R&D Chemist: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Sep 09, 2019

Research and development (R&D) chemists require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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R&D chemists work in laboratories conducting tests and notating the reactions of different chemical compounds. Excellent note taking, organization, and communication skills are required for this career choice.

Essential Information

R&D chemists work in a variety of settings, performing many different types of work that involve the development of new products and technologies. They need at least a bachelor's degree, but graduate studies are usually required for research work. In addition to knowledge of chemistry, attention to detail, good communications skills and the ability to work with others are crucial in this profession.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in chemistry; master's or doctoral degree often recommended
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 4% for all types of chemists
Average Salary (2018)* $83,850

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

R&D Chemist Job Description

R&D chemists utilize chemicals, chemical compounds and chemical processes to create new products and technologies. Professionals can find R&D positions within many different industries, including petroleum and oil extraction, information technology, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. Some chemists focus more on the design and testing phases of R&D projects.

Job Duties

Each industry may require R&D chemists to complete a particular list of job duties, but some common duties exist across all industries. For example, the majority of R&D chemists work in laboratories conducting tests. Some tests may involve mixing different chemicals or polymers together to discover the results and chemical properties. Chemists also utilize computerized databases that contain searchable lists of chemicals and chemical reactions. Research results can then be used to brainstorm ideas for new products.

Employers listing job postings on Careerbuilder.com for R&D chemists stated that some potential job duties may include communicating frequently with team members and other departments. Some of those communications may involve discussing advertising options with marketing teams or return on investment possibilities with financial departments. These same employers expected professionals to communicate verbally and in writing.

R&D chemists must also document every project carefully. During the research and testing phases, chemists need to accurately record all variables, such as chemical type, amount, compound components, chemical temperature and test duration. They must also adhere to safety standards during laboratory testing, such as wearing protective clothing and taking additional precautions as needed.

R&D Chemist Salary Information

Salary statistics reported by the BLS showed that as of May 2018, the median annual salary for all chemists was $76,890. Information from that same year shows that chemists involved in research and development earned an average yearly salary of $92,830. The states that reported hiring the most chemists in May 2018 included Texas, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California.

R&D chemists usually require a master's degree or higher and can work in a variety of industries. Ultimately though, they study chemicals, compounds, and reactions in order to test for new product possibilities. They may work with marketing and development teams, or within R&D teams.

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