Oil Chemistry Jobs: Duties, Outlook and Requirements

Sep 24, 2019

Oil chemistry jobs require some formal education. Depending on the position, significant education may be required. Learn about the education, job duties, employment outlook statistics and job requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

As an oil chemist, one will be finding and implementing ways to improve and fix problems in the oil industry. These professionals perform lab and on-site work and thus should possess technical skills. A bachelor's degree in chemistry is a common requirement, though research positions require a graduate degree.

Essential Information

Oil chemists work for large oil companies and suppliers to develop chemical products and processes used for oil extraction and refining. Due to the continued downsizing of the oil industry since 1990, the number of jobs in this field is declining. Sometimes, chemists can enter the field with a bachelor's degree in chemistry; however, many employers require master's or doctoral degrees for research positions. For instance, oil and gas research positions require a doctoral degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree is sufficient for some positions; research positions require a master's or doctorate
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 4% for all chemists
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $76,890 for all chemists

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties in Oil Chemistry

Oil chemists apply their knowledge of chemistry to help petrochemical companies produce synthesized products from crude oil. These professionals may use chromatography and spectroscopy to analyze compounds and determine the product's nature, structure and chemical reactions. Once the analysis is complete, oil chemists may work with test solutions, reagents, centrifuges, lasers and other equipment to create or modify products.

Oil Chemistry Specialties

Chemometrics specialists set up and calibrate lab instruments in refineries that may endure difficult conditions, such as round-the-clock operations, extreme temperatures and vibrations. Polymer chemists create or improve synthesized oil products. Some oil chemists identify who or what caused an oil spill, while others focus on creating catalysts used to refine oil. Companies that provide chemicals for drilling and refining also hire oil chemistry specialists.

Oil Chemistry Jobs Outlook

Large oil companies provide most of the jobs in oil chemistry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the number of jobs for chemists as a whole was expected to increase slower than average between 2018 and 2028. This growth is due to a need for chemical product research and development, as well as quality monitoring. An emphasis on environmental research will also cause some growth. However, the BLS does expect growth to be limited as companies outsource some tasks.

Requirements for Oil Chemistry Jobs

According to the ACS, those looking to enter the field may consider a bachelor's degree in chemistry, chemical engineering or a closely related field. Coursework may vary depending on the chosen major; however, most programs begin with core classes in mathematics and the sciences. All students take lab courses in which they may mix chemicals together, monitor their reaction and then report on the results. Once these courses are complete, chemistry students may focus on organic and inorganic chemistry while chemical engineering students may take courses geared more toward polymer physics and processing.

Oil Chemistry Research Job Requirements

Candidates with a master's or a doctoral degree will have a competitive advantage. These programs may take 2-4 years to complete and typically allow students to specialize in an area, such as polymer science. The ACS indicated that a doctoral degree is required to gain an oil and gas research position. Courses may cover advanced topics in spectroscopy, properties of synthetic materials and enzyme mechanics.

Oil chemists perform synthesis experiments, tests, and look for solutions to oil issues. While some jobs may require only a bachelor's degree, employers desire those who have earned a master's or doctoral degree, especially for research-oriented positions. Job growth in this field is expected to be slower through 2028.

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