics like General physics, Inorganic and organic chemistry, Analytical chemistry and Physical chemistry. Students with an Engineering or Bachelor’s degree in other fields of science can choose to pursue a Master’s Degree in chemistry, which can be finished in two years, with students learning about Biochemistry, Environmental chemistry and Statistical methods. 

Various options lay ahead of students after completing a degree in chemistry, such Chemical Engineering, Masters of Science in Chemistry, Drug Chemistry, Organic Pharmaceutical Chemistry or a Doctorate, where students are required to complete classes in at least two major areas of the field, such as Kinetics, Thermodynamics, Chromatography and Advanced analytical chemistry.

After finishing their studies, chemistry graduates can pursue a career in various fields, such as medicine, research or engineering. 

Pharmaceutical

The pharmaceutical sector is the first that comes to the mind of the graduates. With the demand for new drugs growing constantly, pharmaceutical chemists focus on developing, evaluating, analyzing and overseeing new and existing medication. Besides good technical knowledge, this field also requires possessing skills such as communication, team-working, and management.

This field offers jobs such as analyst chemists, which focus on ensuring new drugs are appropriate for consumption, meeting the governmental standards and regulations or medicinal chemists, also known as pharmaceutical chemists, who have the job of developing new drugs for the market, to toxicologist, focusing on the effects and safety of drug therapy, often monitoring patients’ response to new drug treatments.

Clinical

Also known as biochemists or healthcare chemists, their job is to analyze DNA, blood stamps or other fluids, in order to support the investigation and help in diagnosing and treating various diseases.

Clinical chemists conduct research and development of new laboratory procedures, who help physicians in diagnosing and apply treatment to patients, and with the development of technology, they are often challenged to find a use for robots or artificial intelligence in this field, keeping research up to date and increasing automation. 

Chemists in this field develop their job mostly in laboratories, working with other clinicians, biologists and pathologists, their work is vital in interpreting the results and finding the root cause for various illnesses.

Research

Although it may sound like a life spent in the laboratory, this field seems to be the most pursued one by chemistry graduates, as it involves conducting research for new vaccines, medicines, environmental issues, developing new chemicals for materials used in production, such as cosmetics and plastics, or helping with the forensic analysis in criminal cases.

Typical tasks may include writing papers and reports, setting up equipment and using it to conduct research as part of a laboratory team, preparing applications for funding and supervising laboratory technicians.

Research chemists often choose to combine their work with teaching, as many universities invest in well-advanced laboratories.  

Engineering

This sector revolves around the developing and manufacturing process of various chemical products, making sure they meet environmental and economic needs. From oil and gas to energy, food, drinks, make-up products and even nanotechnology and biotechnology, chemical engineers play an essential part in the improvement of existent manufacturing techniques and the discovery of new ones.

Some examples of this job are, for instance, investigating new polymeric materials and their cost efficiency and impact on the environment or in biotechnology, engineers study microorganisms and bacteria, to help synthesize new and effective drugs.

For this job, chemical engineers need to have a great understanding of scientific and engineering principles.  

Public Sector

This covers a large government-funded variety of careers, in sectors such as public health, environment, law and defense.

Focusing on analyzing relevant data for environmental issues, from soil analysis, to meteorological information and water, this field is an on-growing opportunity to help with the world’s health and safety regulation.

Forensic research is also undergoing an accelerated growth, with chemists called to consult on criminal cases, from collecting and analyzing evidence, to ensuring the existing policies are up to date with today’s scientific developments. They may sometimes be called in court to discuss evidence and help with the development of the case.

Salary

With chemistry not being an easy career, as it includes ongoing learning, being up to date with new discoveries and adapting to ever-changing techniques, many graduates are interested in what earnings this sector provides.

Statistics have shown that average payments for top jobs in the field usually revolve around these numbers:

  • Chemists/Materials Scientists—$ 75,420
  • Chemical Engineers—$ 98,340
  • Agricultural/Food Scientists—$ 62,920
  • Chemical Technicians—$ 45,840
  • Medical Scientists—$ 80,530
  • Environmental Scientists—$ 68,910
  • Forensic Science Technicians—$ 65,750

No matter the field, chemistry plays an essential part in the understanding and development of the world around, being sometimes called the “central science”, as it is found in everything around us. From the color of the leaves to cooking, clothes and make-up. Everything has or is a chemical reaction and the environment could not be understood and protected without the ongoing research developed by top scientists and chemists.