How to Capitalize on a Chemistry Degree
Acquiring a degree in chemistry opens a multitude of doors for graduates for a variety of educational or professional opportunities. From chemical engineer to lecturer to pharmacologist to chemist, career opportunities are vast, to say the least.
If you know you want to pursue a career in chemistry, but you’re not positive on what your finish line looks like, declaring a chemistry major is a perfect way to equip yourself a competitor for professional roles.
Chemistry professionals value experience to gain a hands-on skillset. This creates a myriad of opportunities for graduates to study and practice chemistry across industries. A chemistry degree can give you access to a high-paying role in healthcare, manufacturing, tech, and bio-tech. Even if you don’t wind up in a chemistry role, this degree makes you a uniquely-equipped employee and gives you a competitive edge when applying for roles.
Skills for Chemistry Majors
Rooted in the periodic table, the skills that a chemistry major imparts are a mix of scientific and analytical. Here are a handful of the skills and talents honed by those who concentrate in chemistry:
- Scientific and numerical skills
- Attention to detail
- Patience and determination
- Analytical skills
- Written and oral communications
Where to Begin Your Career After Getting a Chemistry Degree
As if choosing the degree weren’t hard enough, you’re eventually going to have to choose a career path which holds its own circus of questions. A chemistry degree is a golden key that grants access to seemingly infinite professional possibilities.
Take time and think about your experiences. What did you enjoy most about your studies? What experiments or research truly intrigued you? What bridges the divide between who you are as a person and who you are a student? If you had the chance to do an internship, what did you value about it? Who did you meet?
Start developing a sense of what you want. Look at your network. See who among your contacts might have access to companies, laboratories or roles that fit your “passion point.” Use your honed study skills to become an expert of the search. The key is to analyze the market and find a way to turn yourself into a category expert that will easily differentiate yourself from all other candidates seeking a position in your chosen category.”
Become a student of your quest to find fit, and invite input starting with your own sense of what you want and then expanding out to your network.
Job Search Tips for Chemistry Majors
Once you know what kind of role you’re after, refine your strategy for getting it. Work and grow your network. Meet with contacts you know in the industry, including professors, professionals you met during internships, friends, family members and other contacts.
Check out professional societies and organizations, noting who you know among the membership, such as American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), American Chemical Society, Biochemical Society and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). Ask your professors and peers about industry associations. See if you can attend a chapter event or a meeting as a guest. Then aim to make connections.
In the same way, see what your university offers in terms of alumni connections. This can be a rich resource for networking. Be open to mentorship, informational interviews and internship opportunities. All stand to help you learn more about what you want and what options are available to you.
Create and update your Glassdoor profile, then research companies and open positions. Cultivate an informed sense of what positions and companies you’re targeting. This way, when you get the chance to talk with contacts in your network, you can ask specific questions.
Refine your professional candidacy package. You want to be poised and ready when an opportunity presents itself, so have your materials ready to go.
Continuing Education and Certifications
Chemical professionals can be divided into five main sectors: industry, academia, government, non-profit, and entrepreneurship. While some of these roles do not require advanced degrees, many of them do.
Many chemistry majors choose to attend graduate school, which can be free for graduate students who teach or complete research.
Higher education is always an opportunity to further your knowledge of the industry and make yourself a more competitive applicant when applying for jobs. For example, many scientist roles require a Ph.D. in Chemistry, Biophysics, Biochemistry, or related field. You can obtain an Associate Chemist role in a lab with a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering.
Most Common Jobs for Chemistry Majors
The applied areas of chemistry can range from agriculture to astrochemistry to nuclear. However, here are the most common jobs across disciplines:
Entry-Level Jobs for Chemistry Majors
Kick-off your chemistry career in one of these exciting entry-level positions:
Internships for Chemistry Majors
Gain insight, experience and industry connections by applying for a chemistry internship. Here are a few popular internships with roles around the country:
Top Jobs for Chemistry Majors
Average Base Pay: $53,000
Number of Open Jobs: 3,300
Description: You will be responsible for following the curriculum and ensuring your students understand the coursework. Along with designing lesson plans, you will assign and grade homework, schedule tests/ quizzes and work one-on-one with students as needed. It’s important that you enjoy working with others and are willing to invest yourself in the success of your students!
Average Base Pay: $51,000
Number of Open Jobs: 3,000
Description: Quality control chemists are essential to laboratory function. As a QCC, you oversee and assist in calibrating all laboratory events, documentation and archiving. Further, the QCC is responsible for training new lab personnel as well as all quality control functions as needed.
Average Base Pay: $77,600
Number of Open Jobs: 20,000
Description: Chemical engineers must be creative and innovative in their research of product quality. They must have strong analytical skills as well as communication skills to relay information to outside parties.
Average Base Pay: $200,000
Number of Open Jobs: 44,000
Description: Doctors obviously require extra degrees after Bachelor’s, depending on the area of study. With a full comprehension on the medical world, doctors also need to be able to juggle a handful of tasks flawlessly as well as relay information to nurses, patients and staff alike. This is a high-pressure, high-risk role, which is indicative by its competitive hiring field and salary.
Average Base Pay: $56,000
Number of Open Jobs: 2,000
Description: Forensic scientists see a wide range of work environments, from the laboratory, the field and professional meetings. Adaptability is the operative characteristic. They must be able to employ scientific concepts in their research and investigate problems to identify the cause. Along with the foundational responsibilities, forensic scientists should be able to collaborate on projects and participate when possible to enlighten
Average Base Pay: $127,000
Number of Open Jobs: 2,700
Description: Pharmacologists perform a variety of research and data-based duties. In this role, you would be responsible for monitoring patient response to treatment, organizing and maintaining documentation on trials and compiling data on research. This job requires a high-degree of organization and attention to detail as well as a curious nature.
Average Base Pay: $77,000
Number of Open Jobs: 3,500
Description: Materials scientists must be strategic thinkers and problem solvers. You should be comfortable leading teams, working in highly regulated environments. This position works with engineering and production and, thus, should be able to communicate and synthesize information in a succinct, valuable way.
Average Base Pay: $83,500
Number of Open Jobs: 26,000
Description: Calling all Magellans! This role is right if you’re an adventurous researcher with a keen eye for details. You will be directly involved in developing new medicines, technology and more. You will need a strong foundational understanding of chemistry and comfort in technological proficiency as a research scientist.
Average Base Pay: $37,000
Number of Open Jobs: 18,000
Description: Laboratory technicians are integral to the functioning of any laboratory environment. Lab techs support the team in inventory, servicing lab equipment and communicating with leadership. Further, he or she is responsible for ensuring all standards and protocols are followed during procedures.
Average Base Pay: $62,700
Number of Open Jobs: 4,000
Description: Environmental consultants must have a deep passion and functional intelligence of environmental science. Project management and review are essential when rolling out initiatives and policies. Relationships are important in this role so ideally, you would be able to forge bonds with people easily.
Feeling good about your chosen major and the career ahead? Here are a few more resources to help you on your path to success: