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Chemistry , Sixth Edition
Steven Zumdahl, University of Illinois
Susan Zumdahl, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Careers in Chemistry

Companies in Industry
Other Career Options
Career Categories
Other Chemistry Career Websites

Companies in Industry:
1. Pharmaceutical Companies: Pharmaceutical companies hire bachelors, masters, and PhD chemists and chemical engineers for various positions in research and development, quality control, management, regulatory, sales and marketing, manufacturing, environmental health and safety and manufacturing (to name a few). Pharmaceutical companies manufacture various types of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The products that pharmaceutical companies manufacture include anesthesia drugs, insulin products, renal care, cancer treatments, Alzheimer's medications, electrolyte solutions, antibiotics, penicillin's, vitamins, HIV medications, even blood replacement products…the list goes on. These medications can come in many forms such as I.V. solutions, pills, pre-filled syringes for injection, oral suspensions, syrups and even patches. Types of medical devices include pumps for delivering I.V. solutions, glucose monitoring kits, hematology test kits, blood transfusion systems and immunoassays.

Abbott Labs:
Baxter Healthcare:
Eli Lilly:
Bristol Meyers Squibb:
Pharmacia Corporation:

2. Bulk Commodity Chemical Companies: These companies are responsible for manufacturing all the solvents and other reagents that are used research labs. They hire bachelors, masters, and PhD degree chemists and chemical engineers for positions in areas such as sales and marketing, research and development, management, chemical production, quality assurance and quality control. Their products can include analytical reagents, organic reagents, inorganic reagents, biochemicals, chromatography reagents, agricultural chemicals, flavors or fragrances.

Burdick and Jackson:
Ace Chemicals:
Dow Chemical:

3. Food Manufacturing Companies: Food manufacturing companies such as Kraft hire bachelors, masters, and PhD chemists and chemical engineers for positions in areas like research and development, quality and regulatory. The food industry includes a wide range of products such as beverages, baking goods, prepackaged foods, baby foods and even pet care products.

Proctor and Gamble:
Gerber Foods:
General Mills:

4. Paint, Plastics, Coatings, Etc…Companies: Companies in this area hire bachelors, masters, and PhD chemists and chemical engineers for positions in research and development, product development and applied technology development. Companies such as 3M produce products such as coatings, solvents, plastics, resins, adhesive technologies, rubbers and other polymers.

Links: Valspar:
Dow Chemical:

5. Personal, Baby and Household Care Product Companies: The major areas where these companies hire chemists and chemical engineers are in the research and development of new products and in quality assurance. Products manufactured by companies such as Johnson and Johnson includes baby care, paper towels, tissue, bathroom tissue, shampoos, cosmetics, soaps, detergents, etc.

Johnson and Johnson:
Kimberly Clark:
Proctor and Gamble:

6. Petroleum Industry: The petroleum industry is responsible for manufacturing much more than gasoline for cars. These companies also produce oils, lubricants, fabrics, fibers, explosives, fuel additives, even zeolite catalysts in addition to petroleum products. These companies hire bachelors, masters, and PhD chemists and chemical engineers for positions in research and development, geosciences, process design, applications research, earth sciences and technical support.

British Petroleum:
Phillips Petroleum:
Union Carbide:

Other Career Options:

1. Careers in Medicine: Students who are interested in chemistry may also choose to pursue a career in the medical field as, for example, a doctor (MD), nurse, pharmacist, therapy specialist or medical researcher (MD/PhD).

AAMC Student Site:
H Monster:
Medical Careers:

2. Careers in Education: Another option for students interested in chemistry is to go into an education related field. Chemistry or chemical engineering majors can pursue certification to teach high school or middle school science. A second possibility would be to get a master's or PhD and teach at the community college or university level. For those who are interested in both research and education teaching at a university would allow for both areas of interest to be pursued.

NSF Elementary and Secondary Education:
NSF Undergraduate Education:

3. Careers Related to Law: Another possibility for chemists and chemical engineers is to pursue a law degree and become a patent attorney. Patent attorneys work in either a law firm or as an in-house counsel for a corporation. Patent law deals with patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. A second option in the field of law is in forensic science. Forensic scientists work for police departments and other law agencies to help analyze crime scene evidence. Evidence can include blood, body fluids, fingerprints, hairs, fibers, building materials such as glass and paint, tire tracks, foot ware marks, alcohol or drug specimens, explosives, firearms, or paper documents.

