Chromatographer: Job Description & Career Requirements

Apr 11, 2019

Learn what chromatographers do. Find out what the education and training requirements are. Read more about career prospects to decide if this job is right for you.

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Career Definition for a Chromatographer

Chromatography has been a valuable tool for chemists over the last 80 years, and instrumentation continues to evolve into more powerful and complex systems. A chromatographer uses technical training to maintain, repair, and calibrate complex machinery; prepare and evaluate solutions; and know which type of chromatography will yield the desired results. A chromatographer is a specialist who uses standard chromatography methodologies to separate and identify chemical compounds: gas, high-performance liquid, gel permeation, thin layer, and ion-exchange. Each method has its own technology, machinery, materials, and procedures, and a student could spend several months training in one method, or several years mastering them all.

Education Associate's degree or certificate in applied science or process technology
Job Skills Background in science and math, organized approach to problem-solving, familiarity with electronics and mechanics, knowledge of legal procedures
Median Salary (2018)* $48,160 (for chemical technicians)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 4% (for chemical technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

An associate's degree or certificate in applied science or process technology is generally the minimum educational background for a chromatographer, although there may be entry-level positions for high school graduates willing to train on the job. Some employers prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree in chemistry or biology.

Skills Required

A background in science, math, chemistry, and physics, as well as an organized approach to problem-solving, will be required to troubleshoot hardware issues and analyze results. Familiarity with electronics and mechanics would be helpful. For a career in forensic science, an understanding of legal procedures, particularly those related to handling evidence, is required.

Career and Economic Outlook

The median annual salary for chemical technicians, including chromatographers, was $48,160 as of May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The number of jobs in life, physical, and social science occupations as a whole is predicted to grow at a rate of 8% from 2016-2026, comparable to the average of all other jobs. However, demand for chemical technicians is expected to grow by 4% during this time period. The lack of demand is due in part to declining pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing, although opportunities are still expected to be good in the areas of research and development.

Alternate Career Options

Similar careers to a chromatographer include:

Agricultural Science Technician

An agricultural science technician works under the direction of agricultural scientists. Tasks may include setting up and carrying out experiments related to agricultural productivity, measuring and analyzing plant and animal samples, and preparing findings for reporting to others. Employers typically hire candidates with an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in biology, although animal science or a related field may also be acceptable. On-the-job training is also common. According to the BLS, jobs in this field are predicted to increase by 6% from 2016-2026, and they paid $40,860 in 2018.

Forensic Science Technician

A forensic science technician analyzes physical crime scene evidence. These workers may conduct evidence gathering on the scene or examine it in the lab, seeking biological, chemical or physical characteristics useful in solving a crime. Forensic science technicians also write detailed reports on their findings. A bachelor's degree in biology or chemistry is usually preferred by employers; forensic science technicians who work at crime scenes also usually have law enforcement experience or a forensic science degree. On-the-job training is common; licensing and certification options vary widely. Forensic science technician jobs are predicted to increase by 17% from 2016-2026, per the BLS. These workers earned a median salary of $58,230 in 2018.

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