Chemistry is the branch of science that studies the behavior and interaction of elements. A Chemist’s job consists on investigating, analyzing, and assessing chemical reactions and their properties through the examination of components, molecules, atoms, and substances. Additionally, they study the way said compounds interact. Their work is set towards researching and understanding the behavior of elements and their chemistry in order to take advantage of their potential and practical uses, always aiming to improve people’s health.
Chemists may work in a wide variety of settings, from Cosmetic and Pharmaceuticals to federal institutions, but their most common workplaces are laboratories and research organizations.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Chemists are required to complete.
- Establishing and developing research projects about new compounds, products, or medications.
- Examining and assessing the chemical factors of components and elements:
- Creating and developing new compositions, as well as practical applications of chemical substances in order to upgrade old procedures;
- investigating the properties of elements, as well as how they interact and react with each other;
- using specialized tools and equipment (e.g. safety goggles, beakers, flasks, Bunsen burners ) to conduct several experiments;
- providing accurate results that comply with specifications of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), in-house, and regulatory requirements; and
- verifying that all mathematical calculations and results are accurate.
- Researching, analyzing, and testing chemical components for medical purposes, such as diagnoses and treatment of diseases and symptoms.
- Participating in the commercialization of new products by providing guidance and specifications to Publicists, when necessary.
- Contributing and associating with other professionals for research purposes so as to develop projects to further advance in the field of Science:
- Acting as technical consultants in a particular field of expertise; and
- overseeing, monitoring, and directing fellow professionals and co-workers on the appropriate handling and application of procedures and techniques.
- Keeping records of all activities using notes, logs, and data collecting instruments in accordance with applicable Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs):
- Overseeing, assessing, and analyzing records and work data to guarantee quality and effectiveness of practices based on standards and regulations set by qualified authorities.
- Submitting requisitions and supply orders for materials and chemicals when necessary.
- Performing the required preventive maintenance and calibration of laboratory equipment in order to ensure proper functioning:
- Contacting manufacturers and technicians when encountering malfunctions.
- Staying up-to-date on new and current practices in their fields of study.
- Complying with all established regulatory safety and health standards:
- Following the pre-established safety procedures for handling chemical components;
- studying all the compounds investigated in order to verify that they comply with all established specifications and regulations; and
- adhering to the strict hygienic and organizational standards and procedures, as well as ensuring all equipment is properly cleaned and stored when not in use, or otherwise disposed of, according to procedures.
- Performing routine chemical and physical analyses on the full range of samples in accordance with pre-established methods.
- Preparing solutions, compounds, and reagents used in laboratory procedures.
- Conducting several experiments in order to analyze and understand the behavior of different elements, as well as their reactions to one another.
- Analyzing substances to determine their composition and concentration of elements.
- Conducting tests on materials and other substances to ensure that safety and quality standards are always met.
- Ensuring that all tools and equipment are working properly.
- Collaborating with colleagues and other professionals when conducting experiments.
- Writing technical reports that detail methods and findings.
- Maintaining an inventory of the existing and needed chemical compounds, products, tools, and equipment.
- Presenting research findings to Scientists, Engineers, and other colleagues.
The average Chemist salary in USA is $54,610 per year or $28 per hour. This is around 1.9 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $38,000 while most experienced workers make up to $76,000. These results are based on 2,074 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding leadership abilities.
- Knowledge of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to create a clear and communicative environment with coworkers in the laboratory;
- being able to read and write technical reports and give presentations; and
- being able to work cohesively as part of a team.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner using critical thinking and good judgment;
- being precise and accurate in their analyses, since errors could invalidate their research; and
- determining if results and conclusions are based on sound science.
- Organizational and time management skills and great attention to detail:
- Avoiding disorganization in the workplace that can lead to legal problems, damage to equipment, and chemical spills;
- being able to work independently in a fast-paced environment;
- being capable of handling various projects with aggressive deadlines; and
- being able to prioritize tasks and responsibilities accordingly.
- High levels of discretion and integrity:
- Being trustworthy enough to handle sensitive/confidential information, especially when researching or creating a new product or medication.
In terms of education, candidates are usually required to possess a bachelor’s degree in either Chemistry or any other related field as a minimum requirement to work as Chemists. Some specialized positions will also require further studies such as a master’s or doctoral degree. Like all scientific professionals nowadays, Chemists are required to be proficient in the use of computers and specialized software so as to be able to effectively perform in their field of work. Moreover, employers always look for candidates with extensive and proven experience in the field; with the minimum being at least a year working in the area. Experience can be obtained at a university level, through internships or special programs.
As the field develops, it is extremely important for Chemists to keep up and evolve alongside methods, techniques, and instrumentation (e.g. laboratory equipment, materials, and instruments, as well as database systems and processing devices) used in research, analysis, and experimentation of chemical substances and matter compounds. They also need to be able to operate basic laboratory instruments and processes to generate data, including gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy (UV-Vis), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), osmometer, pH meter, viscometer, densitometer, and total organic carbon (TOC) analyzer.