Careers in Intellectual Property:
Intellectual Property Law:
Forensic Science Society:
National Center for Forensic Science:

4. Government Agencies: There are various government agencies that also hire chemists and chemical engineers. These agencies include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Jobs in any of these government agencies may include work in the medical field, food, cosmetics, biologics, drugs, environmental protection, and finger print analysis or crime scene analysis.

Food and Drug Administration:
Federal Bureau of Investigation:
Environmental Protection Agency:
Center for Disease Control:

Career Categories:

1. Graduate School in Chemistry:

Job Descriptions: If you are interested in getting a PhD in chemistry then graduate school is the way to go. During the first year to year and a half of graduate school PhD candidates take graduate courses related to their discipline of interest, work as teaching assistants for undergraduate lecture and lab courses in chemistry and spend time interviewing professors about their research and talking to current graduate students to decide which research group to join. The ending goal is to write and present a thesis to a thesis committee based on the research you conduct while in graduate school. There are many different graduate fields you can study with a chemistry background. These include physical chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, polymer (materials) chemistry, or food sciences. There are also combination PhD degrees between the different chemistry departments mentioned above as well as between engineering and chemistry, business and chemistry, even law and chemistry. Earning a PhD on average takes 5 years.

Starting Salary Range: Your salary really depends on what school you attend and on how much money the professor that you work for has for his or her research. You usually do get a stipend if you are a teaching assistant and sometimes that stipend comes with a tuition waver for the semesters that you teach. Graduate students can also get money from grants for fellowships and research assistantships. The option of getting loans is always a possibility as well.

Advancement: Once you earn a PhD you can go on to do post-doctoral work, can get a job in industry most likely doing research and development work for a company, or you can get a job in academia teaching and/or doing research at a college or university.

Top Ten Graduate Schools in Chemistry (2002):
University of California-Berkeley:
California Institute of Technology:
Harvard University:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
Stanford University:
Cornell University:
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign:
Columbia University:
Scripps Research Institute:
University of Wisconsin-Madison:

2. Graduate School in Chemical Engineering:

Job Descriptions: Those students wishing to pursue a PhD in chemical engineering will also find that the first year to year and a half of graduate school will entail taking courses, working as a teaching assistant and exploring the different research opportunities available to decide in what area you would like to specialize in. Just as with chemistry, candidates for a PhD in chemical engineering will be expected to write and present a thesis based on their research. Research areas in chemical engineering will differ depending on the school, but some possibilities include research in catalysis and reaction engineering, polymers and materials, systems design, surfaces and structures, reaction kinetics, semiconductors, biocatalysts, biological engineering and fluid mechanics, to name a few. On average, earning a PhD in chemical engineering should take about 4 years.

Starting Salary Range: Same as above for graduate school in chemistry.

Advancement: Just as for chemists, chemical engineering PhD's can opt to do post-doctoral work, do research in industry and/or teach at a college or university, or work in industry.

Top Ten Graduate Schools in Chemical Engineering (2002):
Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
Stanford University:
University of California-Berkeley:
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor:
Georgia Institute of Technology:
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign:
California Institute of Technology:
Carnegie Mellon University:
Cornell University:
University of Texas-Austin:

3. Chemists:

Job Descriptions: There are many different possibilities for the type of work a chemist could do in industry. It really depends on the company and what degree (bachelor's vs. master's vs. PhD) they require an employee to have before working in a certain area. Possible types of bench chemistry work include new product or new technology development, manufacturing scale-up work, quality control or quality assurance, or new methods development. Other areas of employment for chemists include management positions or working for the regulatory department of a company. Some companies require a PhD degree before they will hire chemists for work in new product development, methods development or in management. Other companies do not have this requirement.

a. New Product/Technology Development: Chemists who work in industry developing new products or technologies may be responsible for designing the synthesis of a new drug (for example) and then carrying out that synthesis to make sure it is feasible. They might be responsible for determining if a drug that is currently available in pill form would be stable if offered in and alternative form such as an I.V. solution. They may work on new material technologies like adhesives, paints, coatings, etc. In the petroleum industry, development chemists might work on developing new, more environmentally friendly refining methods for the production of gasoline. Product/technology development chemists use chemistry knowledge from many different disciplines (organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, physical chemistry, etc…) depending on the area of industry that they work in.

b. New Methods Development: Chemists working in new methods development mainly deal with analytical chemistry. These chemists develop and improve upon the analytical methods that chemists working in the quality control/quality assurance (see number 4 below) department use to test products to make sure they are safe for consumer use. New methods development chemists might work with liquid chromatography methods, gas chromatography methods, wet-chemistry tests, bio-assays, spectroscopy methods and so on, depending on the needs of the industry they are working in.

c. Manufacturing & Scale-Up: Chemists involved in this field of industry are responsible for transferring small-scale processes from the research laboratory over to large-scale manufacturing processes for production in plants. This area is especially important in the pharmaceutical industry for synthesizing drugs at production scale. The pH, concentration of active drug compound, and concentration of impurities are all very important when manufacturing pharmaceuticals. While it may be easy to control these factors at a laboratory scale (milligram quantities), the task may not be so simple when manufacturing large-scale amounts (kilogram quantities).

d. Quality Control/Quality Assurance: Chemists who work in quality control or quality assurance play a very crucial role in industry. These scientists are the ones that make sure that a company's products are safe to sell to consumers. Quality control chemists use a variety of analytical techniques, including HPLC, GC, bioassays, wet chemistry tests, spectroscopy, TLC etc, to check factors such as concentration, acidity, basicity, biological activity, purity, etc. Scientists working in quality control test new products to make sure they are ready for release to the consumer market and test existing products to make sure they are safe to keep on the market.

e. Management: Chemists can also work on the management side of industry. Some companies may require a certain amount of experience as a lab scientist and/or an upper level degree (master's or PhD) before hiring new employees or promoting current employees into management positions. In other companies it may be possible to be promoted into a management position with a bachelor's degree. Management in industry has many levels. Managers may be in charge of a small group of scientists within a larger department, they may be in charge of a department within a larger division of the company or may be in charge of an entire division. This really depends on how a specific company is laid out. A manager's responsibilities may include keeping track of his group's work load, making sure new products get to production on time, making sure existing products are being tested at regular intervals to confirm their safety/efficacy, even taking care of his or her employees career advancement needs. Those working in management typically work on teams with other managers within a department or division to make sure that the company as a whole is running smoothly.

f. Regulatory: Every company has regulatory departments that deal directly with regulatory agencies such as the FDA. They have to be very familiar with the expectations of the regulatory agencies that their company deals with to make sure that all operations are being run within regulations. Regulatory agencies will run audits (both announced and unannounced) of companies within their jurisdiction to make sure that all rules and regulations are being followed. It is the company's regulatory division that deals most directly with the agency when this happens. Additionally, regulatory divisions are responsible for preparing approval packages for new products that a company wants to bring to market. For example, pharmaceutical companies need to get approval for new drug products from the FDA before releasing those products to market. Petroleum companies may need approval from the EPA before releasing new products on the market to make sure that the product will not cause harm to the environment.

Education: Chemists can get a job working in industry with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, a master's degree, or a PhD. The type of industry you want to work in, the specific company within that industry, and the department or division within a company you want to work for will determine what level of education is right for you.

Starting Salary Range (According to 2001 ACS survey):
Bachelor's degree: $32,000 - $45,600
Master's degree: $48, 700 - $61,600
PHD degree: $67,000 - $79,500

Advancement: Depending on where you start in the company, advancement can take different routes. Laboratory chemists can work towards promotions into management positions in the department or division that they are currently working in, or they may wish to be promoted into different departments or divisions within the company throughout their career. Another possibility is to receive promotions by moving between companies instead of within a company.

Links: ACS Careers and Jobs:\index.html
The Professional Chemist:
Careers for Chemists:
Careers for Chemistry Graduates:
Careers in Chemistry- Duke University:

4. Chemical Engineers:

Job Descriptions: Chemical engineers work in a wide variety of industrial fields including general manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, design and construction, pulp and paper processing, petrochemicals, food processing, specialty chemicals, electronics and computers, polymers, biotechnology and environmental health and safety. Not only do chemical engineers process chemicals, they might work to improve food processing techniques or methods of production for fertilizers to increase the quantity and quality of food. They could help construct synthetic fibers for clothing manufacturing, improve and design methods for mass-producing drugs, develop safer and more efficient means of refining petroleum products or work on developing solutions to environmental problems such as pollution control and remediation.

Education: Same as for chemists, see above.

Starting Salary Range (According to 2001 C Survey):
Bachelor's degree: $50,600 - $59,400
Master's degree: $57,000 - $70,000
PHD degree: $70,000 - $88,000

Links: American Institute of Chemical Engineers:
Salaries of Scientists:

5. Careers with the U.S. Government:
Job Descriptions:
a. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Chemists working for the EPA are involved in areas such as hazardous wastes, water quality, air quality, waste clean-up, human health, pesticides, pollutants and toxics and pollution prevention. They use a variety of analytical methods to conduct testing such as mass spectrospcopy (MS), gas chromatography (GC), liquid chromatography (HPLC), Ion chromatography (IC), ultra-violet spectroscopy (UV), atomic absorption spectroscopy (AA) and various wet chemical tests.

b. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): Chemists working for the FBI work in the arena of forensic science. They are responsible for analyzing evidence from crime scenes using many different analytical techniques. These can be separated into five categories: physical tests, crystal tests, chemical spot tests, chromatographic tests and spectrophotometric tests.

c. Center for Disease Control (CDC): The CDC's main concern is with maintaining the health and safety of U.S. citizens both here and abroad. Chemists may conduct research in one of the CDC's 11 institutes that deal with birth defects and developmental disabilities, chronic disease prevention, environmental health, health statistics, HIV, STD and TB prevention, injury prevention and control, immunization, occupational health and safety, epidemiology, and public health practice.

Education: Most government agencies require an upper level degree (either master's or PhD) and also some industrial experience, typically 3-5 years, before they will consider you for a position.

Starting Salary Range: $22,000 - $39,000
Government salaries are typically less than salaries in industry.

Forensic Science Resources:
Opportunities in Government:
USA Jobs:

6. Medical Related Careers:

Job Descriptions:
a. Medical Doctor: Some chemistry majors choose to go on to medical school after getting their undergraduate degree. There are two options to consider when applying to medical school. For those who wish to work mainly with patients in a hospital or medical clinic there are MD programs. For those who would rather do medical research there are MD/PhD programs.

b. Nursing: Another option for those interested in both chemistry and medicine is a career in nursing. There are four different types of nursing degrees; a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a Master of Nursing (MS), a Master of Science in Nursing (MS), and a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD). It is typical for students who wish to pursue a graduate degree in nursing to earn a BSN degree as an undergraduate. However, it is not a requirement. Many schools offer an extended program where students with bachelor degrees in other areas can complete the necessary coursework to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree first.

c. Pharmacy: Pharmacists do a lot more than simply dispense prescription drugs, although this is a major part of their job. Pharmacists must have knowledge of the uses, hazards and side effects caused by pharmaceuticals. They are also actively involved with patients. Pharmacists who work in community pharmacies (Walgreen's, Rite Aid) not only dispense drugs prescribed by doctors, they are also in charge of hiring and firing pharmacy technicians, they supervise employees, determine what non-medical merchandise is purchased for sale at the pharmacy, and also take on administrative duties. Pharmacists employed by hospitals or at medical clinics dispense and prescribe medication, work as consultants on a medical team with doctors, nurses, etc., make sterile solutions for use in the ER or in surgery and keep detailed records of patients' medical profiles and drug history in order to prevent allergic reaction or drug interaction from the medications that they dispense.

a. Medical Doctor: The general medical school program is four years. After those four years medical students then do a residency. The length of the residency depends on the specialty chosen. The shortest residency is three years for specialties such as internal medicine, family practice and pediatrics. Specialties like anesthesiology, dermatology, ophthalmology and psychiatry have 5-year residencies. Surgical residencies are 5-7 years, depending on whether or not a research project is involved. When the residency is done some doctors choose to specialize instead of practicing in their general fields. Possible fields of specialization include infectious disease, oncology (cancer), cardiology, pulmonary and cardio thoracic surgery. If doctors wish to specialize then they must complete a three-year fellowship after their residency.

b. Nursing: A BSN degree requires four years of coursework to complete. The MN degree is an additional one to two years of schooling that includes coursework as well as clinical work. The MS degree on average takes one and a half additional years of schooling and requires thesis work. The above three degrees are for students who wish to work with patients in the medical field. For nursing students who would rather do research and teach, a PhD degree in nursing is what is required. A PhD program takes an additional four years of work beyond the completion of the BSN degree. There is a thesis requirement to earn a PhD in nursing as well.

