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Chemistry Degrees and Careers

A chemistry degree can lead to a variety of rewarding careers in the field of natural and material sciences and chemist training provides both hands-on and classroom instruction for a comprehensive education. A chemistry education lays the groundwork for a variety of specializations in the field including organic chemistry, the study of plastics, macromolecular studies, and medicinal chemistry. Students must have strong mathematical, analytical, and research skills. They are often involved in both fieldwork explorations and in-lab studies where they examine and identify various elements and compounds. The field of chemistry is diverse, and many students choose to advance beyond an associate's or bachelor's to apply for research jobs and teaching within their field.

Job Description and Responsibilities with a Chemistry Degree

Chemistry degree programs afford students a chance to develop fundamental research and critical thinking skills, as well as a working knowledge of materials, compounds, and chemical reactions. Common job responsibilities of a chemist may include:

  • Extracting and examining compounds

  • Conducting field research

  • Reporting and analyzing data

  • Developing new materials as a material scientist

  • Working on production and quality control in a chemical manufacturing plant

  • Determining the structure and composition of various elements

  • Synthesizing elements or compounds

Almost all fields of chemistry involve the life sciences and a deep understanding of the nature of materials and compounds. Many are also involved with research, development, and the improvement of existing materials and compounds with new combinations.

What Does Chemist Training Involve?

The training allows students to explore a range of skills and procedures, and can take place in a lab setting to conduct experiments, or online where students walk through tutorials and presentations on each subject. Training may lead to a variety of specializations such as:

  • Polymer chemistry: the study of reactions, properties, and structure

  • Inorganic chemistry: the study of molecule elements

  • Biochemistry: the study of properties and structure

  • Organic chemistry: the study of carbon-based molecules

  • Analytical chemistry: qualitative and quantitative analysis

  • Physical chemistry: the study of chemical kinetics and electrochemistry

Specializations are often the second portion of any chemistry degree program, and offer their own set of classes in each concentration. Many honors students and researchers go on to specialize even further within their field, and can then apply the scientific method, processes, and knowledge learned from basic training in a variety of fields.

Types of Chemistry Careers and Job Options

After completing a chemistry degree program, students have many opportunities for a lifelong career in the study, research, and development of both organic and inorganic materials. Job options and rewarding careers include:

  • Lab Assistant

  • Quality Analyst

  • Recruitment Consultant

  • Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

  • Chemical Analyst

  • Product Technician or Product Support Analyst

  • Research Chemist

  • Chemistry Educator

Chemistry Education and Courses

A solid chemistry education begins with a background in science and mathematics. Students are encouraged to take advanced classes in physics, mathematics, biology, natural science and chemistry through high school and then move onto a 4-year college to pursue their education. Although associate's degrees are also available, job options and career opportunities are often limited to assistant positions and teacher's aides. Students who wish to grow in the field of research and study for a PhD will need to take advanced courses for a bachelor's or master's chemistry degree.

Common courses available with a chemistry degree include:

  • Biology and Molecular Biology

  • Genetics

  • Calculus

  • Microbiology

  • Physical Chemistry

  • Inorganic Chemistry

  • Principles of Organic Chemistry

  • Biochemistry

A comprehensive training program is a balance of in-lab instruction and written coursework. Students who choose to pursue a chemistry degree online may be required to perform lab experiments and other hands-on applications on their own time, and it is an invaluable opportunity to understand a real-work environment. With today's advances in technology, courses taken over the internet are also becoming a popular way to supplement or complete a chemistry degree program.

Pursuing a Chemistry Degree Online

An online degree program offers students the convenience and flexibility to finish their studies at their own pace, and even from a distance. Some online programs do require lab attendance so that students can learn the skills, techniques, and applications needed for a lab environment. However, today's technological advances with web-based learning allow students to take part in tutorials and simulations that can mimic lab training. This is an essential component of chemist training that provides students with in-depth studies and practice for their specialization.

Online chemistry degree programs also allow students to work in a collaborative work environment throughout their courses and related classes. Discussion forums, website research, and online reporting are just a few elements of an online chemistry degree that are limited with a campus-based program. Students who complete their degree online work with their instructors and students from around the country on a variety of projects.

A chemistry course taken over the internet offers a few other benefits over campus-based courses. These include:

  • In-depth research and analysis
  • Communication on innovative platforms such as discussion groups and bulletin boards
  • Collaborating with different students for each project
  • Direct access to lectures, examinations, and related chemistry course materials

Employment Prospects and Job Options

Job opportunities and careers focused in the pharmaceutical and medicinal areas look to be the most promising, as technology and research continues to advance at a rapid pace. Skilled and talented chemists are needed to continue researching, identifying, and analyzing new compounds and those with at least a bachelor's degree in their specialization can look forward to long-term opportunities. Still, employment of chemists is expected to grow slower than average through 2014. The most attractive chemistry careers can be found in biotechnological research, pharmaceutical companies, and R&D service firms for product development.

Median annual earnings of chemists were $56,060 in 2004, with higher salaries for those with advanced education and experience. Related occupations include:

  • Medical scientists

  • Biological scientists

  • Science Technicians

  • Agricultural and Food Scientists

  • Physicists


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