Take the Free Sokanu Career Test!

We've built the world's most comprehensive career test. Our questionnaire measures over 180 traits to match you against 500+ careers. Our mission is to help you find your calling in life.

Take the Sokanu Career Test

What is a Chemist?

A chemist is a scientist who researches and experiments with the properties of chemical substances. They measure the effects of chemical compounds in various situations and study inter-chemical reactions. A chemist will usually work as part of a larger research team, and create useful compounds for use in a wide variety of practical applications. Almost every industry benefits from the theories and chemical compounds brought about by research in the chemical sciences. A chemist also works to improve the quality of established chemical products and utilizes advanced computer programs to establish new technologies in the field.

How compatible are you with this career?

Would you make a good chemist? Sokanu's free assessment reveals your exact compatibility with this career, your strengths, and any unique areas of interest.

What does a Chemist do?

All chemists work with simple forms of matter to either reach a greater understanding of the chemical itself, uncover the elements of unfamiliar substances or create entirely new chemical compounds for use in a variety of applications. Chemists typically specialize in one of the sub disciplines of chemistry, the most prominent of those being biochemistry, neurochemistry, nuclear chemistry, and theoretical chemistry. There are even those involved in forensic chemistry who work with law enforcement to establish evidence in criminal investigations. Some of the sub disciplines are interrelated because of the complex and widespread nature of the field.

Biochemist -
Biochemists work only with those chemicals and reactions that occur in living organisms. Also known by its longer name, biological chemistry, the field covers all types of biomedical research. Biochemists delve deep and experiment with organic matter on a cellular level to produce new technologies in genetic engineering, pharmaceutical drugs, DNA therapies and even agricultural products. Human insulin, prenatal diagnosis of genetic conditions, DNA testing, and improvements in crop yield were all a result of the work of biochemists.

Neurochemist -
Neurochemists are biochemists who specialize in the area of neurochemicals, molecules and other elements present within biological nervous systems.

Nuclear Chemist -
Another subfield, nuclear chemistry, deals specifically with radioactivity and other properties and processes of nuclear matter. Nuclear chemists study the effects of radiation on living things in order to create medical treatments which will counteract or prevent negative outcomes on the cellular level. They may also aid in the development of new technologies to create or harness radioactive power. A nuclear chemist working at a power plant, for example, might study which chemical compound allows for the safest storage of radioactive material or investigate new and more efficient ways of extracting nuclear power.

Theoretical Chemist -
Theoretical chemists explore scientific ideas and theories in an attempt to more fully explain chemical reactions. Scientists in this field work with advanced subjects like quantum chemistry, molecular dynamics, statistical thermodynamics and quantum mechanics in order to develop solid theories which can be applied in industrial, medical and nuclear applications. The theories they formulate underlie modern technologies like DNA analysis, advanced medical treatments and new alternative fuels.

How to become a Chemist

The basic requirement for becoming a professional chemist is a bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related field. Computer science, physics, mathematics and biology classes along with coursework in organic, inorganic and physical chemistry equip future chemists with the knowledge needed for a successful career. Individuals with an undergraduate chemistry degree qualify for assistant, associate or other entry-level positions. Traditionally, they perform tasks related to quality control and testing of chemical compounds or directly assist senior chemists in their research.

More advanced positions in the field of chemistry require the completion of a master's or doctoral degree. Upon enrolling in an advanced degree course, students have the option of specializing in niche areas of the discipline such as biochemistry, nuclear chemistry or forensic chemistry. Chemistry students should be careful, however, since too much specialization can limit career options after graduation.

A chemist must also possess strong competency in computer science, since computers are used in almost every application to analyze data and create mathematical formulations relating to chemical research. In addition, chemists must exhibit strong interpersonal and team skills since most chemical scientists work as part of a larger group of researchers. Leadership skills and strong oral and written communication abilities are also important for success in this career field. Moreover, a chemist must be extremely analytical and demonstrate a high degree of dedication to their research.

What is the workplace of a Chemist like?

All chemists work indoors in laboratories and other controlled environments conducive to compromised research. They work with various types of scientific equipment, such as spectrometers and chromatographs, which allow the scientists to examine and evaluate chemicals and their compounds at a microscopic level. Chemists tend to work in teams and may have assistants or working students at their disposal. These apprentices perform more menial tasks so the chemists can focus on evaluating the results in order to create new theories and applications for chemical compounds.

Chemists typically maintain a regular work schedule and are largely self-managed during the work day due to the unpredictable nature of their work. They are employed by both governmental agencies and companies in the private sector. Some chemists work in college and university research departments and those with a doctoral degree may work in an educational setting, teaching students the fundamentals of chemistry.

External Reading

  • From Lab Minion To PhD: A Career In Chemistry blog.aftercollege.com

    Wondering what you can do with a science degree? We catch up with Dr. Stelling to delve into her career in chemistry and discuss what current students can do to improve their chances of working in science once they graduate.

  • Career: As A Chemist Coaching Managers www.chemistryviews.org

    Dr. Gaby Schilling, Coach for Scientists in Management Positions, spent many years working in industry after having gained her PhD in inorganic chemistry.

  • A Day In The Life Of A Computational Chemist exchanges.wiley.com

    Overwhelmed by chemists’ discoveries, I decided to study Chemistry. I discovered that today it is possible to build chemicals, study reactions, or even make drugs within a desktop computer by performing virtual experiments in a similar way as the typical chemists. This type of chemistry is called “computational chemistry”.

  • Careers In Perspective: Chemists Can Do Anything sciencecareers.sciencemag.org

    There's a multitude of less well-known career options. Here are the stories of four chemists who stepped off the beaten path and are thrilled with the opportunities they found.

  • Getting Started With Chemistry biocareers.com

    Let’s check the pulse of today’s economy and look at careers in chemistry. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of fields you can look into. The more carefully you match your skills to the market, the happier you will be in your new career.

  • Where Can Chemistry Take Me? chem.as.uky.edu

    Students often feel that they could never be chemists because scientists are "super smart." However, anyone who enjoys learning about the world around us can be a successful chemist.

  • Chemist Profile chemistry.about.com

    Here's a look at what a chemist is, what a chemist does, and what type of salary and career opportunities you can expect as a chemist.