Teaching allows you to share your passion for chemistry with others. Many educators say the most satisfying aspect of their work is helping to shape the lives and minds of students. Successful high school chemistry teachers are well-organized and disciplined enough to apply structure to a flexible-but-demanding teaching schedule.
Teaching allows you to share your passion for chemistry with others. Many educators say the most satisfying aspect of their work is helping to shape the lives and minds of students. It is important to feel enthusiastic about the subject, to be truly interested in students and their development, and to be able to make abstract principles come alive. Professors must be interested in expanding their own knowledge and working with students on research projects.
Chemical engineers translate processes developed in the lab into practical applications for the commercial production of products and then work to maintain and improve those processes. They rely on the main foundations of engineering: math, physics, and chemistry (though biology is playing an increasing role). The main role of chemical engineers is to design and troubleshoot processes for the production of chemicals, fuels, foods, pharmaceuticals, and biologicals, just to name a few. They are most often employed by large-scale manufacturing plants to maximize productivity and product quality while minimizing costs.
Art and chemistry have been linked since the day the first cave dweller smeared mineral pigments on a rock wall. Today’s chemists formulate pigments and dyes to precise specifications and ensure that they maintain their colors for decades. They develop polymers suitable for use in 3D printers. And they authenticate, preserve, and restore artifacts, from 1950s kitsch to 10,000-year-old cave paintings. Because many art supplies are made from toxic or hazardous materials, occupational health and safety is another career area for chemists.
Cheminformatics (sometimes referred to as chemical informatics or chemoinformatics) focuses on storing, indexing, searching, retrieving, and applying information about chemical compounds. Through his use of cheminformatics techniques—pattern recognition and data visualization—to create the period table, Dmitri Mendeleev (1834–1907) is often credited as being one of the earliest cheminformatics scientists. In addition to chemical names and formulas, cheminformatics specialists search for and retrieve information about physical properties, three-dimensional molecular and crystal structures, spectroscopic signatures, chemical reaction pathways, molecular functional groups and docking sites, and other parameters, some of which require advanced information storage and retrieval technologies.
A mysterious white powder, a blood smear, and a moldy ham sandwich—completely unrelated items to most. But they could be meaningful for forensic chemists, who analyze physical evidence and samples for clues to solve crimes. Television shows such as Bones, CSI, and Dexter have glamorized forensic scientists and made the field more popular, so competition can be intense. However, if you have a strong desire to shape the world of justice by using science to solve crime puzzles, then a career in forensic science could be worth pursuing.
Lawyers act as both advocates and advisors representing the interests of their clients and advising them about their legal rights and obligations. Whether acting as an advocate or an advisor, all attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the law to the specific circumstances and needs of their clients. There are also many opportunities for professionals to work in this field without attending law school or becoming a lawyer.
Water is one of the most versatile of all chemicals. It comprises about 75% of the Earth’s surface and is an integral part of every ecosystem—we drink it, play in it, and use it in a wide variety of manufacturing processes. Water chemists study the impact of water on other elements in these systems and vice versa. Water chemists also contribute to the design and implementation of processes and policies to manage areas of impact.
While public health professionals affect the lives of virtually everyone on the planet, many people have never considered public health as a possible career path. Much as a physician works with an individual patient to prevent and cure diseases, public health professionals work to monitor and improve the health of populations. They work at the community, neighborhood, city, state, or even global level.
Research and development (R&D) consists of three main activities: basic research, applied research, and development. Basic research is where it all starts: new ideas, fundamental theories, unanswered questions, and investigation into something that doesn’t quite make sense. The basic researcher is driven by curiosity and a desire to explore unknown territory. Some ideas pan out, some don’t, and that is all part of the process. Basic research includes theoretical research, but it also includes early-stage investigations in the laboratory or field.
Environmental chemists monitor what is in the air, water, and soil to study how chemicals enter the environment, what affects they have, and how human activity affects the environment. They monitor the source and extent of pollution and contamination, especially compounds that affect human health, and they promote sustainability, conservation, and protection.
While virtually every career requires good communication skills, those who truly excel at these skills may want to explore technical communication as a career path.
While both science journalists and technical writers create information about technical topics, the intended audiences differ. Science journalists take complex technical information and make is accessible for a lay audience (i.e. an audience that has no special or expert knowledge), while technical writers create documents to be read by other technical people. Technical editors work with the authors to make sure the subject, style, and level of detail are appropriate for the intended audience.
