Chemists perform experiments and analyze data to understand chemical reactions and processes. They use their knowledge of chemical principles and their analytical skills to design and conduct experiments, interpret results, and draw conclusions. This requires a high degree of critical thinking, problem-solving, and attention to detail, which are characteristics commonly associated with individuals in the Investigative Theme Code. Additionally, chemists may also use various tools and technologies, such as spectrometers and chromatographs, to analyze and measure the properties of chemicals and compounds. Chemists must also be able to analyze, prepare, and interpret test results and be able to write technical reports. They must also be able to work with hazardous materials, such as acids and other chemicals, in a safe and responsible manner. 

A career as a chemist can take many paths, and there are many specializations one can go into. Within the field of industrial and applied chemistry, a professional may choose to specialize in areas such as materials science and engineering, biotechnology, nanomaterials, and green chemistry. Analytical chemists may specialize in quantifying and characterizing the composition of a sample, and environmental chemists may focus on assessing environmental contamination and recommending ways to remediate it. In addition, chemists may specialize in areas such as toxicology, forensic science, food science, and pharmaceuticals.

Chemists utilize a range of specialized tools and technologies in their work. Some of these tools include spectrometers such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Mass Spectrometry (MS) spectrometers, chromatography techniques such as gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (LC), transmission electron microscopes (TEM), scanning electron microscopes (SEM), centrifuges, and balances. They also make use of computer software such as molecular modeling software, data analysis software, and laboratory information management systems (LIMS) to manage and analyze their data. The specific tools and technologies used by chemists can depend on the nature of their research, the type of samples they are analyzing, and the requirements of their lab or organization.

For those interested in a career as a chemist, the education and training requirements are quite stringent. Typically, a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related field is required for entry-level positions. However, for higher positions, such as a research or analytical chemist, a master’s degree or Ph.D. may be required. For those seeking to work in a specialized field of chemistry or a research laboratory, additional courses in mathematics, physics and biology may be required. In addition, some employers may require a state license or certification. It is important to research the specific educational and training requirements for the position you are seeking. 

The three primary professional certifications for chemists are the Certified Chemical Professional (CCP), Certified Professional Chemist (CPC), and Certified Professional Chemist Technician (CPCT). Each certification requires the completion of a rigorous set of exams designed to test the knowledge and skills of an individual in the field of chemistry.

A career as a chemist can provide competitive compensation. The potential salary range for chemists varies depending on the industry, location, and experience. Generally, chemists earn an average of $81,000 per year according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries can range from $51,000 per year for entry-level positions to $93,000 for experienced chemists. In addition to salary, chemists often receive benefits such as health insurance, paid vacation, and 401(k) retirement plans. 

Below are some employment trends for Chemists:

  •     Median Salary: $38.19 hourly, $79,430 annually
  •     Employment: 83,600 employees
  •     Projected growth (2021-2031): Average (4% to 7%) 
  •     Projected job openings (2021-2031): 7,600
[Information retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2018-2028 employment projections]

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2012-2022 employment projections