Analytical Chemist: Career and Salary Facts
A career as an analytical chemist allows you to use sophisticated instrumentation to analyze the properties of matter, such as air, water and pharmaceutical drugs. Continue reading to learn more about the education requirements, job opportunities, typical duties and earning potential you might have in this scientific field. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Education Do I Need for a Career as an Analytical Chemist?
If you'd like to be an analytical chemist, you could enroll in a bachelor's degree program in chemistry. As a chemistry major, you could expect to take courses in calculus, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry. Additionally, you'll complete chemical laboratory courses.
Once you've obtained your bachelor's degree, you would qualify for many entry-level positions in analytical chemistry. However, because many employers require applicants to research positions to hold a master's or doctoral degree, you might choose pursue a graduate degree in chemistry in order to broaden your career opportunities.
What Jobs Could I Apply for?
Because analytical chemistry is useful in a variety of industries, as an analytical chemist you'll have many career options. You could work as a quality assurance specialist in the food, pharmaceutical or cosmetics industries. You could also apply for research positions with companies that manufacture and sell analytical instruments or biochemical assay kits. There, you might work on developing new instrumentation or assays that can more effectively detect the presence of a small amount of target compound, such as protein or DNA, in a more cost-effective manner.
Alternatively, you might choose to work for a federal agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency, where you would test food products and drugs for contaminants or air and water for pollutants. If you possess entrepreneurial instincts, you could also start your own consulting firm and offer services to other companies that need to have their products tested or their instruments calibrated.
What Job Duties Might I Have?
As an analytical chemist, you'll likely operate complex instruments to analyze the chemical and physical properties of various substances. Common instruments that you might use include high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) instruments, mass spectrometers, microscopes and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machines. You could also use computational and statistical techniques to analyze data and present the data in a fashion that clearly communicates your results to non-scientists.
What Salary Could I Earn?
Salary data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that, in 2009, chemists earned a mean annual wage of $72,740 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that chemists working for the federal government earned an average annual salary of $102,090 in 2009, the highest salary for chemists among all the listed industries.
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