What’s a Chemistry Major? Your Guide to Pursuing Jobs in Chemistry


If you’ve been studying the sciences and find yourself enjoying and excelling in chemistry, you’re probably wondering if a chemistry degree is right for you. Just what can be done with a chemistry major? Chemistry graduates can find jobs in many industries in areas of research and engineering. Salaries range widely, so make sure you do your homework on which programs will be worth the time and money. Read on to find out what you’ll study in a chemistry major, plus what chemistry major jobs will be available once you graduate.



What is a Chemistry Major?


Chemistry student performing experiments in a lab
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Chemistry is the study of matter and its properties, reactions, and combinations. A chemistry study program can include topics such as organic or inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, and physical chemistry. Some degree programs will let you specialize in one area. If not, you may want to consider getting a minor as well, such as engineering, business, or law to hone in on one area and make yourself more employable.


To be admitted into a chemistry degree, there will likely be several prerequisites from the sciences. You will have to have a strong foundation in hard sciences including math and physics to be able to succeed in a chemistry major. During the major, you will take many chemistry classes of all kinds, and be prepared for a lot of labs. Science is all about experimenting!



Skills You Will Learn With a Chemistry Major

With a chemistry degree, you will gain many new skills. These include:


1. Ability to create and execute a research plan, including the experiment steps


2. Ability to analyze raw data and make conclusions


3. Application of scientific principles to real life events, projects, and experiments


4. Presentation skills for showing your work to others



Chemistry Major Jobs in Research


Chemistry research done by chemistry major student
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Research chemists work in a variety of industries, from commercial to health, as well as in government or university positions. In this type of job, you will be expected to record and analyze data, conduct tests and experiments, and set up/clean up labs.


You can work as a research chemist for universities, cosmetic companies, materials companies, public research, food and drink manufacturers, chemical companies, and environmental agencies. A master’s degree may be required for some research jobs.


Average Salary: $63,000



1. Chemical Engineering


Chemical engineering is a great option given the high pay and expectation for job growth. Chemical engineers design processes to produce or transform materials. They are technical problem solvers and creators and work within offices and labs and work in many different industries, as mentioned above.
Chemical engineers also have to have strong skills in math. Some employers will require practical work before, so an internship might be a good idea post graduation.


Average Salary: $105,000



2. Pharmaceuticals



Pharmaceuticals for chemistry major students
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Pharmaceutical companies are some of the largest employers of chemists. Pharmaceutical chemists create new medicines, test current medicines, find new ways to take medicines, and use research to find out which medicines work in different populations.


For this type of career, you may need to take multiple biology courses in college as well as studies in synthetic and analytical chemistry.


Average Salary: $53,000



Other Chemistry Major Jobs


Students studying chemistry
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One of the great things about getting a chemistry major is that chemistry can be used in almost any industry, so you get to narrow in on something you really enjoy doing.



1. Education


Some chemists may decide to go into education and teaching. In order to teach chemistry at the high school level, you will also need a teaching certificate. You may want to teach at other educational facilities such as museums or science centers. If you choose to teach in higher education, you will likely need more than a bachelor’s degree.



2. Law


Patent law is what chemists who are interested in law usually go into. Patent law for chemistry often involves intellectual property. The attorney can provide counsel and represent clients and protect their claims to innovations, copyrights, and product designs. Patent lawyers knowledgeable in chemistry can also help clients apply for patents and avoid patent infringement for new drugs.



3. Business


A successful chemistry graduate who is also business savvy, has taken business courses, or who is fascinated with innovation and entrepreneurship has a bright future ahead. Companies that use chemistry, biochemistry or chemical engineering hire chemist majors as business analysts. You could also start your own company that uses chemistry.



4. Government


Many federal agencies need to hire chemists. Some of the biggest government employers of chemists include the CDC, FDA, USDA, National Institute of Health (NIH), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These agencies may hire chemistry majors to do research, regulatory work or public affairs.



5. Environment


Environmental chemists study how chemicals move throughout the environment, in the soil and water. They also try to find possible outcomes of the chemicals on the environment, and on people and animals who use the contaminated water and soil. Consulting companies, remediation firms, and governmental agencies typically hire environmental chemists.



6. Forensics


Forensic chemists analyze evidence found at crime scenes. They usually need to apply areas of knowledge such as biology, materials science, and genetics to their work. Forensic chemists typically work for police departments, medical examiners, forensic services lab, or the FBI.



Studying Chemistry Online


University of the People student taking online course
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Studying chemistry online is possible, however the lab components may require extra considerations. Depending on the program, labs may be completed on campus, while lectures are online. For fully online classes, there may be online lab simulations, or labs completed at home. For more pros and cons of online school, check out our guide here.


For a fully online degree program in the sciences that requires no labs, take a look at University of the People’s bachelor’s and associate’s degree in health science. For this flexible, online, and tuition-free degree program, you’ll study topics in biology, psychology, epidemiology, anatomy, genetics, and more.


No matter what career you choose to get with a chemistry major, you’ll be sure to find one that perfectly suits your strengths and interests. Study hard and good luck!




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