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Analytical Chemist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an analytical chemist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and salary expectations to find out if this is the career for you.

Analytical chemists usually work in a lab, and within a team of other scientists. These professionals study chemical compounds and their makeup. A bachelor's degree in chemistry can prepare students for entry-level jobs in this field.

Essential Information

Analytical chemists examine chemical compounds to determine their construction. They are employed by pharmaceutical and environmental companies, among other companies. The job requires at least a bachelor's degree in chemistry. A master's degree or Ph.D. can improve an analytical chemist's job prospects, especially if they intend to work in research.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in chemistry for entry-level; master's or doctoral degree for research positions
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% for all chemists
Median Salary (2015)* $71,260 for all chemists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Analytical chemists examine substances to determine their composition. They also look at how elements in a compound interact with one another. Their work is of paramount importance to the pharmaceutical industry, which requires information about the make-up and possible interaction of substances that might be turned into medicine. Their skills are also used in the field of environmental chemistry to detect chemical pollutants in the environment.

Based on reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of chemists and materials scientists should increase by three percent during the 2014-2024 decade. In May 2015, the BLS reported that chemists earned a median salary of $71,260 per year.

Duties

Analytical chemists typically work in laboratories, where they operate and maintain instruments such as spectrometers and chromatographs. They perform tests and other procedures on compounds to discern their nature. They design the procedures they employ and create reports on their results. Analytical chemists constantly look for ways to improve those procedures as well.

Analytical chemists often work in teams with other chemists and have to communicate effectively both with peers and superiors. Some analytical chemists work with hazardous materials and should keep aware of safety procedures.

Requirements

According to the BLS, most chemistry jobs require at least a bachelor's degree in the field. Many colleges and universities offer chemistry programs, which prepare students for study and research of the miniature world around us either at a graduate level or in an industrial context. Although chemistry programs typically aren't specialized at the undergraduate level, students can still take courses in analytical chemistry to prepare them for their future career.

The BLS reported that many research jobs in the field require at least a master's degree, if not a Ph.D. However, a sampling of open job postings for analytical chemists on the website CareerBuilder.com indicated that many employees needed only a bachelor's degree from job applicants. Still, analytical chemists might undertake a master's program to further their knowledge in the field. Typically these curricula are research-intensive and may include writing a thesis. Often students at the graduate level can specialize in a particular field of chemistry, which allows for an in-depth study of analytical chemistry not available at the undergraduate level.

A bachelor's degree is a minimum requirement for analytical chemists, though further education at the graduate level can lead to research roles or supervisory positions. This position is useful for different kinds of companies, including those in the pharmaceutical and environmental industries.

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