Is a PhD in Chemistry Worth It?

Jul 15, 2018

Obtaining a PhD in chemistry requires extensive research and laboratory study, but paves the way for a high-end job like natural sciences manager or medical scientist.

A doctorate in chemistry gives students a good understand of all instruments used within a laboratory and gives them the knowledge necessary to secure a position in many fields related to chemistry. Below, you will be presented with five careers that are ideal for those with such a degree.

PhD in Chemistry Careers/Salary

Students who secure a PhD in chemistry will be able to develop methods for carrying out original research within the field of chemistry. Through taking courses in mathematics, chemical bonding, advanced organic chemistry and chemical thermodynamics, recent graduates will gain extensive knowledge about the world around them and be able to develop new compounds that can be used in the field of medicine, agriculture and production. In addition, through their graduate degree program, they will gain the experience and training within a laboratory setting that makes them ideal candidates for employment. We'll take a peek at five careers that those with a PhD in chemistry go into upon graduation.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Postsecondary Chemistry Teachers $77,190 10%
Chemists and Materials Scientists $76,280 7%
Chemical Engineers $102,160 8%
Environment Scientists and Specialists $69,400 11%
Natural Sciences Managers $118,970 10%

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

PhD in Chemistry Careers

Postsecondary Chemistry Teachers

Postsecondary chemistry teachers continue to further their education within their field by attending seminars and conducting their own research on various topics. In addition, they may head their own university conferences or attend a conference as a panel member. They will continue to work within the field of chemistry and publish their findings within academic journals and other media. Having engaged in laboratory work during their doctoral program, recent graduates will have the knowledge necessary to prepare effective lab courses and be able to monitor and assist their students with the use of laboratory equipment.

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Chemists and materials scientists help coordinate research and develop new testing methods and products. They spend a lot of their time writing proposals for research grants and seeking production funding from their respective employers and government institutions. Additionally, much like those who have achieved a doctorate in chemistry, chemists and materials scientists aid in the development of new formulas and chemical compositions. During this process, they follow testing procedures and ensure that quality control standards are being adhered to.

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers use their educational background in chemistry to alter or create new cleaning solutions, lubricants, and fuels. They actively work to improve industrial processes and help develop safety procedures associated with the handling of chemical reactions. They present cost and time estimations, as well as, engage in research toward creating new chemical manufacturing processes and improving existing processes. These same individuals also plan the layout and design of equipment and oversee the manufacturing process.

Environment Scientists and Specialists

Environment scientists and specialists make decisions about the best ways to collect various forms of data as it relates to investigations, research projects, and surveys. They actively work within the community, and with businesses and government organizations, to educate them on potential health risks and environmental hazards within their area. Individuals within this job also actively enforce state and federal regulations designed to aid in the preservation and protection of the environment. They observe the effects of these laws and regulations and report on issues and areas in which improvements need to be made to ensure effectiveness.

Natural Sciences Managers

Natural sciences managers create plans for research and observe the work conducted by scientists directly under them. They participate in the hiring and training of staff and make decisions about which tools and technologies they will use to conduct their research. Individuals who work within this job will also make changes to the research and investment of a project to ensure that set forth project goals are being met. Additionally, they maintain and stock laboratory equipment and provide technical assistance to their staff when needed.

PhD in Chemistry Graduation and Admissions Information

To obtain a PhD in chemistry students must have completed their bachelor's or master's degree in the area of chemistry or related scientific field with a GPA of 3.0 or better. Furthermore, they often must pass both an oral and written examination in order to be admitted into their graduate program, and meet all prerequisite course requirements. Those pursuing a PhD from their bachelor's can expect to have to complete 90 or more credit hours worth of work while those who are starting from their master's will only have to complete between 48 and 64 credit hours. The amount of credit hours can vary between graduate programs and is largely dependent upon the area of focus that a student selects. Typically, it will take students between five to six years to obtain their PhD, but the time period and credit hours required can be more or less, depending upon the graduate degree program. In addition to coursework, students are also required to teach courses through one entire academic year to satisfy their degree program requirements. Graduate programs tend to cover student tuition through research and teaching assistantships, as well as, through stipends and fellowships.

Having a PhD in chemistry affords recent graduates a wide range of options when it comes to selecting the area with which they would like to be employed. They not only are able to work within the areas of research and development, but in various management positions as well.


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