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Becoming a Chemist

A chemist is a person who studies the composition and properties of chemicals and the way different chemicals interact with one another. They seek to find new information about matter and mass, and how this information can be applied to current theories and be put to use.

There are many different types of chemists in the world, some work in labs, some in nature, some experiment, some work on a computer, and some take a lot of surveys. Many chemists work for research facilities, some teach, some write theories, others test theories.

There are endless opportunities for chemists to find, and no two jobs are the same. In 2006, there were 84,000 chemists in the United States of America, and these numbers are only expected to grow in future years.

The fastest growing fields in chemistry are biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. There are also some great opportunities in food science, materials science, and analytical chemistry. As the general public is more involved in cures for disease, how to save the environment, and how to end obesity, these scientific fields are growing to support those interests and concerns.

There are many area of specialization for chemists. Organic chemists work with carbon and carbon-compounds. These can come from plants or animals, and are used to develop and research drugs, petrochemicals, fertilizers, and plastic materials.

Inorganic chemists deal primarily with non-carbon elements like metals, mineral and electronics. Analytic Chemists examine, research, and experiment with substances. They identify minerals, measure quantities, and evaluate physical and reactive properties of elements and compounds.

Physical chemists work in the field of energy research. They look at chemical and physical changes, and examine the relationships between matter and energy. Other areas of specialization include, but are not limited to, biochemistry, material chemistry, geochemistry, and medical chemistry.

In order to become a chemist, or any kind of professional scientist, one needs a college degree. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement, but to be a viable candidate in a job search, a master’s degree is preferred.

Graduating with a master’s degree allows you to qualify for research positions, or teach at a two-year college. A doctoral degree allows you to conduct research, teach at a graduate-level university, and be selected for management or supervisory positions.

Chemists are typically advanced and interested in areas of science and math. Trigonometry and computer technology skills are also helpful since advanced research is performed using complex technological tools.

Chemist typically make anywhere from $45,000 to $90,000+ a year. Private industry jobs pay more than government jobs, and research and development chemists are paid more than that of teachers.

Most chemists can work a typical 9-5 job in labs, offices or classrooms; but those who choose to work out in the field in places like the ocean, rivers, volcanoes, etc. can spend several weeks on location doing research and experimentation. The safety risks of this field of very low, even when dealing with hazardous materials because of safety precautions and training.

To receive your ideal job as a scientist, the best step to take is to get as much education as you possibly can in you field of study. This will better qualify you for high position and higher paying jobs right out of college.

More schooling gives you more advanced research skills, and a stronger knowledge of theories, principles and methods. After taking care of the education part, the only thing that can better prepare you is experience.

Most companies or facilities hire and promote based on job experience and training. The more experience you have, the more you will know about your field of study and how to do your job well and with efficiency.

To get your foot in the door as a student, offer to help any professor conducting research studies, or get an internship of a job at a local research facility or plant. This will allow you to get firsthand experience and gain knowledge of what it is actually like to work in the field.

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Jack R. Landry has worked since 1987 selling laboratory products and supplies to various labs and schools across the country. He has written hundreds of articles about lab supplies.

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Jack R. Landry