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Readers Respond: Working as a Chemist

Responses: 140


Are you a chemist? What would you tell someone interested in becoming a chemist about your job? Please share information about your career so that someone thinking about becoming a chemist can make an informed decision.
  1. What type of chemist are you?
  2. What do you do as a chemist?
  3. What is the best/worst part of your job?
  4. What training did you need? Was it easy/difficult to find a job as a chemist?
  5. Are you happy being a chemist? Why?
  6. What advice would you give someone interested in chemist?

thinking about change major

I am coming from top5 Chinese univ. and I did internship at senior year. I am a synthesis intern. From what I learned, there are a lot of jobs in the market, many new pharm companies. But the problem is the payment is very low (3k RMB in Nanjing. too low to survive in the city, but the company is in the poor area of the city, living standards are low) and the working condition is really bad, and working hours are long. One group member left the company because of health reasons, the doc warned him. I applied to US school then. It is nice to study aboard with stipend, but it is not enough to live in the city. It seems like chem job in US is impossible, and I certainly dont wanna go back china to work in chem job. So I am thinking about changing majors to Biostatics, CS or bussiness. really struggling now.
—Guest chineseStudent

2014 and the job market is still bad.

So many of the chemistry jobs are low paid contract positions with no job security. Most chemistry majors are not working in a lab or even in science. They are managers, sales people, regulatory, etc. In many companies at some point you are deemed "Too old" to be working in a lab and no one will hire you, and the branding of "Too old" is now about 35 years old. Sometimes even younger. Or you have low paid new grads as lab techs to do all the actual lab work while you sit in meetings all day and work 60 hour weeks. And businesses are all about profit and market share, not actual R&D or science. It's sad sad sad....
—Guest Unemployed/Underemployed

Found a Job

I have graduated from a university with a Bsc in Chemistry in 2013. After four months, I was able to find a job although not a good pay but I still want to continue with chemistry related job because am working as a Petroleum Officer. I am looking forward to develop my career in chemistry as I aspire to be a Chemical Engineer.
—Guest Sulayman Camara

Life ruined

I studied hard for 8 years straight only to find that there are absolutely no jobs anywhere. Ive been applying for jobs as a chemist for the last 3 years and haven't found anything, im still in debt from school loans and wonder why I ever went into this field. I now work 2 jobs, one at burger king and another shoveling dog sh** at a kennel. I cry myself to sleep most nights.
—Guest My life is over

Poor choice of career

My suggestion to anyone want to get into this field is that - STAY AWAY from chemistry. I graduated with a MS in chemistry back in 2007 and worked in several chem and pharma companies. I can tell you that 90% of people I worked with, including me regretted going into this field and I have yet met a person likes working with chemicals. Chemistry is over-saturated and underpaid. As an analytical chemistry you will get around 30k to 45k. if you have a PhD and don't mind risk you life to work with explosive chemical reactions then you can get 45K to 70K. The reality is that there are just too many candidates available in the job market and many of them are PhD. There are no job security in this field. Many big company already moved their RD and manufacturing facility to Asia and they rarely offer perm position to technical positions. I've seen too many people ordered to leave the company without a minute notice because they are on contract.
—Guest Peter L

Tough but worked out so far

I recently received my Ph.D. in organic chemistry (top 35 school). I had to work very hard for a long time including a 1 year industrial post doc. Now I work at the same company as a process chemist synthesizing active pharmaceutical ingredients. The pay is >80,000.00 and I love my job. It was very hard to find a job after my Ph.D. and I sent resumes all over the country. I love my job now and have even received calls from recruiters for other job opportunities. I think the job market is competitive and the supply is greater than the demand at the BS/MS level. I had a low paying temp job with my BS in chemistry before I decided to go to grad school. I think if your going to work as a chemist get your Ph.D. The work is more interesting and the pay is better. Also there are so many BS/MS chemists one of the best ways to beat the competition is to get your PhD. BS/MS chemists use to have more opportunity for advancement but now the job market seems saturated with them.
—Guest Organic chemist


It's all amazing. Got to think about my next crucial step.
—Guest Ehimen

lab chemist

water and chemical testing lab jobs i am over all 5.5 years experience in this field
—Guest kalaiselvi.c

lab chemist

im palanivel working as a lab chemist for testing of water samples from all over india, around 4 years of exp and graduate in chemistry
—Guest palanivel

Graduate in 2004

I love chemistry...Its really fun and challenging...but only in terms of theories...working in lab sucks!!!long hours sometimes until midnight depends on experiment...underpaid...but thats not the main concern...i realize my health deteriorate significantly...labwork make me dizzy...
—Guest K


Hi everyone Hope you are well.My name is Ellie ,I came from overseas to Usa around 1 year age and my background is in chemistry and I'm looking for a job and I'm interested to get a job in branch of cleaning product or home care , shampoo, liquid dish soap and somting like that but I'm not sure ,is it nessesary to have a California License or my pure chemistry license from over seas it will be enough for get these jobs, I appriciate it ,if you can help me Thank you so much . ...
—Guest ellie

No jobs

As a synthetic organic chemist with a PhD, 4 patents and a bunch of papers, 15 years of research, I am now a self-employed cleaner in Melbourne, Australia. If I had completed pharmacy, instead of doing my PhD, and waisting my time in medicinal chemistry I would be having a job now with at least some chemistry.
—Guest Ada

Just got laid off, again!

I got a job working in a chemistry lab, entry level Research Associate, early this year. Just got a pink slip and was told my last day is May 28th. I graduated in 2008 and I have gone through a series of odd jobs, low paying gigs, just to get by. Chemistry is the worst Degree you can get, so much time and effort spent in class for nothing. If I knew I was gonna be jobless pursuing science, I would have taken a lighter route and studied Business instead. All these undergraduate students running around blogging about the "marvelous potential" of chemistry career, parroting corporate propaganda is very annoying. I hope younger chemists can learn from older chemists' mistakes and take a different approach to choosing careers.
—Guest Jobless Chemist

If you haven't finished, you don't know.

Anyone who is still an undergrad is not qualified to speak on the state of the industry. You don't know what it's like, so stop acting like you do. We all liked chemistry in our undergrad years, but the reality of chemistry very different. You all think it's "fun" and "challenging" when your experiments aren't working because you're "learning". If someone is paying for your research and you're under pressure to perform, it's not "fun" to fail. You spend most of your time writing grants, reading papers and getting walked over. When you're not doing that, you're dealing with idealistic students telling you "Chemistry is for smart intelligent people- there are no limits to what you can do! Education, skill, and ambition- Use it.". You don't know, so shut up. I can't wait until you get into the real world and are back head posting the same stuff as everyone else.
—Guest Be quiet students

Medicinal chemist (Torrey Pines)

A San Diego biotech start up is looking for a hands-on medicinal chemist to synthesize small molecule heterocyclic drug candidates. The successful candidate will have had several years or more of experience in the lab, preferably in industry, and be able to search literature to create synthetic plans and extract relevant schemes and procedures. In addition, the successful candidate will need to know how to run samples and interpret NMR and LC-MS data. The company does not currently have funding, although we have applied for several grants and expect responses in the near future. Until the company is financed, salary will be paid in the form of company stock. This is an excellent opportunity to get into a very promising start-up at the ground level. If interested, please send me a copy of your resume, and any questions you have about the company. http://sandiego.craigslist.org/nsd/sci/3004434045.html
—Guest WorkIsWork

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