How To Become A Chemist

Chemists are professional scientists who specialize in studying the structure and composition of matter. They discover how different substances react, and use their applied knowledge to conduct experiments, expand the field of chemical knowledge, and create new materials, processes, and products which can function as solutions in various industries.

There are many different types of chemists with different job descriptions, including organic and inorganic chemists, medicinal chemists, analytics chemists, and physical chemists.

Why Become A Chemist

Chemistry is a fascinating field, and if you enjoy science, you will probably enjoy working on the cutting edge and find the work very rewarding. Not only will you be able to expand knowledge in your field, but you will also be able to contribute practical solutions to the world that improve everyday life.

Chemists spend a lot of their time in the laboratory mixing and experimenting with different mixtures and solutions—and many industries benefit from their dedication, skill and knowledge. They work in pharmaceutical firms, engineering companies, federal testing laboratories as well as in research and development projects. A small number of them also teach future chemists at colleges and universities.

Chemist Work Environment

If you become a chemist, you may work in either an office or a laboratory. It is quite likely that you will spend your time in a combination of each. The majority of chemists are employed in the field of research and development in engineering, physical or life sciences, or in medicinal or pharmaceutical manufacturing. Others work in testing laboratories, or for the federal government. A minority of chemists work at universities, community colleges and professional schools.

Chemist Salary

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chemists in 2017 made a median annual salary of $81,870 per year. The majority of chemists work full time in their occupations. The highest wages were earned by chemists working directly for the federal government.

Chemists working for universities made the smallest salary, followed by those who worked in testing laboratories. Those who worked in research and development and medicine manufacturing made wages closest to the overall median for the entire occupation.

Chemists receive very good pay for their efforts, with those working for the federal government standing to earn six-figure incomes as they gain more years of experience in their jobs.

Average Chemist Annual Salary


The average annual salary for chemists is $81,870 a year. Salaries start at $42,960 a year and go up to $130,560 a year.

Average Chemist Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a chemist is $39.36. Hourly wages are between $20.66 and $62.77 an hour.

Stats were based out of 84,400 employed chemists in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Chemists

Top Paying Cities For Chemists

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Chemist Career Outlook

While the pay for chemistry is good and the work itself can be very exciting, there is not a lot of opportunity in this field right now, so you will want to pursue this career only if you are very determined to make it. In 2010, the BLS listed 90,900 jobs for chemists (filled and unfilled), but only a 4% rate of growth between 2010 and 2020. That only equates to 4,000 new openings in the coming years.

Chemist Degree

You need to at least get a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related field in order to work professionally as a chemist. If you are interested in a research job involving cutting-edge science, you will probably need to get either a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in order to qualify.

Since this field is growing very slowly and there are only going to be a small number of openings between now and 2020, pursuing a higher degree could have other benefits, such as making you more competitive in a tough job market.

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