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Become A Laboratory Chemist

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Working As A Laboratory Chemist

  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Processing Information
  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • $58,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Laboratory Chemist Do

Chemists and materials scientists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and the ways in which the substances interact with one another. They use their knowledge to develop new and improved products and to test the quality of manufactured goods.

Duties

Chemists and materials scientists typically do the following:

  • Plan and carry out complex research projects, such as the development of new products and testing methods
  • Direct technicians and other workers in testing and analyzing components and the physical properties of materials
  • Instruct scientists and technicians on proper chemical processing and testing procedures, including ingredients, mixing times, and operating temperatures
  • Prepare solutions, compounds, and reagents used in laboratory procedures
  • Analyze substances to determine their composition and concentration of elements 
  • Conduct tests on materials and other substances to ensure that safety and quality standards are met
  • Write technical reports that detail methods and findings
  • Present research findings to scientists, engineers, and other colleagues

Some chemists and materials scientists work in basic research. Others work in applied research. In basic research, chemists investigate the properties, composition, and structure of matter. They also experiment with combinations of elements and the ways in which they interact. In applied research, chemists investigate possible new products and ways to improve existing ones. Chemistry research has led to the discovery and development of new and improved drugs, plastics, and cleaners, as well as thousands of other products.

Materials scientists study the structures and chemical properties of various materials in order to develop new products or enhance existing ones. They determine ways to strengthen or combine materials, or develop new materials, for use in a variety of products. Applications of materials science include inventing or improving ceramics, metallic alloys, and superconducting materials.

Chemists and materials scientists use computers and a wide variety of sophisticated laboratory instrumentation for modeling, simulation, and experimental analysis. For example, some chemists use three-dimensional computer modeling software to study the structure and properties of complex molecules. 

Most chemists and materials scientists work as part of a team. The number of scientific research projects that involve multiple disciplines is increasing, and it is common for chemists and materials scientists to work on teams with other scientists, such as biologists, physicists, computer specialists, and engineers. For example, in pharmaceutical research, chemists may work with biologists to develop new drugs and with engineers to design ways to mass-produce the new drugs. For more information, see the profiles on biochemists and biophysicists, microbiologists, zoologists and wildlife biologists, physicists and astronomers, computer and information technology occupations, and engineering occupations.

Chemists often specialize in a particular branch of the field. The following are examples of types of chemists:

Analytical chemists determine the structure, composition, and nature of substances by examining and identifying their various elements or compounds. They also study the relationships and interactions among the parts of compounds. Some analytical chemists specialize in developing new methods of analysis and new techniques for carrying out their work. Their research has a wide range of applications, including food safety, pharmaceuticals, and pollution control.

Inorganic chemists study the structure, properties, and reactions of molecules that do not contain carbon, such as metals. They work to understand the behavior and the characteristics of inorganic substances. Inorganic chemists figure out how these materials, such as ceramics and superconductors, can be modified, separated, or used in products.  

Medicinal chemists research and develop chemical compounds that can be used as pharmaceutical drugs. They work on teams with other scientists and engineers to create and test new drug products. They also help develop new and improved manufacturing processes to produce new drugs on a large scale effectively.

Organic chemists study the structure, properties, and reactions of molecules that contain carbon. They also design and make new organic substances that have unique properties and applications. These compounds in turn, have been used to develop many commercial products, such as pharmaceutical drugs and plastics.

Physical chemists study the fundamental characteristics of how matter behaves on a molecular and atomic level and how chemical reactions occur. On the basis of their analyses, physical chemists may develop new theories, such as how complex structures are formed. Physical chemists often work closely with materials scientists, to research and develop potential uses for new materials.

Theoretical chemists investigate theoretical methods that can predict the outcomes of chemical experiments. Theoretical chemistry encompasses a variety of specializations itself, although most specializations incorporate advanced computation and programming. Some examples of theoretical chemists are computational chemists, mathematical chemists, and chemical informaticians.

