Education and Training Requirements
If you are interested in a chemistry career, begin preparing yourself in high school by taking advanced-level courses in the physical sciences, mathematics, and English. A year each of physics, chemistry, and biology is essential, as are the abilities to read graphs and charts, perform difficult mathematical calculations, and write scientific reports. Computer science courses are also important to take, since much of your documentation, data analysis, and other work will involve using computers.
The minimum educational requirement for a chemist is a bachelor's degree in science. However, in the upper levels of basic and applied research, and especially in a university setting, most positions are filled by people with doctoral degrees.
Approximately 700 bachelor's, 300 master's, and 210 doctoral degree programs are approved by the American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training. A list of approved programs is available at https://webapplications.acs.org/Applications/CPTASL/app_list_search.cfm. Many colleges and universities also offer advanced degree programs in chemistry. Upon entering college, students majoring in chemistry should expect to take classes in several branches of the field, such as organic, inorganic, analytical, physical chemistry, and biochemistry. Some colleges and universities may also offer degree programs in green chemistry or forensic chemistry. Chemistry majors must develop their knowledge and skills in mathematics, physics, biology, data analysis, and technical writing, and be proficient with computers.
The American Association for Clinical Chemistry offers more than 10 certificate programs in laboratory management, testing, and technology. Each program consists of four to eight courses. Contact the association for more information.
Other Education or Training
Many associations at the national and state levels provide continuing education (CE) opportunities to chemists. For example, the American Chemical Society offers CE courses on topics such as computers, special topics in chemistry, and technical writing. It also offers leadership development courses and career-oriented webinars such as "Alternative Careers: From the Lab Bench to the Kitchen Bench," "Off-The-Bench Career Options for Chemists: It’s Possible!," and "Secrets from the Other Side: What Recruiters Know that You Don’t." The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Association for Clinical Chemistry, and the Society of Cosmetic Chemists also provide CE courses and webinars that will be of interest to chemists. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
There are no certification or licensing requirements for chemists.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Take as many math and science (especially chemistry) classes as possible and participate in internships and other experiential opportunities to gain experience in the field.
Chemists must be detail-oriented, precise workers. They often work with minute quantities, taking minute measurements. They must record all details and reaction changes that may seem insignificant and unimportant to the untrained observer. They must keep careful records of their work and have the patience to repeat experiments over and over again, perhaps varying the conditions in only a small way each time. Additionally, high-achieving chemists are inquisitive and have an interest in what makes things work and how things fit together. Chemists may work alone or in groups. A successful chemist is not only self-motivated but should be a team player and have good written and oral communication skills.