What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming a Chemist?

ChemistIf you have a knack for math and science and a desire to innovate new solutions to society’s problems, you might be interested in a career in chemistry. Chemists are the scientists who research substances at the atomic and molecular levels to learn about their properties, their components, their chemical structures and how they interact with other substances. These researchers create and test new substances used in medications, manufactured goods and consumer products. A college education is essential to beginning your career as a chemist.

Undergraduate Studies in Chemistry

The first step to a career as a chemist is earning an undergraduate degree. Bachelor’s degree programs in chemistry are sufficient to prepare students for entry-level jobs in the field, and they are ubiquitous at schools across the United States. These degree programs will usually include a mix of classroom lessons and laboratory experience. In the classroom, students will study physics, biology, mathematics and several disciplines of chemistry, including organic, inorganic, physical and analytical chemistry. Undergraduate chemistry students should expect to spend a good deal of time studying computer science, as well, so that they will have the skills to use databases and modeling software and to run electronic laboratory equipment. Throughout their science courses, chemistry students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through lab projects. They can also add to their skills, and their résumés, by completing internships.

An Advanced Chemistry Education

If you aspire to a research position, or if you want a leadership role in a research team, a bachelor’s degree probably won’t be enough for you to reach your ultimate career goal. You will have to earn at least a master’s degree, if not a Ph.D. for a research job and a Ph.D. for a leadership position, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A master’s or doctoral degree program will build off of the educational background you learned in your undergraduate chemistry studies while allowing you the opportunity to delve deeper into a subfield of chemistry. Popular research specialties include organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry and medicinal chemistry. You will present your research findings in your master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

The Versatility of a Degree in Chemistry

In addition to preparing you for a career in chemical research, chemistry also happens to be one of the top 10 best majors for indecisive students. The solid science background that a bachelor’s degree in chemistry provides is very versatile. Science professionals find work in a wide range of unexpected industries, from architecture and engineering to paint and rubber manufacturing and from petroleum oil and gas extraction to computer systems design.

A career in chemistry is a rewarding path. Not only do chemists have the opportunity to make a difference in medicine, manufacturing and the products we use on a daily basis, but they also earn a median salary of $73,060 per year, more than double the median salary of all occupations.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris