How Does One Become a Chemist?


Mark writes:
What qualifications do I need to become a chemist? Is it financial viable?
Pros and cons of this career? Where in the world can I follow my career?



The Career Doctor responds:
First and foremost as with ANY career decision what you need to decide above all
else is whether you have the interest and skills and abilities to be a chemist. Do
you enjoy the analytical and laboratory aspects of chemistry? Would you want to
work in industry government or education? How many chemistry courses have
you taken? Have you talked with any chemists about career paths?
According to the American Chemical Society (ACS) most chemists are employed in one of four areas:
industry (60%) academia (24%) government (9%) or non-traditional (7%).
While a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in some area of chemistry (organic
polymer macromolecular medicinal etc.) is required for the most basic lab jobs
many of the better career tracks require an advanced degree including a doctoral
degree in chemistry. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics
projects most of the growth in this field to come from pharmaceutical companies
and in research and testing firms.
Is the career financially viable? Even though I cringe at that question the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of July 2009 the latest date for which figures are available beginning salary offers chemists with a bachelor’s
degree averaged $39897.

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Mark writes:
What qualifications do I need to become a chemist? Is it financial viable?
Pros and cons of this career? Where in the world can I follow my career?



The Career Doctor responds:
First and foremost as with ANY career decision what you need to decide above all
else is whether you have the interest and skills and abilities to be a chemist. Do
you enjoy the analytical and laboratory aspects of chemistry? Would you want to
work in industry government or education? How many chemistry courses have
you taken? Have you talked with any chemists about career paths?
According to the American Chemical Society (ACS) most chemists are employed in one of four areas:
industry (60%) academia (24%) government (9%) or non-traditional (7%).
While a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in some area of chemistry (organic
polymer macromolecular medicinal etc.) is required for the most basic lab jobs
many of the better career tracks require an advanced degree including a doctoral
degree in chemistry. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics
projects most of the growth in this field to come from pharmaceutical companies
and in research and testing firms.
Is the career financially viable? Even though I cringe at that question the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of July 2009 the latest date for which figures are available beginning salary offers chemists with a bachelor’s
degree averaged $39897.


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