Chemist: Educational Requirements for a Career in Chemistry

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a chemist. Get a quick view of the requirements, degree programs and job duties to find out if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Chemistry is a wide occupational field that encompasses research and product development. Chemists manipulate chemicals to produce better products or create new ones. Other careers in this field include chemical technician and chemistry professor.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Education Master's degree or Ph.D.
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 6%*
Average Salary (2013) $77,740*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for a Career in Chemistry

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those entering the field of chemistry must complete at least some postsecondary education (www.bls.gov). Some positions in the field require only an associate's degree, but to work as a chemist, a person needs at least a bachelor's degree; for advanced work in the field, a master's or doctoral degree is required.

Associate's Degree Programs

A two-year associate's degree program in chemical technology might include introductory courses in chemistry, physics and mathematics. These programs usually include some lab work to give students hands-on experience with chemicals and basic lab procedures. Students might analyze chemical compounds, learn to use laboratory instruments and study theories such as electrochemistry. Graduates might work as chemical technicians or chemist's assistants, analyzing various substances or performing quality control procedures.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree program in chemistry covers fundamental topics in the subject and provides instruction on molecular and material science. Aside from core courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, students might choose electives ranging from molecular biology to quantum mechanics. Educational requirements also include chemistry lab work, such as spectroscopy and instrumental methods. Research projects are usually part of a program and might involve working with electrochemical reactions, polymers and advanced organic chemistry.

Advanced Degree Programs

Careers involving advanced research, teaching and specialization in a field usually require completing a master's or doctoral program in chemistry. Typically, students at this level must complete an independent study and research project on a chemistry-related topic, like organometallic chemistry. Students also might be required to complete a thesis or dissertation, which might need to be defended in the form of an oral exam in front of a panel of professors.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the BLS, chemist positions were projected to increase by six percent from 2012-2022, which was slower than average. The BLS also reported that those with advanced degrees like a Ph.D. should have the best job opportunities. Chemists made a mean yearly salary of $77,740 as of May 2013, according to the BLS.

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