"I just finished high-school chemistry, and I already know I love it, and I am pretty sure that it is what I want to major in when I get to college. I don’t know much about the career options for chemists, though. I have never even met a professional chemist. I don’t think it’s a common choice, so I was wondering if you could tell me some of the different types of chemistry jobs which are out there for someone who has a degree in chemistry. I know I’m going to get a bachelor’s degree, and I am hoping to go on and earn my master’s degree if I like it as much as I believe I do."
Asked by Harriet from Boston, MA on August 19, 2013
It is great you are thinking about earning a higher degree in chemistry, because you may very well need it to land a great job. While you would think there would be a huge demand for scientists with cutting-edge knowledge, there are actually are fairly finite number of new openings expected for chemists in the coming years. The field is growing, but very slowly, at a rate of just four percent. So that higher degree could make you more competitive, and may qualify you for exciting research opportunities which you would not otherwise have access to. Here are the different types of chemistry jobs out there:
These chemists identify substances an determine their constituent compounds and elements. They may work in a variety of industries, including food safety, pollution control, and pharmaceuticals.
These workers study the structure and interaction of molecules which do not contain the element carbon. Their work is useful in many different products, including superconductors and ceramics.
Chemists who specialize in organic chemistry study the structure and reaction of molecules which do contain carbon. They may work in the field of medicine, or in manufacturing.
These chemists specifically work on the development of chemicals for use in pharmaceutical manufacturing. They create and test new medical drugs.
These chemists are involved with studying matter at the molecular, atomic, and subatomic level to understand reactions and formulate new theories on matter. They may work with materials scientists.
I think you may also want to check into some related fields which overlap with other scientific disciplines. Biochemistry for example is a growing field. While there will only be a few thousand more openings for biochemists than other types of chemists in the coming years, the growth rate of 31% points toward more opportunity in the years to come. You do need a doctoral degree to become a biochemist, but the pay is excellent, and the job puts you on the very frontiers of new science.
Because of the slow growth rate of the field of chemistry and general as well as the importance of having a higher degree in the field, it is key that you love chemistry if you decide to major in it and make a career out of it. And it sounds like you do, so talk to a career counselor to try and figure out which type of chemistry you may want to do professionally someday and start planning your career path accordingly.