As a postgraduate in chemistry, you likely have
a strong bench skills and experience in chemical research. Let’s check the
pulse of today’s economy and look at careers in chemistry. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of
fields you can look into. The more carefully you match your skills to the
market, the happier you will be in your new career.
The seven major career paths you can take
are academia, government, chemical industry, energy corporations, fast moving
consumer goods, industrial biotech and the pharmaceutical industry. Let’s take a look at the various career paths
and what you can expect out of them.
You can certainly stay in the academic
world as a researcher and instructor at a small or large college or
university. Large universities often
provide you with a research lab, staffed with research assistants, and you can
study just about any area of chemistry you can get funding for. Your work would include getting funding and
managing a laboratory as well as teaching responsibilities. Smaller colleges generally just offer
teaching positions to undergraduate students studying chemistry as part of
Big Chemical Corporations
The government has spots for those with advanced
chemistries within the US FDA. The FDA is one of the major regulatory
agencies when it comes to food and drugs and employs chemists in the review of
products designed for human contact.
Fast Moving Consumer Goods
This includes the creation and manufacture
of cleaning products, detergents, cosmetics, soaps, lotions and other products
that touch the skin. It involves working
on things like detergent enzymes, cosmetics, and perfumes. It involves the area of industrial
biotechnology, which is chemistry-oriented.
A major manufacturer to consider is Proctor and Gamble. This is a multinational corporation, the
fourth largest corporation in the United States by market capitalization. It has three Global Business Units, including
Beauty Care (grooming and beauty), Household Care (Baby care and Fabric Care),
and Health and Wellbeing (Healthcare, Pet Care, Snacks and Coffee).
Chemistry skills are needed in the energy
sector, particularly in corporations like Exxon/Mobil.
ExxonMobil was formed in 1999 by the merger of two companies and markets
energy-related products under the brands Mobil, Exxon and Esso. It has multiple operating divisions,
including Upstream, Downstream and a chemical division based in Houston, TX.
Chemical skills are needed in the
biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
There are numerous small and large corporations specializing in
biopharmacology and biotechnology including Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, Eli
Lilly and Bristol-Meyers-Squibb. There
are pharmaceutical companies located in other parts of the world, particularly
in Europe, where you could work as a chemist specializing in pharmaceuticals or
biotechnology. (see “Getting
Started with Biopharma Research”)
Corporations invested in industrial
biotechnology include Genencor
International and Novozymes. Companies invested in biotechnology work in
areas such as large-scale refineries that make bioenergy, genetically modified
crops and large scale fermentation and bioprocessing.
Miscellaneous Areas of Chemistry Jobs
All areas of biotechnology hire
postgraduate employees in chemistry as well as firms that develop dyes and
perfumes. You can work for a contract
research organization which hires out chemistry-trained consultants to
companies for short term or medium term work.
Typical Job Titles
There is a wide variety of job titles
available to you if you work in the “real world” of chemistry in science,
government or industry. In the academic
world, you would be considered a professor or instructor. In industry, you might be labeled a division
manager of a specific area of the plant.
You can work your way up to become assistant plant manager or plant
manager, although this would take some time.
You could also be a bench researcher,
working in the ranks of those actually doing industrial research. In a governmental role, you could carry the
title of Reviewer, analyzing products that come through the offices of the
How do I find a job in Chemistry?
have a professionally-prepared resume with a list of the research areas and
papers you have written. You can send
these resumes to any of the corporations discussed above or to smaller companies
in need of those with chemical expertise.
There is a lot of overlap between pure chemistry and fields in biology
and biotechnology, giving you a broad base of companies to choose from. You can research jobs worldwide at www.chemistryguide.org., which
provides you with job listings from all over the world.
Skills Necessary in the Chemistry Field
You need great
bench skills if working in most chemistry-related companies, although if you
are hired in a managerial position, you’ll also need skills in handling people,
writing and communication. If you are a
project manager, you will need to strategize and create new ideas for your
corporation, especially if you work in the “new products” divisions of the
corporation. Your knowledge of chemistry
should be impeccable, and your creativity in helping your organization grow should
be strong as well. Travel is possible if
you work for a large company that has several plants. The field is minimally competitive because
there is a lot of work going on in the field of applied chemistry. Salaries can
be as high as six figures within a few years of working for a major
corporation. This is a field for those
who like to focus on one area of technology and chemistry at a time.
Hot Topics in the Field
Hot topics in
the field of applied chemistry include synthetically developed compounds,
enzyme research, Pharmacopeanetics, and pharmacogenomics.