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Become An Organic Chemist

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Working As An Organic Chemist

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

  • $83,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Organic 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 An Organic 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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Average Length of Employment
Senior Chemist 5.0 years
Chemist Scientist 5.0 years
Staff Chemist 4.5 years
Project Chemist 4.0 years
Forensic Chemist 4.0 years
Research Chemist 3.9 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
Organic Chemist 3.0 years
Laboratory Chemist 2.8 years
Chemist Assistant 2.5 years
Contract Chemist 1.4 years
Top Careers Before Organic Chemist
Chemist 17.6%
Internship 5.0%
Scientist 2.5%
Researcher 2.2%
Volunteer 2.0%
Top Careers After Organic Chemist
Chemist 13.7%
Scientist 9.0%
Analyst 3.6%
Consultant 2.6%

Do you work as an Organic Chemist?

Average Yearly Salary
$83,000
Show Salaries
$54,000
Min 10%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$127,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Thermo Fisher Scientific
Highest Paying City
Newark, DE
Highest Paying State
Minnesota
Avg Experience Level
2.7 years
How much does an Organic Chemist make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Organic Chemist in the United States is $83,382 per year or $40 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $54,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $127,000.

Real Organic Chemist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Medicinal/Synthetic Organic Chemist Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc. Cambridge, MA Dec 01, 2009 $100,000
Organic Chemist NBD Nanotechnologies, Inc. MA Jun 09, 2016 $93,000
Organic Synthetic Chemist Sharp Laboratories of America Inc. Camas, WA Nov 30, 2009 $85,000
Synthetic Organic Chemist Pfizer Inc. Groton, CT Oct 01, 2010 $82,700 -
$124,100
Organic Chemist-Senior The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Akron, OH Aug 26, 2014 $80,766 -
$95,000
Organic Chemist Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry Wilmington, MA Sep 18, 2011 $80,000
Organic Chemist Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry Wilmington, MA Dec 01, 2010 $80,000
Organic Chemist Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry Wilmington, MA Dec 15, 2010 $80,000
Synthetic Organic Chemist Eburon Organics International, Inc. Lubbock, TX Aug 09, 2010 $79,636
Synthetic Organic Chemist Eburon Organics USA, Inc. Lubbock, TX Nov 22, 2010 $79,636
Synthetic Organic Chemist Eburon Organics USA, Inc. Lubbock, TX Nov 17, 2010 $79,636
Synthetic Organic Chemist Nitto Denko Technical Corporation Oceanside, CA Nov 01, 2011 $75,000
Organic Chemist Nitto Denko Technical Corporation Oceanside, CA Nov 01, 2011 $75,000
Chiral Synthesis Organic Chemist Sterling International, Inc. Spokane Valley, WA Sep 13, 2014 $73,956
Organic Chemist Entropy Solutions Inc. Tuscaloosa, AL Sep 01, 2015 $73,500
Senior Organic Chemist Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Weston, FL Oct 01, 2014 $73,500
Instrumentation Manager and Organic Chemist Pavco Inc. Charlotte, NC Jul 27, 2011 $70,000
Organic Chemist Gojira Fine Chemicals, LLC Bedford Heights, OH Aug 30, 2013 $65,000
Organic Chemist I The Fountain Group LLC Rahway, NJ Feb 15, 2016 $60,168
Synthetic Organic Chemist Astatech, Inc. Bristol, PA Sep 04, 2014 $58,000
Organic Chemist (Post Doctoral Researcher) Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Ridgefield, CT Sep 08, 2015 $56,659 -
$62,500
Organic Chemist (Post Doctoral Researcher) Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Danbury, CT Jan 28, 2016 $56,597 -
$70,000
Organic Chemist American Radiolabeled Chemicals, Inc. Saint Louis, MO Sep 04, 2015 $56,000 -
$76,000
Post-Doctoral Organic Chemist Ignyta, Inc. San Diego, CA Jan 09, 2016 $55,000
Organic Chemist Accutest Laboratories Dayton, NJ Nov 21, 2011 $53,500
Postdoctoral RES Assoc-Polymer/Organic Chemist Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Aug 10, 2016 $53,232

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Top Skills for An Organic Chemist

  1. Analytical Methods
  2. Lab Equipment
  3. Synthesis
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed and validated analytical methods, including stability-indicating methods and dissolution methods, utilizing HPLC, UPLC, FTIR, etc.
  • Set up standards for the purification and characterization of chemicals under synthesis and designed special equipment to carry out synthesis.
  • Performed wet chemistry analysis and physical characterization of client samples.
  • Developed a HPLC/UV assay to measure drug levels in arterial tissue.
  • Volunteered as the Chemistry Safety Officer and helped maintain a 400MHz NMR system.

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Top 10 Best States for Organic Chemists

  1. Maryland
  2. Minnesota
  3. Delaware
  4. New Jersey
  5. North Dakota
  6. Virginia
  7. Michigan
  8. Iowa
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Connecticut
  • (36 jobs)
  • (28 jobs)
  • (4 jobs)
  • (51 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (35 jobs)
  • (37 jobs)
  • (14 jobs)
  • (26 jobs)
  • (22 jobs)

Organic Chemist Demographics

Gender

Male

56.5%

Female

30.6%

Unknown

12.9%
Ethnicity

White

56.7%

Asian

16.7%

Hispanic or Latino

12.9%

Black or African American

9.1%

Unknown

4.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

21.9%

German

15.6%

Chinese

9.4%

Mandarin

9.4%

French

6.3%

Italian

6.3%

Swahili

3.1%

Portuguese

3.1%

Gujarati

3.1%

Dakota

3.1%

Czech

3.1%

Hindi

3.1%

Tagalog

3.1%

Russian

3.1%

Urdu

3.1%

Arabic

3.1%
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Organic Chemist Education

Schools

Purdue University

8.0%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

6.9%

Northeastern University

6.9%

University of South Florida

5.7%

University of Kentucky

5.7%

University of California - Los Angeles

5.7%

Ohio State University

5.7%

Brigham Young University

5.7%

University of California - Riverside

5.7%

Eastern Michigan University

4.6%

Virginia Commonwealth University

4.6%

Temple University

4.6%

Michigan State University

4.6%

University of Utah

4.6%

Syracuse University

3.4%

University of Connecticut

3.4%

North Carolina State University

3.4%

Indiana Institute of Technology

3.4%

South University

3.4%

Western Washington University

3.4%
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Majors

Chemistry

61.0%

Biology

9.5%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

4.5%

Environmental Science

4.0%

Pharmacy

2.9%

Chemical Engineering

2.4%

Business

1.9%

Education

1.9%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

1.4%

Project Management

1.4%

Finance

1.2%

Environmental Engineering

1.2%

Nursing

1.2%

Pharmacology

1.0%

Computer Science

1.0%

Criminal Justice

1.0%

Medical Technician

0.7%

Biotechnology

0.7%

Management

0.7%

General Education, Specific Areas

0.5%
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Degrees

Bachelors

43.0%

Masters

24.1%

Doctorate

21.7%

Other

8.3%

Associate

1.4%

Certificate

1.2%

License

0.2%
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