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Chemists work in research and in industry as chemical engineers, occupational safety/health managers, agricultural scientists, chemical technicians, and in fields such as quality control, research and development, environmental testing crime laboratories, food chemistry, manufacturing industries, pharmaceuticals. Chemists also may teach and work in health-related fields including medicine, dentistry, allied health, health science, and medical technology. The majority of industry-related jobs in chemistry are filled by B.S. Chemistry applicants. Education-related jobs in chemistry may be filled by either B.A. or B.S. Chemists. 

Educational Qualifications

Entry-level jobs in industry require the bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Advanced study or training beyond the bachelor’s degree is required for the jobs listed above involving research and management training. Chemists and materials scientists with advanced degrees, particularly those with a Ph.D. and work experience, are expected to experience better opportunities. Large pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms provide openings for these workers at research laboratories, and many others work in colleges and universities. Furthermore, chemists with advanced degrees will continue to fill most senior research and upper-management positions. Students interested in secondary teaching must complete applicable licensure for the secondary teaching credential. For more information, contact the School of Education.

Job Outlook

Employment of chemists is projected to grow 6 percent, as they will continue to be needed in scientific research and development and to monitor the quality of products and processes.

Entering Salary

 The median annual wage for chemists was $71,770 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,080, and the top 10 percent earned more than $120,600.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for chemists in the top five industries employing these scientists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service$100,920
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences$79,140
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing$70,480
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals$57,190
Testing laboratories$55,060

 The median annual wage for high school teachers was $55,050 in May 2012 with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $36,930 and the top 10 percent earning more than $85,690. 

 The median annual wage for biochemists was $81,480 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,430, and the top 10 percent earned more than $147,350.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for chemists in the top five industries employing these scientists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service$100,920
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences$79,140
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing$70,480
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals$57,190
Testing laboratories$55,060

 The median annual wage for high school teachers was $55,050 in May 2012 with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $36,930 and the top 10 percent earning more than $85,690. 

Career information adapted from:

  • U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2013). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh