Chemistry Careers


Chemistry makes up the scientific basis of a wide variety of career options. There are "traditional" activities (e.g. analysis, synthesis), interdisciplinary fields (e.g. materials, biophysics), and "non-traditional" professions such as medicine, patent law, education, technical writing, art conservation, forensic science and many others. People with degrees in chemistry have also taken such nontraditional jobs as Chancellor of Germany, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and Pope! Please see the examples below that outline some career options for chemists.

Research & Development:

This is one of the classical career options for Chemistry majors. About half of graduates take this path. It involves acquiring and/or applying scientific knowledge for such purposes as developing new or improved methods for the synthesis of substances, and understanding the behavior of materials and how to control it. This typically is done in industry and pharmaceuticals; examples include chemical companies such as Dupont, Monsanto, Merck, SmithKline Beacham, and Pfizer (in addition to a host of smaller companies), but also many that are not popularly connected to chemistry, such as IBM, Xerox, United Technologies and General Electric, which are concerned with materials or processes. There are many opportunities for B.S. and graduate degree Chemists.


Many of the techniques of modern biotechnology have been adapted from Chemistry, and Chemists with a biochemistry background work in this field at the B.S. and Ph.D. levels.

Forensic Science:

State and federal law enforcement organizations employ Chemists in their forensic laboratories. Chemists with either a B.S. or advanced degree can work in this field.


Chemists may also use their degrees as a background for patent law, for which technological knowledge is essential.


Chemists play a wide and growing role in areas related to the environment. Careers include work in environmental analysis firms, in industry dealing with emission control and abatement, and in state and federal government testing and regulatory agencies. All levels of training are involved.


A B.S. in Chemistry is a suitable program for entrance to medical school. Many Chemistry majors proceed to obtain the M.D. degree. Others have chosen dentistry and veterinary medicine. Some with advanced degrees work in biomedical or pharmacological research. Others are involved in research, testing, or regulatory functions in state or federal health agencies, either with our without an advanced degree.

Pharmacology & Medicinal Chemistry:

Development of new drugs and the study of drug action and metabolism are activities that both B.S. and graduate degree Chemists can undertake. A B.S. in chemistry followed by a graduate degree in Pharmacology is also a good career option.


Chemists play a central role in the development and application of materials, both in research and development and quality control. Materials fields requiring Chemists include polymers, metals, semiconductors and other solid state devices.


Some Chemists act as independent consultants or work for chemical consulting firms. Independent consulting usually requires considerable background experience in a specific area.


Chemists are involved in developing modern sources of energy, such as battery systems to bed used for large-scale energy storage and electric vehicles, conservation of coal to liquid or gaseous fuels, and solar energy conservation. Chemists also play a vital role in the nuclear power industry.

Quality Control:

This is another popular classical career option for Chemists. Work involves analysis and testing to ensure that materials meet specifications. A wide variety of companies, large and small, have requirements for professionals in this area, with many positions involving B.S. graduates.

Quality Assurance:

The basic role of Quality Assurance is to review the analyses performed by Quality Control and to ensure that regulated procedures are followed correctly, e.g. in a chemical or pharmaceutical company. It is often useful to have a Chemistry background/degree. This option is more administratively oriented and is a good option for detail-oriented Chemists seeking and alternative to strictly lab work.

Technical Sales & Service:

Manufacturers of chemicals, scientific instruments or equipment, and chemically based products required technically trained people for direct sales and to provide problem solving assistance to their sales division. This usually requires a B.S. rather than an advanced degree.

Technical & Scientific Writing:

Careers in this field include writing of technical material for industrial companies, science writer for magazines, newspapers or professional scientific journals, and editor of scientific publications.


A B.S. in Chemistry makes an excellent background for those who want a management career in a technologically based industry. A second B.S. or Master's degree in management or business administration are further options. Many Chemists enter management after beginning careers in a technical position; many companies will provide the necessary management training.


In addition to positions in government research labs or regulatory agencies, some Chemists serve as technical staff for a variety of government departments and offices.

Museum Conservation:

A small but interesting field for Chemists is in the conservations and authentication of art and artifacts. This is particularly attractive to those with an interest in art history, archaeology or related fields.


Secondary school teaching is a career that has interested Chemists. With the appropriate choice of courses, students may receive a B.S. in Chemistry with provisional teaching certification, or Chemists may take education classes to apply for teaching certification. Many others enter teaching in 2- or 4-year colleges and universities. Almost all Chemistry faculty positions at these schools require an advanced degree.

Technical Administrative Assistant:

This is an administratively oriented position found in a growing number of companies in industry and pharmaceuticals. B.S. Chemists provide highly technical support to upper level chemists, usually in management. Responsibilities vary but often require an interest and preferably a strong background in Chemistry.

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