Chemist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Chemist, or Chemical Scientist, works in a lab conducting experiments on various chemical substances to create a new product or improve an old one. Their duties include examining the chemical make-up of different materials, performing quality control tests on current experiments and creating technical reports and papers on the specifications and outcomes of tests, products and processes.

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Chemist Duties and Responsibilities

Below are a few of the common duties and responsibilities performed by a Chemist:

  • Prepare compounds, test solutions and reagents to conduct tests and experiments, then advising and coordinating on test procedures
  • Determine the relationships of chemical and physical properties, composition, structures and reactions of organic and inorganic compounds using chromatography, spectrophotometry and spectroscopy techniques
  • Develop, improve and customize equipment, products, formulas, analytical methods and processes
  • Consult with engineers and scientists on analysis, interpretation and development of tests
  • Induce reactions to chemical substances with light, energy, heat and chemical catalysts
  • Document findings in technical papers and reports, preparing specifications and testing standards
  • Clean and maintain laboratory instruments and equipment, making sure that all the technology is working correctly, if it isn’t, troubleshoot the issue or problem. Conduct quality control tests to ensure no compounds or equipment are contaminated
  • Order laboratory supplies and chemicals, keeping an eye on expiration dates

What Does a Chemist Do?

Chemists typically work on research teams for certain manufacturing companies or educational institutions. They often conduct complex research and experiments to develop new products. They’ll also test various methods to help improve the safety or functionality of these products. Chemists typically create products like medications, cosmetics or synthetic fibers, but it often varies depending on their industry and the area they specialize in. 

Once they develop a solution to create or improve a product, they’ll test it to ensure it’s chemically safe for consumer use. They then build a comprehensive technical report and present these findings to other colleagues, like Engineers or Scientists.

Chemist Skills and Qualifications

A great Chemist has the following skills and qualifications:

  • Good communication: Good communication skills are key since a Chemist usually works with a team, thus, communicating with others effectively is crucial. Written communication skills are necessary for publishing findings. 
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving: A Chemist identifies problems and comes up with possible solutions. Before choosing a solution, they need to evaluate each option and chose the most effective solution. 
  • Time management: In Chemistry, there are many deadlines, so being able to manage time well to meet those deadlines is a key skill.
  • Analytical: A Chemist analyzes a lot of data, thus, having an analytical mind is essential to their success. 
  • Organizational skills: Keeping track of data and documenting all processes and finds calls for strong organizational skills. 
  • Patience and determination: Finding a solution can take a lot of effort, time, repeated experimentation and determination, all of these are key skills for a Chemist to posses. 
  • Scientific and numerical skills: A Chemist must be good at mathematics to correctly apply formulas in experiments and document them correctly. 

Chemist Salary Expectations

The average salary in the U.S. for a Chemist with 1 to 3 years of experience is $62,662 per year. This salary information has been collected from 1,269 employees, users and job posts on Indeed over the past 36 months. Depending on the location and job requirements, the salary expectation may vary. 

Chemist Education and Training Requirements

A Chemist must at least have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a similar field, such as engineering or physics. Employers may also prefer a candidate to have a master’s degree or Ph.D., especially for senior-level Chemist positions. Postdoctoral research, laboratory work experience and practical research experience are all useful and often required for an academic position. 

Chemist Experience Requirements

Experience requirements may vary from role to role. However, a Chemist with advanced education, such as a doctorate, can become a lead researcher or obtain another high-level position. Additional experience may include working on complex research projects. 

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Frequently asked questions about Chemists

 

What makes a good Chemist?

Great Chemists are analytical and should be skilled at reading facts, statistics and other data to apply toward their experiments. They must also already have a strong knowledge in science and chemistry, but should be willing to dedicate hours of research at a time to enhancing this knowledge and using it to improve their experiments. 

Many Chemists work in laboratories collaborating as a team, so experience working in this environment using communication and teamwork abilities is also beneficial when finding a great candidate.  

 

What are the different types of Chemists?

The type of job a Chemist pursues depends on what subject they specialized in and their scientific interests. Toxicologists are Chemists who study biological systems to determine how certain drugs affect their growth and behavior. They also study how other natural and man-made substances affect different living beings. Analytical Chemists examine various substances to determine the quantities of components present in each. They conduct further studies and experiments to determine how these components interact with one another. 

A Geochemist studies the Earth to determine which chemical and physical properties are present in each. They perform several experiments to learn how different rocks and minerals affect various soil and water systems. 

 

Do Chemists have different responsibilities in different industries?

Chemists can work in numerous locations testing and inventing new products for companies. Many work in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries developing and improving safe ointments, medications and other drugs that are safe and user-friendly for consumers. Others work in areas like energy or geology, studying how different chemicals affect the earth. Many work with oil and petroleum to understand the effects on the Earth and come up with renewable energy solutions. 

After conducting hands-on experience as a Chemist, some may decide to become Instructors at high schools or universities, teaching students how to use lab equipment to test certain experiments.  

 

What's the difference between a Chemist and a Physicist?

While both of these roles entail researching and conducting experiments, Chemists and Physicists both work in different areas of science. A Physicist studies the basic principles of matter and how they’re structured. Much of their focus is centered on atoms and their reactions with various molecules. 

Many Physicists work for universities and laboratories to develop and study big-picture findings to publish in academic journals, while most Chemists work for companies developing products directly for consumer use.

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