Career outlook

What can I do with a degree in chemistry?

Chemistry, the study of matter and its transformations, is central to all sciences. Because chemistry is so fundamental, it is important to most scientists and professionals including biologists, engineers, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dentists, nutritionists, oceanographers and science teachers among others.

Students earning a degree in Chemistry will be prepared to think critically about important scientific problems, perform research and communicate their findings. Chemists understand the physical world from the perspective of the smallest building blocks called atoms, and this understanding is critical to many industries including pharmaceuticals, automotive, food, plastics and electronics.

Chemists are employed in industry, academia, government, non-profits and start their own companies. Furthermore, a chemistry degree is an outstanding platform from which to pursue further education in graduate school for chemistry or in medical school, law school or pharmacy school

Transferable skills

A chemistry degree develops skills in:

  • Critical thinking with respect to analyzing, synthesizing and presenting chemical information
  • Investigating the world via careful observations and the use of advanced instrumentation
  • Researching important problems through laboratory work and data analysis
  • Practicing the scientific method to create and test hypotheses

Some careers in chemistry

Chemists are employed by the chemical, pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries. In these jobs, they are constantly called upon to develop and patent new chemical compounds leading to products such as fertilizers, cleansers, adhesives, pharmaceuticals, fuels, plastics, synthetic fibers, inks, paints and personal care products. Hospitals, governmental agencies, police agencies, research laboratories, universities and high schools also employ chemists. Some chemists work in sales as toxicologists, instrument or computer specialists, science writers, patent attorneys or translators.

Career Median salary Market growth
Chemistry teachers, postsecondary $75,060 14% or higher
Quality control analysts $45,300 5 to 8%
Chemists $71,260 2 to 4%
Biochemists $82,150 5 to 8%
Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products $76,190 5 to 8%
Medical and clinical laboratory technicians $38,970 14% or higher

Source: O*NET Online, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration

For more information about the kinds of careers open to chemists, check out the College to Career page of the American Chemical Society.

Graduate study

A chemistry degree also provides a solid foundation for graduate study in:

  • Medicine
  • Law (patent)
  • Business

Medical school as a career goal

Chemistry provides excellent preparation for medical school. Not only is chemistry essential for the study of medicine but the acceptance rate of chemistry majors into medical schools probably exceeds that of majors in any other discipline. Chemistry is a demanding program regarded highly by professional schools. Besides, should you change your mind, a chemistry degree will lead to a rewarding, employable profession.

Notable people with a chemistry major