Have you ever called a scientific company to ask them how to use a particular product, or which product would best suit your particular needs? Has anyone ever visited your lab to repair or upgrade a piece of scientific instrumentation? The professionals who take care of these issues provide the technical support (information about how to use products) and technical service (maintenance and repair of instrumentation and equipment) that keep scientific laboratories running smoothly. These are the people to whom scientific researchers turn when they need help.
Scientists keep up with the latest research developments by reading scholarly journals and attending science conferences, but how does the general public receive this information? Most colleges and universities have public information officers (PIOs) who keep the public informed about research taking place at the university. PIOs issue press releases and newsletters, but they also help media outlets find experts on topics in the news. Sometimes, PIOs must locate researchers with a specific expertise on very short notice, especially when a breaking news story offers an opportunity to share the science behind the event.
Toxicologists study the safety and biological effects of drugs, chemicals, agents, and other substances on living organisms. They develop methods to determine harmful effects, the dosages that cause those effects, and safe exposure limits.
Quality management activities are those that ensure that a company’s products are exactly what they are supposed to be, that is, they meet all their specifications. Quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) are two of the main activities that are required to ensure a quality product. QA and QC are closely related, but they are different concepts. QA is a set of activities that ensures that development and/or maintenance processes are adequate in order for a system to meet its objectives, whereas QC is a set of activities designed to evaluate the developed products. Another way to look at it would be to think of QA as preventing and detecting quality problems and QC as detecting errors in the product.
Hazardous materials (hazmat) management chemists are an integral part of teams responsible for detecting and identifying chemical pollutants in the air, water, and soil. Chemists also help design techniques that reduce pollution and remediate (clean up) problems caused by hazardous waste. They help evaluate and coordinate the storage and handling of hazardous waste, the cleanup of contaminated soil or water, or other activities that impact the environment.
Health and safety professionals assist employers in maintaining a safe workplace and managing environmental issues. They look carefully for practices that may cause harm to employees, property, the environment, or the general public and provide advice on changes that will reduce the chances of adverse incidents that harm the environment or injure a colleague.
There are many specialties within the chemical safety field. In industry, these types of people are most often found in (EH&S) department.
A career in technical sales and marketing lets you combine your science and chemistry knowledge with your people skills and business expertise. Technical marketers and salespeople enjoy using their science knowledge to understand the business and technical issues their customers face and to offer appropriate solutions. Technical marketers can be involved in every phase of the product cycle, from market research and product concept and development, to packaging, shipping, and advertising. When purchasing technical equipment and solutions, customers expect their sales representative to be able to expertly discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different possibilities and to recommend the products and services that best match their current needs.
While scientists may perform hands-on chemistry, large projects also require someone who understands the science but can keep their eye on the big picture and balance all the competing aspects. Project managers are those people—they can communicate about the scientific aspects of the project, but their focus is on motivating the team members and planning, organizing, managing, and assigning resources so as to achieve a specific goal. As projects have gotten more complex and interdisciplinary, the project manager’s job has become even more important—to balance all competing constraints and achieve the end goal of the project.
Lab managers usually start out working at the bench, as a technician or scientist, and spend many years there. Over time, they may become more specialized in a particular technique, or may learn a broad variety of techniques. After gaining sufficient experience, they will be promoted to a lead or supervisory position—assigning tasks, offering guidance, and managing day-to-day activities such as meetings, attendance management, performance reviews, and so on. Since supervisors are generally promoted from within, instead of being hired from outside, they typically have a relationship with and the respect of those they supervise. Over time, they will acquire greater and more administrative responsibilities, including hiring, firing, budgeting, directing work in line with long-term goals, and ensuring the success of the organization.
Managers with a chemistry background work in a wide range of workplaces in the private sector, government, academia, or not-for-profit organizations. The balance between technical and scientific knowledge and business experience varies with the size and mission of the organization and the responsibilities of the specific position. Often, managers begin their careers as technicians or research scientists and take on increasing levels of managerial responsibility as they gain experience.
Chemical technicians play a vital role in a variety of industries by working with chemists and chemical engineers to develop, test, and manufacture chemical products. These technicians are highly skilled scientific professionals who are critical members of scientific teams that conduct much of the hands-on work that is required. Some technicians assist senior researchers in the laboratory, but many work independently to collect valuable information for review. Chemical technicians work in laboratories, making sure that processes are carried out safely, cost-effectively, and according to the highest professional standards.
Product development research is fast-paced since profits often depend on how fast the product can reach the market. This pressure does come with rewards, as industrial salaries are traditionally higher than other job sectors. The majority of industrial work is in product development (moving from proof of concept to marketable product). The main focus is on developing products that customers want at a reasonable price rather than expanding new knowledge or pursuing research.