Materials scientists tend to specialize by the material they work with most often. A few examples of materials in which these scientists specialize are ceramics, glasses, metals, nanomaterials (extremely small substances), polymers, and semiconductors.

A growing numbers of chemists work in interdisciplinary fields, such as biochemistry and geochemistry. For more information, see the profiles on biochemists and biophysicists and geoscientists.

Many people with a chemistry background become professors or teachers. For more information, see the profiles on high school teachers and postsecondary teachers.

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How To Become A Laboratory Chemist

Chemists and materials scientists need at least a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related field. However, a master’s degree or Ph.D. is required for many research jobs.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in chemistry or in a related field is needed for entry-level chemist or materials scientist jobs. Although some materials scientists hold a degree in materials science, most have a degree in chemistry, physics, or engineering. Many jobs require a master’s degree or a Ph.D. and also may require significant levels of work experience. Chemists and materials scientists with a Ph.D. and postdoctoral experience typically lead basic- or applied-research teams.

Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in chemistry that are approved by the American Chemical Society. There are few programs specifically in materials science, but the number of programs is gradually increasing. Some colleges offer materials science as a specialization within their chemistry programs, and some engineering schools offer degrees in the joint field of materials science and engineering. High school students can prepare for college coursework by taking chemistry, math, and computer science classes.

Undergraduate chemistry majors typically are required to take courses in analytical, organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry. In addition to chemistry coursework, they take classes in mathematics, biological sciences, and physics. Computer science courses are essential, because chemists and materials scientists need computer skills to perform modeling and simulation tasks, manage and manipulate databases, and operate computerized laboratory equipment.

Laboratory experience, either at a college or university, or through internships, fellowships, or work–study programs in industry, is also useful.

Graduate students studying chemistry commonly specialize in a subfield, such as analytical chemistry or inorganic chemistry. For example, those interested in doing research in the pharmaceutical industry usually develop a strong background in medicinal or organic chemistry.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Chemists and materials scientists carry out scientific experiments and studies. They must be precise and accurate in their analyses, because errors could invalidate their research.

Communication skills. Chemists and materials scientists need to communicate with team members and other scientists. They must be able to read and write technical reports and give presentations.

Critical-thinking skills. Chemists and materials scientists carefully evaluate their own work and the work of others. They must determine if results and conclusions are based on sound science.

Interpersonal skills. Chemists and materials scientists typically work on interdisciplinary research teams and need to work well with others toward a common goal. Many serve as team leaders and must be able to motivate and direct other team members.

Math skills. Chemists and materials scientists regularly use complex mathematical equations and formulas, and they need a broad understanding of mathematics, including calculus, algebra, and statistics.

Organizational skills. Chemists and materials scientists need to document processes carefully in order to conform to regulations and industry procedures. Disorganization in the workplace can lead to legal problems, damage to equipment, and chemical spills.

Perseverance. Scientific research involves substantial trial and error, and chemists and materials scientists must not become discouraged in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Chemists and materials scientists research and develop new and improved chemical products, processes, and materials. This work requires a great deal of trial and error on the part of chemists and materials scientists before a unique solution is found.

Time-management skills. Chemists and materials scientists usually need to meet deadlines when conducting research. They must be able to manage time and prioritize tasks efficiently while maintaining their quality of work.

Advancement

Chemists typically receive greater responsibility and independence in their work as they gain experience. Greater responsibility also is gained through further education. Ph.D. chemists usually lead research teams and have control over the direction and content of projects, but even Ph.D. holders have room to advance as they gain experience. As chemists become more proficient in managing research projects, they may take on larger, more complicated, and more expensive projects.

Some chemists and materials scientists become natural sciences managers.

