Careers in Chemistry
Opportunities in Research
Opportunities abound for chemists desiring careers in research. Of the nearly 200,000 chemists in the work force, roughly two-thirds are engaged in research. The majority of these are employed by the chemical, pharmaceutical and related industries, while a significant number are employed by academic institutions, and a somewhat smaller number by government.
About three-fourths of the industrial research is applied research, which is designed to find solutions to some specific need of society. For instance, products such as biodegradable detergents and fast-acting, short-lived insecticides were developed as a result of growing concern for the environment.
Industrial laboratories also conduct a significant amount of basic research, which is primarily intended to broaden our knowledge. Such research, however, often leads to the introduction of new marketable products. For example, new synthetic fibers, plastics, and polymers have been developed as a result of fundamental studies of large molecules in industrial laboratories.
Research conducted at academic institutions is generally fundamental in nature. Such research constitutes the first component of the unique, four-fold mission entrusted to universities - to create, assimilate, preserve, and transmit scholarly knowledge.
Federal, state, and local governments also hire large numbers of chemists for a multitude of needs. Environmental agencies, for example, employ chemists to a analyze air, water, and soil samples for pollutants. Transportation departments employ chemists to develop better road surfaces, while health and law-enforcement agencies employ chemists in investigative roles. Chemists in the federal government often work in areas of environment, quality control, national defense, fundamental research, and consulting.
Industry and governmental agencies hire chemists with bachelors, masters and doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees. Most administrative positions such as a project or group leader require the Ph.D. However, there are exceptions in which a chemist with a master's degree may take on considerable administrative responsibility. Advancement for chemists in the private and civil service sectors can be frequently achieved in administration. Therefore, chemists interested in advancement must develop their skills in communication, business and human relations as well as in chemistry.