Oil Chemistry Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Oil chemists work in the petroleum industry and assist in the extraction and refinement of crude oil, as well as the manufacturing and distribution of petroleum products. Learn more about education requirements, potential job positions and salary information. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Education Do I Need for a Career in Oil Chemistry?

Most oil and petroleum chemists who hold research positions in the petroleum industry hold a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). However, it's possible to find oil chemistry positions that only require you to hold a bachelor's or master's degree. Thus, enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in chemistry could get you started on your oil chemistry career. You could expect to take courses in math, physics and various subfields of chemistry, including organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. Additionally, you would complete laboratory sessions and complete a number of electives.

After obtaining your bachelor's degree, you could enroll in a Ph.D. program in chemistry or a Master of Science or Ph.D. program in chemical or petroleum engineering. An advanced degree in one of these fields, combined with an undergraduate degree in chemistry, could be especially helpful because you likely would acquire a strong background in theoretical chemistry, along with practical engineering skills that would be useful in the petroleum industry.

What Jobs Could I Apply For?

As an oil chemist, you could work for oil companies or refineries. For example, you might develop new and more efficient catalysts for use in the refining process or use chemical fingerprinting to investigate oil spills. You could also work for companies that produce chemicals used by the petroleum industry. Alternatively, if you have a background in polymer chemistry, you could work for a company that converts crude oil into polymer products, such as plastics or resins.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

Salary data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that chemists working in the field of oil and gas extraction earned an average annual salary of $101,090 as of May 2009 (www.bls.gov). The same report showed that chemists working in the basic chemical manufacturing industry earned an average of $71,210.

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