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Laboratory Chemist Jobs

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Laboratory Chemist Career Paths

Laboratory Chemist
Chemist Scientist
Senior Research Associate
6 Yearsyrs
Chemist Laboratory Supervisor
Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Chemist Laboratory Manager
Laboratory Director
9 Yearsyrs
Quality Control Chemist Quality Control Supervisor
Quality Control Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Quality Control Chemist Quality Control Supervisor Quality Assurance Manager
Director Of Quality
14 Yearsyrs
Quality Control Chemist Quality Control Supervisor Quality Manager
Senior Quality Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Analytical Chemist Scientist Senior Scientist
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Analytical Chemist Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Research And Development Director
11 Yearsyrs
Analytical Chemist Laboratory Manager Quality Assurance Manager
Quality Systems Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Senior Chemist Laboratory Manager Quality Assurance Manager
Quality Assurance Director
11 Yearsyrs
Senior Chemist Laboratory Supervisor Quality Control Manager
Quality Control Director
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Chemist Senior Scientist
Study Director
7 Yearsyrs
Research Associate Clinical Research Coordinator Regulatory Affairs Specialist
Regulatory Affairs Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Research Associate Scientist
Senior Research Chemist
6 Yearsyrs
Research Associate Laboratory Supervisor
Director Of Laboratory Services
12 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Technician Quality Engineer Senior Quality Engineer
Vice-President Of Quality
15 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Technician Engineering Technician Senior Engineering Technician
Engineering Laboratory Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Technician Quality Engineer Product Quality Engineer
Product Quality Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Analyst Contract Analyst Grant Manager
Associate Director Of Development
8 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Laboratory Chemist?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Senior Chemist 5.0 years
Chemist 3.5 years
Process Chemist 3.4 years
Analytical Chemist 3.2 years
Associate Chemist 3.0 years
Chemist Lead 3.0 years
Laboratory Chemist 3.0 years
Bench Chemist 2.9 years
Production Chemist 2.9 years
Laboratory Analyst 2.9 years
Food Chemist 2.9 years
Chemist Assistant 2.5 years
Junior Chemist 2.2 years
Contract Chemist 1.4 years
Top Careers Before Laboratory Chemist
Chemist 14.7%
Internship 6.9%
Supervisor 2.7%
Top Careers After Laboratory Chemist
Chemist 18.7%
Teacher 2.7%
Scientist 2.7%
Manager 2.5%

Do you work as a Laboratory Chemist?

Laboratory Chemist Demographics

Gender

Male

54.0%

Female

33.5%

Unknown

12.5%
Ethnicity

White

53.3%

Hispanic or Latino

16.4%

Asian

13.8%

Black or African American

10.5%

Unknown

6.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

45.0%

German

7.5%

Japanese

7.5%

French

7.5%

Chinese

5.0%

Hindi

5.0%

Mandarin

5.0%

Russian

2.5%

Vietnamese

2.5%

Amharic

2.5%

Malayalam

2.5%

Arabic

2.5%

Tamil

2.5%

Italian

2.5%
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Laboratory Chemist Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

7.7%

University of Arizona

7.7%

Texas A&M University

6.7%

Iowa State University

6.7%

University of South Florida

5.8%

University of New Orleans

5.8%

Ohio State University

5.8%

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

4.8%

San Jose State University

4.8%

University of Texas at Austin

4.8%

University of Washington

4.8%

University of California - Riverside

3.8%

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

3.8%

University of Utah

3.8%

University of Maryland - College Park

3.8%

Texas Southern University

3.8%

University of California - Davis

3.8%

University of Houston

3.8%

New Jersey Institute of Technology

3.8%

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

3.8%
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Majors

Chemistry

46.6%

Biology

15.8%

Environmental Science

5.8%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

5.1%

Chemical Engineering

4.6%

Business

3.9%

Pharmacy

2.7%

Biotechnology

1.8%

Materials Sciences

1.6%

Microbiology

1.5%

Geology

1.3%

Medical Technician

1.2%

Public Health

1.0%

Nursing

1.0%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

1.0%

Chemical Technology

1.0%

Zoology

1.0%

Law

1.0%

Education

0.9%

Management

0.9%
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Degrees

Bachelors

57.7%

Masters

22.7%

Other

9.7%

Doctorate

4.0%

Associate

2.9%

Certificate

1.4%

Diploma

1.4%

License

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$58,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$38,000
Min 10%
$58,000
Median 50%
$58,000
Median 50%
$58,000
Median 50%
$58,000
Median 50%
$58,000
Median 50%
$58,000
Median 50%
$58,000
Median 50%
$88,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Chevron
Highest Paying City
Billerica, MA
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
2.8 years
How much does a Laboratory Chemist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Laboratory Chemist in the United States is $58,433 per year or $28 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $38,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $88,000.

