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Nontraditional Careers for Chemists

If you have a degree or background in chemistry but are seeking a job that may be considered untraditional, there is good news! Many different career options await individuals who are chemists but seek a different kind of employment.

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Nontraditional Chemistry Career Options

While most chemistry-related jobs involve working in laboratories, testing samples, and conducting research and experiments, there are a number of other nontraditional routes a chemist could take. Whether looking for a career change or simply a different direction after graduating from college, individuals with a chemistry background can find jobs that are quite varied. We will look at five different nontraditional jobs for chemists in detail below.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Technical Writer $69,850 10%
Food Scientist $63,950 (food scientists & technologists) 3% (food scientists & technologists)
Fire Inspector/Investigator $56,130 6%
Sales Engineer $100,000 7%
Environmental Lawyer $118,160 (all lawyers) 6% (all lawyers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information for Nontraditional Chemistry Jobs

Technical Writer

As a technical writer, you will write different types of technical documents, such as how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and journal articles. While some of these documents don't require any prior knowledge or expertise in a field, being a chemist would qualify you to write scientific and chemistry-related documents and articles. You may be responsible for studying different products, talking to developers, and writing different types of content depending on your audience. As a chemist, you likely already have at least a bachelor's degree in chemistry, which qualifies you to be a technical writer.

Food Scientist

Food scientists study different types of food to determine its nutritional content, whether it is safe to eat, and whether it could be packaged better. Some food scientists work in more specific roles, like inspecting food manufacturing plants to see if they are hygienic and operating under federal safety guidelines. Others focus on determining whether contaminants exist in foods. While some of these scientists work in labs, many others also work in the field or for manufacturing companies. To become a food scientist, you will need at least a bachelor's degree in a field like chemistry.

Fire Inspector/Investigator

As a fire inspector, you will visit different buildings and structures to make sure there are no fire hazards and that they adhere to government-mandated fire codes. Some of your other duties may include approving emergency evacuation plans, working with builders to create fire-safe building plans, and approving burn permits. Fire investigators are in charge of visiting scenes where fires have taken place to establish the cause of the fire by analyzing evidence. With a background in chemistry, you could qualify for this position as your expertise would come in handy when educating others about fire safety and in accidental fire and arson investigations. Some fire inspectors and investigators also have experience as firefighters.

Sales Engineer

Chemists who are interested in entering the sales industry may want to consider jobs as sales engineers. Sales engineers specialize in selling advanced scientific and technological products to businesses. A chemist could apply their background and knowledge of chemistry to give complex technical demonstrations, explain product features to potential buyers, and help in the design of future products. Sales engineers typically have a background in engineering, but those with chemistry degrees could also qualify.

Environmental Lawyer

As an environmental lawyer, you would focus on issues that impact the environment by managing the legal aspects involved. Potential issues could involve hazardous waste, water and air quality, and alternative energy sources; a background in chemistry might equip the environmental attorney with specialized knowledge they can apply to the field of law, for example when building cases. You would still have to complete a 3-year law program and pass the bar exam to become a lawyer. An attorney with a background in chemistry might seek employment with a company operating under the regulation of the Environmental Protection Agency and help them understand the various rules and laws they must abide by.

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