Here's a look at what a chemist is, what a chemist does, and what type of salary and career opportunities you can expect as a chemist.
What Is a Chemist?A chemist is a scientist who studies the composition and properties of chemicals and the way chemicals interact with each other. Chemists search for new information about matter and ways this information can be applied. Chemists also design and develop instruments to study matter.
What Do Chemists Do?
There are a lot of different employment opportunities open to chemists. Some chemists work in a lab, in a research environment, asking questions and testing hypotheses with experiments. Other chemists may work on a computer developing theories or models or predicting reactions. Some chemists do field work. Others contribute advice on chemistry for projects. Some chemists write. Some chemists teach. The career options are extensive.
Job Outlook for ChemistsIn 2006 there were 84,000 chemists in the United States. Through 2016 the employment rate for chemists is expected to grow at the same rate as the average for all occupations. The fastest growth is expected in biotechnology and the pharmaceuticals industry, with good opportunities in food science, materials science, and analytical chemistry.
Chemist SalariesThese are the median annual earnings for industries employing chemists in the US in 2006:
- federal executive branch: $88,930
- scientific research & development: $68,760
- chemical manufacture: $62,340
- pharmaceutical manufacture: $57,210
- testing laboratories: $45,730
Chemist Working ConditionsMost chemists work regular hours in well-equipped labs, offices, or classrooms. Some chemists engage in field work, which takes them outdoors. Although some of the chemicals and processes chemists deal with may be inherently hazardous, the actual risk to a chemist is very low, both because of safety precautions and training.
Types of ChemistsChemists ususally pick areas of specialization.
- Organic Chemists - work with carbon and carbon-compounds, many of which come from plants or animals. Organic chemists develop drug, petrochemicals, fertilizers, and plastics.
- Inorganic Chemists - deal primarily with non-carbon chemistry involving metals, minerals, and electronics.
- Analytical Chemists - examine substances. Analytical chemists identify materials, measure quantities, and evaluate properties of elements and compounds.
- Physical Chemists - work primarily in the field of energy research. Physical chemists look at chemical and physical changes and examine the relationships between matter and energy.