Real Laboratory Chemist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Principal Laboratory Chemist Spectrum Diagnostic Labs, LLC Arlington, TX Sep 14, 2015 $93,915
Principle Laboratory Chemist Spectrum Diagnostic Labs, LLC Arlington, TX Sep 14, 2015 $93,915
Laboratory Chemist Republic Metals Corporation Opa-locka, FL Sep 23, 2016 $80,000
Lab Chemist Republic Metals Corporation Miami, FL Feb 22, 2016 $78,645
Laboratory Chemist Pion Inc. Billerica, MA Jul 19, 2016 $77,272
Lab Chemist Republic Metals Corporation Miami, FL Jan 19, 2015 $75,000
Lab Chemist PNC, Inc. Nutley, NJ Oct 02, 2015 $66,930
Senior Lab Chemist Analytical Sensors & Instruments, Ltd. Sugar Land, TX Jul 20, 2012 $66,893
Lead Laboratory Chemist Natural Essentials, Inc. Aurora, OH Sep 20, 2016 $61,200
Clinical Laboratory Chemist Peachstate Health Management, LLC. Gainesville, GA Sep 21, 2015 $60,000
Laboratory Chemist-Fracking Fluids Natural Resource Technologies LLC Hatfield, PA Oct 19, 2015 $60,000 -
$72,000
Laboratory Chemist Pion, Inc. Billerica, MA Jul 20, 2015 $59,946
Laboratory Chemist Halach Gold Inc. New York, NY Oct 01, 2014 $58,958
Laboratory Chemist Altuni LLC South Hackensack, NJ Jul 10, 2014 $56,349
Lab Chemist PNC, Inc. Nutley, NJ Oct 02, 2012 $56,349
Laboratory Chemist Halach Gold, Inc. New York, NY Oct 01, 2011 $55,827
Laboratory Chemist Pion, Inc. Billerica, MA Oct 08, 2016 $55,825
Laboratory Chemist Kam Consultants Corp. Islandia, NY Sep 24, 2011 $54,080
Pvoh Laboratory Chemist Sekisui Specialty Chemicals America, LLC Houston, TX Aug 29, 2014 $52,000
Lab Chemist Chemicals Incorporated Baytown, TX Sep 19, 2013 $51,626
Polymer Lab Chemist Pet Processors, LLC Painesville, OH Sep 04, 2015 $51,500

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Top Skills for A Laboratory Chemist

  1. Analytical Methods
  2. Lab Equipment
  3. Petroleum Products
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Evaluated the purity of proposed USP reference standards using a variety of analytical methods in the Reference Standards Laboratory.
  • Developed and authored Standard Operating Procedures for lab equipment operation, reagent preparation and test procedures.
  • Perform a wide range of physical and chemical analyses on refinery samples such as crude oil and petroleum products.
  • Follow laboratory procedures for specimen handling and processing, test analyses, reporting and maintaining records of patient test results.
  • Assured that all tests in the wet chemistry department passed third party tests for accreditation purposes.

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Top 10 Best States for Laboratory Chemists

  1. North Dakota
  2. Maryland
  3. Alaska
  4. Minnesota
  5. New Jersey
  6. Nebraska
  7. District of Columbia
  8. Virginia
  9. New Mexico
  10. Massachusetts
  • (61 jobs)
  • (118 jobs)
  • (22 jobs)
  • (179 jobs)
  • (182 jobs)
  • (39 jobs)
  • (13 jobs)
  • (158 jobs)
  • (24 jobs)
  • (161 jobs)

Top Laboratory Chemist Employers

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