What Does a Chemical Physicist Do? - Job Description & Salary

If you are interested in both chemistry and physics, then consider a career in chemical physics that utilizes principles from each scientific discipline. Learn more about the careers, training, salary and expected job growth in this field.

Career Definition of Chemical Physicists

Chemical physics combines tenets from both molecular physics and physical chemistry and centers around the component matters of molecular systems, such as strong molecular forces and chemical processes. Simply put, chemical physics is the study of how the two fields can interact with each other.

The term chemical physicist is not a specific job title, but rather an integrated field that will offer you many career possibilities. Some options in this area include a chemical engineer and a materials scientist.

A chemical engineer will need an understanding of both chemistry and physics in order to study and create formulas. As a chemical engineer, you could be responsible for enhancing current formulas or constructing new ones. Job duties may range from conducting lab tests on formulas and drafting internal literature for chemical formulas.

As a materials scientist, you will focus on the production and design aspect of chemical physics. While materials scientists also conduct lab tests, you will utilize the results to create sample parts for manufacturing processes. Your goal will be to reduce manufacturing costs, while at the same time streamlining the process. Other job duties may include drafting progress and technical reports and overseeing projects.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's degree
Job Skills Excellent analytical abilities, effective communication skills, and strong organizational abilities
Median Salary (2016)* $115,870 (Physicists)
$73,740 (Chemists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 14% (Physicists)
6% (Chemists)

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

Required Education

If this field has captured your interest, then you may want to begin with a bachelor's degree in chemical physics. This will provide you with a foundational understanding of both disciplines, with an emphasis on shared tenets between the fields. With such a degree program, you could take courses in general chemistry, physical chemistry, and various life sciences. A graduate degree is often required for research positions.

Required Skills

You will need excellent analytical abilities if you plan on working in the field of chemical physics, particularly if you work in a research-based position. You must be able to conduct research tests, effectively interpret the results, and apply those results to your work. You should also have strong communication skills to work in this field. You may often be required to collaborate with scientific colleagues or serve as part of a team, especially if you work in a laboratory setting. Chemical physics-related positions also require strong organizational skills for everything from designing experiments to managing time.

Career Outlook and Salary

As chemical physics is a hybrid field, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have information specific to it; however, the BLS does provide information for physicists and chemists. Physicists earn a median annual salary of $115,870, with a predicted job growth of 14% in 2016-20126. Alternatively, chemists have a salary of $73,740 and an estimated job growth of 6% for the same time period.

Related Careers

The interest and skills required for a career in chemical physics could lead you to other scientific careers. Consider one of the alternatives profiled below.

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