How to Become a Cosmetic Chemist: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a cosmetic chemist. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in cosmetic chemistry.

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Do I Want to Be a Cosmetic Chemist?

As a cosmetic chemist, you'll develop and test skin cream, makeup, perfume and other beauty products. You're likely to work on the research and development team of a cosmetic company. Because your duties will involve partnering with co-workers, it's important to be able to function within a team or take a leadership role when needed. You'll also need to follow established safety precautions to avoid injury when working with chemicals.

Job Requirements

To get started in this field, you'll usually need a bachelor's degree in chemistry or a similar science, along with research experience. The following table outlines the main requirements for cosmetic chemists:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree*
Degree Fields Chemistry or a closely related major*
Experience 1-3 years of experience in product formulation*
Key Skills Excellent oral and written communication; ability to solve problems, think analytically and work within a team; strong mathematical skills**
Computer Skills Familiarity with analytical, scientific, database, digital imaging and word processing software***
Technical Skills Ability to operate a variety of laboratory equipment, such as lasers and spectrometers***

Sources: *December 2012 online job postings, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***O*Net Online.

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

Entry-level positions typically require a bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related field, like engineering or physics. Chemistry degree programs include courses in organic, analytical and physical chemistry along with calculus and statistics. Students also gain experience with laboratory equipment and common computer software programs used in chemical and molecular modeling.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Entry-level workers can start their careers through fellowships, temporary assignments or lab technician positions at research universities or private cosmetic companies. This may involve working under experienced chemists and performing basic laboratory duties. With experience, candidates can advance to cosmetic chemist jobs.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. The Society of Cosmetic Chemists offers membership to chemists who hold bachelor's degrees or a valid combination of education and experience. Members receive access to annual conventions, educational programs and a journal featuring research developments in the field.

Step 3: Earn a Graduate Degree

Although not required for most positions, larger companies may prefer cosmetic chemists to have a master's degree or Ph.D. in chemistry. Several graduate programs allow students to concentrate their studies in cosmetic sciences, and some schools offer 5- or 6-year dual degree programs that combine bachelor's and master's degrees. Graduate-level chemistry coursework includes extensive research and studies of statistical analysis methods. A variety of advanced chemistry classes are also required. Cosmetic sciences specializations include courses in skin and hair care, color cosmetics, polymer chemistry and product development.

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