c. Pharmacy: Obtaining a Doctorate of Pharmacy degree requires four to five years of additional schooling beyond undergraduate work. An undergraduate degree in pharmacy, physical science, biological science or engineering is usually required. Pharmacy graduate students complete coursework as well as clinical rotations as part of their training. Areas of specialization include toxicology (the study of poisons and toxins and their isolation, detection and effects on the human body), pharmacoeconomics (the application of health economics to disease management outcomes and the optimization of drug therapy), pharmacokinetics (the study of the kinetics of drug therapies), pharmacy administration, pharmacology (the study of changes produced in living animals by chemical substances that are used to treat disease), or pharmacognosy (natural products chemistry, the study of bioactive substances found in organisms).

a. Medical Doctor: Could not find salary information.
b. Registered Nurse: $35, 000 - $40,000
c. Clinical Pharmacist: $72,000 - $90,000

Top Five Medical Schools (According to U.S. News-2002 Rankings):
Harvard University:
Johns Hopkins University:
Duke University:
University of Pennsylvania:
Washington University:

Top Five Nursing Programs (According to U.S. News-2002 Rankings):
University of Washington:
University of California-San Francisco:
University of Pennsylvania:
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor:
Johns Hopkins University:

Top Five Pharmacy Programs (According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, AACP):
Auburn University:
Samford University:
University of Arkansas:
University of Arizona:
Midwestern University:

7. Education Related Careers:

Job Descriptions:
a. Middle School Teacher: Chemistry majors who are interested in teaching can teach physical (8th grade) and/or general science (6th grade) in a middle school or junior high school.

b. High School Teacher: Chemistry majors who are interested in teaching may also decide to teach high school chemistry.

c. College/University Professor: A third option in the teaching field is to become a college or university chemistry professor. Depending on the area of interest, a professor may teach general chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, etc. Typically universities do require chemistry professors to do research, but some universities do hire professors strictly for teaching, usually, general chemistry courses. If a chemist is interested only in teaching employment at a small college may be the way to go.

a and b. Middle School/High School Teacher: Some colleges and universities offer science-teaching degrees which require less science coursework than for a science major. Along with the science courses, education courses in middle and secondary, general and science education are required. However, many education colleges are moving away from separate education majors and are requiring education students to get a degree in the subject matter they wish to teach. Therefore, for chemistry majors, the required coursework for a degree in chemistry would have to be completed along with the required teacher certification courses.

c. College/University Professor: To teach chemistry at the college or university level a PhD is required. (See above for information on a graduate work in chemistry or chemical engineering.) Some smaller colleges do hire people with master's degrees to teach.

Starting Salary Range:
a and b. High School/Middle School Teacher: $20,000 - $40,000
c. College/University Professor: Could not find salary information.

Advancement: Advancement at the middle school or high school level could involve becoming head of the science department at a school or participating in the administrative side of education (becoming a principle or superintendent for example.) Becoming a principle or superintendent involves graduate study in education. For a principle, assistant principle or superintendent position a masters in education is required at minimum. University or college professors start at an assistant professor position and can work up to a full professor position with tenure. Earning a full professorship usually depends on what advances am assistant professor makes in his or her research and also depends on the number of publications he or she has put out.

Top Five Schools of Education (According to U.S. News-2002 Rankings):
Harvard University:
Stanford University:
Columbia University Teacher's College:
University of California-Los Angeles:
Vanderbilt University:

8. Law Related Careers:

Job Description: Patent attorneys work in either a law firm or as an in-house counsel for a corporation. They deal with patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets related to their company's products or the products of the companies that employ their law firm.

Education: A law degree takes three years to complete.

Starting Salary Range: $160,000 - $250,000

Top Five Law Schools for Patent Law (According to U.S. News-2002 Rankings):
Yale University:
Stanford University:
Harvard University:
Columbia University:
New York University:

9. Business Related Careers:
Job Descriptions: Having a degree in chemistry and a business (MBA) degree would open up job opportunities in administration, management and/or sales in various companies.

Salary Range: $36,000 - $60,000

Top Five Business Schools (According to U.S News-2002 Rankings):
Stanford University:
Harvard University:
Northwestern University:
University of Pennsylvania:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):

Other Chemistry Career Websites:
1. Chem. Industry:
2. American Chemical Society:
3. Food Sciences:
4. Opportunities in Government:
5. USA Jobs:
6. General Job Websites:,
7. U.S. News & World Report Top Graduate School Rankings:
8. U of I Chemistry Placement Office:
9. U of I Engineering Career Services:
10. The American Medical Association Home Page: