7 Jobs for Organic Chemists (With Salaries)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 22, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As you think about the career you want to build, you may find an interest in chemistry, and organic chemistry in particular. This field provides a lot of opportunity for someone who wants to experiment, analyze and develop as part of their day-to-day responsibilities. Working as an organic chemist, you may be able to create products, methods and technologies that will make advancements in a certain field, improve people's lives or secure a prosperous future for the environment.

In this article, we share what an organic chemist is and what they do, discuss the steps to take to become an organic chemist and provide a list of jobs for organic chemists.

What is an organic chemist?

An organic chemist is a scientist who studies carbon compounds in an effort to understand these molecules better and apply knowledge to different industries, like medicine, energy and the environment. Some responsibilities that organic chemists have include:

  • Performing research experiments to understand and analyze carbon-based molecules

  • Testing products to ensure public safety

  • Reporting on the status and results of their lab experiment

  • Training and managing laboratory technicians

  • Providing reports to different agencies, from government to environmental

  • Analyzing new compounds and research from other scientists and chemists

  • Writing proposals to secure grant money to pursue additional research

  • Developing new products, medicines, materials and more

  • Consulting with other scientists and chemists

  • Following safety standards to eliminate hazards and incidences on the job

How to become an organic chemist

If you believe you may want to pursue a career as an organic chemist, review these steps:

1. Obtain a high school diploma

Because becoming an organic chemist or working in a related career requires at least a bachelor's degree, it's important to first earn your high school diploma. Strive for exceptional grades, especially in subjects that are related to chemistry and science, including biology, calculus, physics and computer science. Consider taking advanced placement (AP) courses so you can start your college career with some valuable credits.

2. Earn a bachelor's degree

Even though many employers may prefer that candidates have a master's degree, some hire individuals who hold at least a bachelor's degree in the field. After high school, perform some research on the colleges and universities that you're interested in to see which have the program that fits your interests best. You may find that many schools offer general chemistry as a major instead of organic chemistry, specifically.

As a chemistry major, you'll likely need to take organic chemistry courses as part of your requirements, but you can also sign up for relevant electives to enhance your knowledge and expose you to new concepts. Explore the classes that have a requisite lab section, which can help prepare you for laboratory work in your career. During school, consider working as a lab assistant or studying under the advisement of a professor so you can gain experience and work alongside someone who may be able to write you a letter of recommendation for graduate school.

3. Complete an internship

An internship can provide you with even more hands-on experience in your chosen field. You'll learn more about the field of organic chemistry and work with professionals you can learn from as you build your career path. As an intern, you may have varied responsibilities like note taking, assisting with research and setting up experiments for organic chemists, but some organizations may assign you an internship project to complete and report on toward the end of your internship.

You can include the work you do in your internship on your resume as a way to showcase your experience and knowledge when applying for entry-level positions in the field.

Read more: How To Ask for an Internship: Steps and Tips

4. Apply for a relevant position

With a bachelor's degree in chemistry, you can explore working as an assistant researcher, quality control analyst or in organic testing. You'll likely be able to find a position that matches your interests and is within the industry you're most looking forward to working in, like pharmaceuticals or food science. If you want to continue to excel in your career, you may consider a master's degree or higher, and the work experience you gain at this stage can help you build your graduate school application.

5. Earn your master's degree

Depending on your chosen career path in organic chemistry, you may need to earn your master's degree in chemistry or organic chemistry to qualify for positions. Even if the roles you're interested in only require a bachelor's degree, having a master's degree can help you stand out from other candidates and may entice a hiring manager to contact you for an interview. With a master's degree in the field, you can work in an academic setting and pursue careers that are higher level with more responsibilities.

Read more: Tips for Choosing the Right Master's Degree Program

Jobs for organic chemists

Explore this list of possible career paths for organic chemists:

1. Organic chemistry professor

National average salary: $63,238 per year

Primary duties: An organic chemistry professor is responsible for teaching students about the subject through lectures, presentations and additional methods. They administer and grade exams, assign homework and projects, advise students outside of class and often serve as both the classroom and laboratory teacher. Chemistry professors may also perform scientific research and publish their findings.

2. Food scientist

National average salary: $65,160 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Primary duties: A food scientist studies food to understand its molecular makeup. They conduct studies and perform experiments to determine how a food grows, deteriorates and nourishes so they can develop ways to make food safe to consume and healthy for individuals. Food scientists also analyze different ways of preserving and producing food.

3. Forensic analyst

National average salary: $70,741 per year

Primary duties: A forensic analyst is responsible for analyzing crime scenes to help secure evidence that can convict suspects of a crime. They gather evidence like blood, hair and fingerprints, prepare reports for law enforcement and testify in court. Forensic analysts must also keep their workspace and equipment clean to preserve the crime scene and all evidence.

4. Environmental scientist

National average salary: $72,766 per year

Primary duties: An environmental scientist is concerned with preserving the environment. They work with policymakers, create methods for reducing waste, analyze samples from the air, water and soil, identify environmental issues, especially pollution, and develop industry standards to keep the environment and all inhabitants safe.

5. Materials scientist

National average salary: $78,790 per year, according to the BLS

Primary duties: A materials scientist is responsible for analyzing the chemical structure of materials to devise ways to improve or combine materials to create new items. They also perform tests on materials, conduct experiments and work with other scientists to develop products and techniques that support a client's needs.

6. Analytical chemist

National average salary: $81,189 per year

Primary duties: An analytical chemist conducts research to support product development and design. They create and test samples, report results, take measurements, interpret data and legitimize their results using various methods.

7. Pharmacologist

National average salary: $111,740 per year

Primary duties: A pharmacologist is responsible for creating and testing products in the pharmaceutical industry. They analyze different compounds, find ways to improve existing products, conduct experiments on a medication's use, oversee drug trials and write research reports. Pharmacologists also supervise laboratory staff members and follow safety regulations for the industry.

Read more: Learn About Being a Pharmacologist

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