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Become A Research Chemist

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Working As A Research Chemist

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

  • $65,925

    Average Salary

What Does A Research Chemist Do

A Research Chemist is a scientist who specializes in the study of chemistry. They work in public laboratories or for private organizations, using their knowledge to investigate applications in medicine or other scientific innovations.

How To Become A Research 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.


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.


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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16,962 Research Chemist jobs

Kelly Services
Evansville, IN
Research Chemist

$60,000 Estimated

Sepax Technologies, Inc.
Newark, DE
Research Chemist

$65,925 Estimated

Stamford, CT
Research Chemist

$73,352 Estimated

Leprino Foods Company
Denver, CO
Research Chemist

$88,701 Estimated

King of Prussia, PA
Research Chemist

$77,046 Estimated

Church Dwight Co Inc.
Princeton, NJ
Research Chemist

$63,794 Estimated

Van Drunen Farms
Momence, IL
Research Chemist

$65,416 Estimated

Air Force Personnel Center
Edwards Air Force Base, CA

$57,554 Estimated

Prescient Edge Corporation
Natick, MA
Research Chemist, Level II

$90,628 Estimated

Allentown, PA
Research Chemist, Mass Spectrometry

$70,000 Estimated

Exxon Mobil Corporation
Baytown, TX
Process Research Chemist (BTEC)

$82,931 Estimated

Troy Corporation
Florham Park, NJ
Research Organometallic Chemist

$86,723 Estimated

National Institute of Standards and Technology
Rockville, MD
Research Chemist, ZP-1320-III (equivalent GS-11 / 12)

$65,925 Estimated

Manpower Group
Milwaukee, WI
Upstream Research Chemist - Wauwatosa, WI

$68,539 Estimated

Drug Enforcement Administration
Pleasanton, CA

$58,406 Estimated

Department of The Air Force
San Antonio, TX

$51,683 Estimated

Department of The Air Force
Patrick Air Force Base, FL

$50,000 Estimated

Department of The Air Force
Eglin Air Force Base, FL

$50,000 Estimated

Department of Justice
New York, NY

$55,514 Estimated

Department of Justice
Chicago, IL

$51,000 Estimated

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Real Research Chemist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Research Chemist Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP Bartlesville, OK Sep 04, 2015 $114,500 -
Research Chemist Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP Bartlesville, OK Sep 03, 2015 $114,500 -
Research Chemist SES Group & Associates, LLC McLean, VA Sep 14, 2016 $112,528
Research Chemist Stepan Company Houston, TX Jul 19, 2016 $110,000
Research Chemist Scientific Design Company, Inc. Little Ferry, NJ Aug 10, 2015 $109,000
Research Chemist Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, L.P. Bartlesville, OK Aug 25, 2016 $105,100 -
Research Chemist BASF Corporation Wyandotte, MI May 17, 2016 $102,294 -
Research Chemist Ultivue Inc. Cambridge, MA Sep 01, 2015 $100,000
Research Chemist Halocarbon Products Corporation North Augusta, SC Sep 24, 2015 $100,000
Research Chemist Cytec Industries Inc. Stamford, CT Aug 26, 2016 $99,227
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Top Skills for A Research Chemist


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Top Research Chemist Skills

  1. Method Development
  2. Laboratory Equipment
  3. New Product Development
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Collaborate with manager to understand and execute method development needs.
  • Adapt literature methodology to available laboratory equipment and establish validation documentation to support accurate performance.
  • Project manager, currently lead several new product development and cost saving projects.
  • Performed organic synthesis for the development of antimicrobial formulations.
  • Developed an HPLC assay that separated all the intermediates in the heme biosynthetic pathway.

Top Research Chemist Employers

What Kind Of Companies Hire a Research Chemist

  1. National Institute of Standards and Technology
  2. Akzonobel
  3. Waters Corporation
  4. Lonza Biologics
  5. KiOR, Inc.
  6. Intertek
  7. Synthezyme LLC
  8. Department of Supramolecular Chemistry
  9. Oregon State University
  10. National Gypsum Company
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Research Chemist Videos

Richard Feynman - Graduate Employment

Career Advice on becoming a Laboratory Technician by Katherine G (Full Version)

Why did you choose a career in pharmacy and research?