Become a Fragrance Chemist: Education and Career Information

Research the requirements to become a fragrance chemist. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a fragrance chemist.

Should I Become a Fragrance Chemist?

Fragrance chemists conduct research to develop appealing scents for consumer products that include household products and cosmetics. These scientists often work in research labs of corporations, simulating the consumer experience, creating user-friendly fragrances, and testing the chemical components within the functionality of the products. For example, a fragrance chemist must develop a fragrance for a dryer sheet without diminishing the fabric softening effect of the product. These professionals must follow correct procedures when handling chemicals in order to prevent the risks of any safety or health hazards. Travel may be involved.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; graduate degree may be necessary for advancement
Degree Field Chemistry, chemical engineering, or related field
Experience Laboratory courses and internships are beneficial
Key Skills Interpersonal, communication, managerial skills, knowledge of research data, statistics, and 3D modeling software
Salary (May 2014) $73,480 per year (Median salary for all chemists)

Sources: American Chemical Society, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

Fragrance chemists must build a foundation in chemistry with an undergraduate degree in chemistry, chemical engineering, or a related field. Students receive instruction in math, chemistry, biology, and physics. They can expect to take laboratory courses to get hands-on experience conducting experiments. Students may also have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research programs or internships.

Success Tips:

  • Learn to work in a team. Fragrance chemists will likely work with a team of researchers, and it is important for students to work on becoming team players. Students can hone these skills by working in groups for class assignments or participating in group-oriented extracurricular activities.
  • Build communication skills. Fragrance chemists will likely have to explain their ideas and data to coworkers without a background in science. It is important for them to build their written and verbal communications skills to convey complicated information. Students can do so by taking writing and speech courses.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Chemists can obtain entry-level positions upon earning their bachelor's degree in chemistry. Relative to other areas such as education, chemists in research and development may find more opportunities for advancement. It is likely that fragrance chemists will have the chance to work on more than one project, not only gaining time management skills, but also learning how to apply their knowledge to different types of products.

Success Tip:

  • Improve managerial skills. As scientists move up the corporate ladder, it is more likely that they will supervise staff. Fragrance chemists can prepare for supervisory roles by practicing problem-solving skills, respecting co-workers and displaying confidence.

Step 3: Consider Getting a Graduate Degree

Fragrance chemists may find that a master's degree or doctorate in chemistry or chemical engineering might improve their chances of advancement. In addition, scientists may choose to pursue graduate studies in a specialized area of chemistry, such as cosmetic science or personal care science. These specializations may instruct chemists on cosmetic microbiology, hair care formulations, cosmetic science, or product development. In master's in chemistry degree programs, classes could include advanced courses in organic, physical, and analytical chemistry. These programs also give students the opportunity to increase their research skills, which could be beneficial to career growth. The master's degree program may or may not have a thesis option.

Doctorate programs in chemistry delve even further into research, different chemistry concentrations (e.g. analytical), and interdisciplinary subject matter. A qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, thesis, and teaching requirement may be required.

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