Most of the more than 70,000 chemical products manufactured by the chemical and allied industries are used by other industries to make jet fuels, food additives, paints, detergents, and perfumes. The range of products is so wide that no one method of categorizing them exists. A simple division can be made by classifying them as organic or inorganic chemicals.

There are five main subsectors of the chemicals industry: basic chemicals, specialty chemicals, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products. Each subsector has its own markets and hires different professionals in the field.

Basic Chemicals

This subsector uses both organic and inorganic chemicals as well as plastic resins, dyes, and pigments. The most significant growth in this subsector, according to SelectUSA, has been in plastic resins. As vehicle manufacturers have designed lighter weight vehicles to improve their gas consumption, many parts that were previously made of metals are now being replaced with plastic resin parts. The pulp, paper, and textile industries are huge consumers of chlorine and chlorine compounds used as bleaching agents. The plastics industry makes containers, sheeting, films, fibers, fabrics, piping, automobile parts, tires, hoses, and fabric for apparel from polymers like nylon, Dacron, and vinyl.

Common jobs in the basic chemicals subsector include chemists, chemical engineers, chemical technicians, and chemical equipment operators.

Specialty Chemicals

Specialty chemicals are created to achieve a certain goal, usually so that they can be used by an industry for a specific purpose or to perform a certain function. Examples include chemicals and compounds used as adhesives and sealants, for water treatment, as plastic additives, or as catalysts and coatings. In many instances, these products are sold with technical or service assistance.

Like the basic chemical industry, specialty chemical companies hire chemists, chemical engineers, chemical technicians, and chemical equipment operators. They also rely on knowledgeable sales people to identify a company's specialty chemical product need.

Agricultural Chemicals

Chemicals used in the agricultural sector are designed to increase crop yield by eliminating weeds and pests and enriching the soil. Most chemicals produced are either fertilizers or pesticides. According to SelectUSA, farmers have doubled the production of world food supplies since 1960.

Chemists and chemical engineers in the agricultural sector develop new chemicals, test existing chemicals, and work to increase the cost-effectiveness of food production. Agricultural biotechnology is a quickly growing subsector of the agricultural chemical industry. Chemists in this subsector are developing crops that can be drought resistant, pest-resistant or tolerant, or improve the plant's taste or content.

Pharmaceutical Chemicals

The pharmaceutical industry is involved in the production of chemicals for drugs. Drugs can be prescription or over the counter and used by consumers as well as veterinary drugs for animals. Vaccines and vitamins are also considered part of this industry.

Professional positions and manufacturing jobs make up more than half of the positions in this part of the industry. Chemists are used for identifying promising compounds that have therapeutic benefits.

Consumer Products

This segment includes the detergent industry, which produces soaps, detergents, special cleaning preparations, ammonia, bleaches, floor waxes, shoe polishes, cosmetics, deodorants, and perfumes. The paints and allied products industry makes paints, varnishes, lacquers, enamels, putties, paint removers, sealers, and stains. The paints and coatings sector usually remains fairly stable and is often used as an indicator of the overall economy.

The divisions of the chemical industry differ in the occupational makeup of their workforce. Industries that make finished products ready for sale to the final consumer, such as paint and cosmetics, hire more administrative, marketing, and managerial personnel.

A greater number of production workers are employed by industries that sell their products primarily to industrial consumers. The chemical industry is highly capital-intensive and has factories in practically every state. California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Puerto Rico have high concentrations of plants.