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Difference Between Environmental Scientist & Industrial Chemist

Environmental scientists and industrial chemists monitor man-made materials. Their work differs in purpose. Industrial chemists help develop new products for people and environmental scientists monitor the impact of those products.

Comparing Environmental Scientists to Industrial Chemists

Experimental analysis is part of the job for both environmental scientists and industrial chemists. The focus of these analyses is somewhat opposite, however. The industrial chemist is focused on developing products for a company to manufacture or increasing efficiency while an environmental scientist evaluates the impact of manufacturing on the environment.

Job Title Minimum Education Required Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Environmental Scientist Bachelor's degree $68,910 (for all environmental scientists and specialists) +11% (for all environmental scientists and specialists)
Industrial Chemist Bachelor's degree $73,740 (for all chemists) +3% (for all chemists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of an Environmental Scientist vs. an Industrial Chemist

Environmental scientists and industrial chemists sound like two very different professions, but they actually have many of the same skills. Both jobs require the individual to chemically analyze samples. The objectives of these tests are a bit different, but many of the techniques involved may include similar processes such as chromatography. An environmental scientist looks for chemicals in soil, air and water that may be harmful to humans or the environment while industrial chemists produce chemicals in a laboratory for use in the manufacture of a product.

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists work by collecting samples outdoors and then analyzing them in a laboratory. They may work for local, state or federal agencies, but there are also many companies that hire environmental scientists to make sure the organization is in compliance with environmental regulations. They may also assess and remediate damaged habitats. There are specializations within this field that focus on the source of pollution such as the air, water or soil while other specializations focus on how to fix problems or limit impacts from industry.

Job responsibilities of an Environmental Scientist include:

  • Identifying sources of pollution
  • Designing experiments to analyze environmental threats
  • Developing methods to mitigate any environmental threat
  • Writing reports that detail the environmental risks posed by new projects
  • Communicating with government agencies and other interested parties
  • Providing educational materials to communities

Industrial Chemist

Most industrial chemists work in private sector jobs with companies and their duties reflect the needs of the company. They handle dangerous compounds and use computer software to model reactions. Industrial chemists may specialize in the manufacturing process for new medicines, superconductors, polymers or nanomaterials. All of this work occurs mainly in a laboratory with a team of technicians they supervise. Therefore, industrial chemists must have good communication and leadership skills.

Job responsibilities of an Industrial Chemist include:

  • Researching better ways to manufacture compounds used in industry
  • Using laboratory equipment to analyze samples
  • Keeping detailed records of experimental results
  • Following safety protocols based on chemicals used
  • Reporting findings by writing technical reports

Related Careers

Environmental jobs similar to an environmental scientist include an urban ecologist who specializes in the environment of a city and the influence of human development. A quality engineer is similar to an industrial chemist because they develop protocols to test product consistency and keep the cost of production low.


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