About 34 percent of the approximately 87,700 chemists employed in the United States work in chemical manufacturing. Fourteen percent work in research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences, and 10 percent of chemists work for testing laboratories. Examples of large companies that employ many chemists are Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Monsanto, and Campbell Soup Company.
Chemists also work for government agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Chemists may find positions in laboratories at institutions of higher learning that are devoted to research. In addition, some chemists work in full-time teaching positions in high schools and universities.
Once you have a degree in chemistry, job opportunities will begin to become available. Summer jobs may become available after your sophomore or junior year of college. You can attend chemical trade fairs and science and engineering fairs to meet and perhaps interview with prospective employers. Professors or faculty advisers may know of job openings, and you can begin breaking into the field by using these connections.
If you are a senior and are interested in pursuing an academic career at a college or university, you should apply to graduate schools. You will want to begin focusing even more on the specific type of chemistry you wish to practice and teach (for example, inorganic chemistry or analytical chemistry). Look for universities that have strong programs and eminent professors in your intended field of specialty. By getting involved with the basic research of a specific branch of chemistry while in graduate school, you can become a highly employable expert in your field.
In nonacademic careers, advancement usually takes the form of increased job responsibilities accompanied by salary increases. For example, a chemist may rise from doing basic research in a laboratory to being a group leader, overseeing and directing the work of others. Some chemists eventually leave the laboratory and set up their own consulting businesses, serving the needs of private manufacturing companies or government agencies. Others may accept university faculty positions.
Chemists who work in a university setting follow the advancement procedures for that institution. Typically, a chemist in academia with a doctoral degree will go from instructor to assistant professor to associate professor and finally to full professor. In order to advance through these ranks, faculty members at most colleges and universities are expected to perform original research and publish their papers in scientific journals of chemistry and/or other sciences. As the rank of faculty members increases, so do their duties, salaries, responsibilities, and reputations.
Tips for Entry
Join professional associations such as the American Chemical Society (ACS) to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Read inChemistry (https://inchemistry.acs.org/content/inchemistry/en.html), the official ACS student member magazine, to learn more about the field of chemistry and get advice on career planning.
The ACS Web site (https://www.acs.org) is an excellent resource for job seekers. It provides job listings, tips on interviewing and resumes, and information on internships and its mentorship program for members.