Chemist: Educational Requirements for a Career in Chemistry
Chemistry is a wide occupational field that encompasses research and product development. Chemists are professionals who manipulate chemicals to produce better products or create new ones. Other careers in this field may include chemical technicians and chemistry professors.
Educational Requirements for a Career in Chemistry
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those entering the field of chemistry must complete at least some postsecondary education (www.bls.gov). Some positions in the field may require only an associate's degree, but to work as a chemist a person needs at least a bachelor's degree and for advanced work in the field, a master's or doctorate degree is required.
Associate's Degree Programs
A 2-year associate's degree program in chemical technology includes introductory courses in chemistry, physics and mathematics. Associate's degree programs usually include some work in the laboratory to give students hands-on learning with chemicals and basic lab procedures. Students may analyze chemical compounds, learn how to use laboratory instruments and study theories such as electrochemistry. Graduates may work as a chemical technician or chemist's assistant, analyzing various substances or performing quality control procedures.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
A bachelor's degree program in chemistry covers fundamental topics in the subject and provides instruction on molecular and material science. Aside from core courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, students may chose electives ranging from molecular biology to quantum mechanics. Educational requirements also include chemistry lab work such as spectroscopy and instrumental methods. Research projects are also usually part of a program and may involve working with electrochemical reactions, polymers and advanced organic chemistry.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chemist positions were projected to increase by 4% from 2010-2020, which was slower than average. The BLS also reported that those with advanced degrees like a Ph.D. should have the best job opportunities. Chemists made a mean yearly salary of $76,870 as of May 2012, according to the BLS.
Advanced Degree Programs
Careers involving advanced research, teaching and specialization in a field usually require completing a master's or doctoral degree program in chemistry. Typically, students at this level must complete an independent study and research project on a chemistry-related topic, like organometallic chemistry. Students may also be required to complete a thesis or dissertation, which may need to be defended in the form of an oral exam in front of a panel of professors.
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