What Careers are in Chemistry?

According to the American Chemistry Society (ACS), there are five main types of careers in chemistry for students. This includes industry, academia, non-profit, government and entrepreneurship. Below explores four potential careers for graduates with four-year degrees in chemistry.

Field Analyst

Field analysts perform a variety of external tests for their employers. For instance, a field analyst who works for an environmental consulting company will perform emission source tests for clientele in their facilities. Most cities and counties require that manufacturing companies that vent gas into the air maintain proper permits. These field analysts will perform tests according to established procedures and operating analytical testing equipment. They will record data and notes, then relay pertinent findings to supervisors. Because they work in the field, they must rely on themselves to troubleshoot and repair sampling equipment and analytical instrumentation. Depending on the client’s location, they must maintain awareness of safety protocols and wear appropriate PPE.

Chemical Analyst

Chemical analysts perform standard tests on raw, natural and processed materials using prescribed laboratory procedures. Their goal is to quantitatively determine the concentration of a target chemical in assigned products. For example, a chemical analyst who works in the agribusiness sector may spend their time analyzing pesticide and residue samples to ensure compliance with legal standards. They assist with preparing tools, equipment and samples. Chemical analysts must be proficient in both qualitative and quantitative organic chemistry. The instruments they use include mass spectrometry, gas chromatography and liquid chromatography. Because the materials they handle are potentially hazardous, they must have strong knowledge of laboratory safety practices and quality assurance standards. They assist with performing in-lab equipment calibrations and data processing.

Quality Control Chemist

These chemists provide lab instrument validation and qualification activities for quality control programs. In a pharmaceutical company, they develop and publish analytical methods and validation protocols for quality control labs. They supervise subordinates to ensure that laboratory method validations meet state and federal requirements for regulated medical products. They establish validation protocols, coordinate resources for methods testing and oversee training for lab personnel. Quality control chemists are expected to provide executives with regular written reports. Thus, they must understand the governing principles of method validation for a variety of analytical models, many of which are established by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Food Safety Inspector

Food safety inspectors are responsible for ensuring that edible products meet legal requirements and exceed customer expectations for food safety and quality. The assurance of product quality requires that food safety inspectors monitor quality assurance programs. This includes tool maintenance, qualitative methods, data cross checks and instrumentation calibrations. Many food safety inspectors use their chemistry training to understand production processes and provide technical advice to management for operations. They must be competent in data analysis, trend recognition and effective multi-team communication. The success of this position is measured by process recovery, waste reduction, customer satisfaction and cost minimization levels. Every day, they assess and measure process quality parameters and quality management programs.

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Additional careers in chemistry include lab technologist, process researcher and research associate.

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