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California Occupational Guide Number 22
Interest Area 2


CHEMISTS study the composition, structure, and properties of substances and 
the interactions between them.  They search for new information about 
materials and look for ways to put this knowledge to practical use.  They 
apply scientific principles and techniques using specialized instruments to 
measure, identify, and evaluate changes in matter. 

Chemists are grouped into four main specialties:

Organic Chemists work with carbon and its compounds, most of which are 
substances originally derived from animals and plants.  These Chemists are 
responsible for developing many commercial products, including drugs, 
plastics, and fertilizers. 

Inorganic Chemists work with compounds of non-carbon structure, including 
most of the metals and minerals.  In the electronics industry, they work on 
ways to build solid state electronic components.

Physical Chemists concentrate on the study of quantitative relationships 
between the chemical and physical properties of substances.  These 
Chemists are helping to develop new energy sources.

Analytical Chemists examine the content of substances (qualitative 
analysis) and measure the amount of each component present (quantitative 
analysis).  Analytical Chemists also identify the presence of chemical 
pollutants in air, water, and soil.

Most Chemists are involved in either Research and development (R&D) or 
production.  In basic Research, Chemists seek new scientific knowledge of 
chemical properties or theories.  Chemists working in applied Research use 
their knowledge to improve and create new products.  In production, 
Chemists prepare compounds in the form and amount required for commercial 

More than 60 percent of Chemists work for manufacturers.  The majority of 
these work in chemical manufacturing.  Chemists also work in industries 
such as plastics, biotechnology, food, electronics, pharmaceuticals, 
paints, detergents, and cosmetics.

Academic institutions are the second largest employer of Chemists.  
Teaching is the most important function, but in most four year colleges, 
Research is also a high priority.

Career opportunities are also found in federal, State and local 
government.  Positions include forensic Chemists who work for law 
enforcement agencies analyzing blood, saliva, fabric, soil, and other 
substances; water quality Chemists who analyze treated and untreated 
domestic water supplies; and agricultural Chemists who study the chemical 
interaction of soils, fertilizers, insects, and animals.

Still other Chemists work outside the chemical industry in positions such 
as sales, patent law, computer programming, investment banking, writing, 
purchasing, and technical library work. 


Most Chemists work regular hours in well-equipped, well-lit laboratories, 
offices, or classrooms but may do some of their Research in a chemical 
plant or outdoors.  Chemists handle potentially explosive or highly caustic 
chemicals, although risks are minimal when proper safety procedures are 


The following information is from the California Projections of Employment 
published by the Labor Market Information Division and includes Chemists 
and post-secondary chemistry teachers.

Estimated number of workers in 1993                12,770
Estimated number of workers in 2005                17,870
Projected Growth 1993-2005                           40 %
Estimated openings due to separations by 2005       5,230

(These figures do not include self-employment or openings due to turnover.)

The number of Chemists will grow at an above-average rate through 2005.  
The job market has improved somewhat in the past few years.  Growth will be 
in Research firms, especially in pharmaceutical and biotechnology.  
Chemists with specialties in materials science, analytical chemistry, and 
food chemistry should have good opportunities.


Chemists' salaries vary considerably, depending upon individual experience, 
educational levels, nature of responsibilities, chemical specialty, and the 
industry and size of firm in which they are employed.  According to a 
survey by the American Chemical Society (ACS), the annual starting salary 
in 1996 for entry-level positions averaged $25,000 for college graduates 
with a B.S. in Chemistry; $36,000 for M.S. Chemists; and $45,000 for 
Chemists with a Ph.D.  Entry-level Chemists beginning in Federal service 
begin at approximately $23,000 a year.

Wages tend to be higher in private industry, lower in government, and lower 
still in high school, colleges and universities.

Chemists with a doctorate joining the California State University system 
can expect to start at around $30,000 and ultimately earn about $63,000 per 
year. The University of California system beginning salary for assistant 
professor is $39,600 annually.  A full professor can earn over $100,000 per 

Chemists working in private industry, education, and government enjoy 
outstanding benefits including paid vacations, life insurance, health 
insurance plans, and retirement programs.  Chemists in private industry 
may also receive bonuses.


The ACS Committee on Professional Training evaluates undergraduate 
chemistry programs and publishes a list of schools that meet their 
guidelines.  High school students who want to major in chemistry should 
take related science classes and four years of mathematics, including 
trigonometry.  Computer experience would also be an asset.

A bachelor's degree with a major in chemistry is normally the minimum 
requirement for starting a career as a Chemist.  A master's degree is 
usually required for jobs in applied Research and in two-year colleges.  
However, because of increasing competition for teaching positions in two 
year colleges, the number of instructors with doctorates is growing.  
Doctorates are required for many Chemists in administrative, managerial 
and basic Research positions in industry.  Chemistry teachers and 
professors at four-year colleges and universities must have doctorates.  
Much of their work week is devoted to doing Research.  Ten to fifteen hours 
per week is spent on teaching duties.


In private industry, Chemists with a bachelor degree have the opportunity, 
with experience and additional training, to advance to a more responsible 

The best opportunity for advancement, though, is through advanced degrees.  
Chemists with a master's degree usually qualify for applied Research 
positions and teaching positions in two year colleges.  A doctorate offers 
the best opportunities for higher levels of Research and four-year college 
teaching positions.


Graduates, who attend colleges with cooperative education programs that 
allow a student to study for a degree in chemistry and work at the same 
time, often begin their career working with the same company. Others join 
firms that they worked for during summer internships.  Graduates also find 
job leads through college placement offices and on-campus recruitment. 
Other sources for job leads come from professional directories and 
journals, classified ads, and personal networking.  The ACS offers a wide 
range of career services to its members and student affiliates, including a 
professional data bank, employment clearing house, and career placement 


American Chemical Society, Career Services
1155 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 872-4600


Chemical Engineers                                 No.   8
Medical & Clinical Laboratory Technologists        No.  17
Pharmacists                                        No. 159
Microbiologists                                    No. 168
Laboratory Assistants/Laboratory Techs.            No. 201


DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th Ed., 1991)
Chemist                                        022.061-010
Chemical Laboratory Tech.                      022.261-010
Chemist Water Purification                     022.281-014

OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System
Chemists (except Bio-Chemists)                      241050
Chemistry Teachers-Postsecondary                    312040

Source:  State of California, Employment Development Department,
         Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group,
         (916) 262-2162
Note:  This is NOT a job opening.  The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.   If you are searching for a job, go to:

California Occupational Guides

California Employment Development Department   >>   Labor Market Information   >>   More Occupational Guides