Analytical Chemist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Analytical chemists examine chemical compounds to determine their construction. Their services are employed by pharmaceutical and environmental companies, among others. The job requires at least a bachelor's degree in chemistry. A master's degree or Ph.D. can improve an analytical chemist's job prospects.
Analytical chemists examine substances to determine their composition. They also look at how elements in a compound interact with one another. Their work is of paramount importance to the pharmaceutical industry, which requires information about the make-up and possible interaction of substances that might be turned into medicine. Their skills are also used in the field of environmental chemistry to detect chemical pollutants in the environment.
Analytical chemists typically work in laboratories, where they operate and maintain instruments such as spectrometers and chromatographs. They perform tests and other procedures on compounds to discern their nature. They design the procedures they employ and create reports on their results. Analytical chemists constantly look for ways to improve those procedures as well.
Analytical chemists often work in teams with other chemists and have to communicate effectively both with peers and superiors. Some analytical chemists work with hazardous materials and should keep aware of safety procedures.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most chemistry jobs require at least a bachelor's degree in the field (www.bls.gov). Many colleges and universities offer chemistry programs, which prepare students for study and research of the miniature world around us either at a graduate level or in an industrial context. Although chemistry programs typically aren't specialized at the undergraduate level, students can still take courses in analytical chemistry to prepare them for their future career.
The BLS reported that many research jobs in the field require at least a master's degree, if not a Ph.D. However, a January 2011 sampling of open job postings for analytical chemists on the website CareerBuilder.com indicated that many employees needed only a bachelor's degree from job applicants. Still, analytical chemists might undertake a master's program to further their knowledge in the field. Typically these curricula are research-intensive and may include writing a thesis. Often students at the graduate level can specialize in a particular field of chemistry, which allows for an in-depth study of analytical chemistry not available at the undergraduate level.
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