Chemical Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

You should take several years of science and mathematics in high school, and computer training is also important. While a minority of employers still hire high school graduates and place them into their own training programs, the majority prefer to hire graduates of community colleges who have completed two-year chemical technician programs or even bachelor degree recipients. If you plan on attending a four-year college, take three years of high school mathematics, including algebra, geometry, and trigonometry; three years of physical sciences, including chemistry; and four years of English.

Postsecondary Training

Chemical technicians need an associate's degree in chemical technology or applied science, or they need at least two years of postsecondary training. Graduates of community college programs are productive much sooner than untrained individuals because they have the technical knowledge, laboratory experience, and skills for the job. Realizing that many students become aware of technical career possibilities too late to satisfy college requirements, many community and technical colleges that offer chemical technician programs may also have noncredit courses that allow students to meet college entrance requirements.

Approximately 150 colleges in the United States have chemical technology or chemistry programs offering associate's degrees. Once enrolled in a two-year college program designed for chemical technicians, students should expect to take a number of chemistry courses with strong emphasis on laboratory work and the presentation of data. These courses include basic concepts of modern chemistry, such as atomic structure, descriptive chemistry of both organic and inorganic substances, analytical methods including quantitative and instrumental analysis, and physical properties of substances. Other courses include communications, physics, mathematics, industrial safety, and organic laboratory equipment and procedures. Students should also take courses in computer science, statistics, and data analytics and modeling, because technicians frequently collect and assess data to develop products and find answers to challenging problems. Chemical technicians who work in research and development may need a bachelor’s degree.

Other Education or Training

Many national and state-level associations provide continuing education (CE) opportunities to chemical technicians. For example, the American Chemical Society offers CE courses on topics such as computers, statistics, special topics in chemistry, and technical writing. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers also provides CE courses and webinars that will be of interest to chemical technicians. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for chemical technicians.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

A solid background in mathematics and science, as well as participation in internships and co-ops, will be helpful for aspiring chemical technicians. 

Certain personal characteristics are necessary for successful chemical technicians. You must have both the ability and the desire to use mental and manual skills. You should also have a good supply of patience because experiments must frequently be repeated several times. You should be precise and like doing detailed work. Mechanical aptitude and good powers of observation are also needed. You should be able to follow directions closely and enjoy solving problems. Chemical technicians also need excellent organizational and communication skills. Other important qualities are a desire to learn new skills and a willingness to accept responsibility. In addition, you should have good eyesight, color perception, and hand-eye coordination, as well as familiarity with common laboratory equipment and analytical techniques. 

The American Chemical Society maintains a database of skill standards for chemical technicians at its Web site, https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/careers/college-to-career/chemistry-careers/chemical-technology.html.