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Maintained by Harry E. Pence, Professor of Chemistry, SUNY Oneonta, for the use of his students. Any opinions are totally coincidental and have no official endorsement, including the people who sign my pay checks. Comments and suggestions are welcome (

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Last Revised May 4, 2001


What Does a Chemist Do in Industry?

Most chemists who have a bachelor's degree begin their industrial careers at jobs that are described as "bench chemistry." These positions may involve either quality control or research activity. In either case, you would normally be working under the close supervision of someone with more experience. Quality control, as the name implies, involves the various task that are necessary to assure that a high quality product is being produced. This may require analysis of the starting materials, the final product, or some intermediate step. in the production process. It might also involve testing of the product to insure that it has the characteristics identified as important.

Research level bench chemistry positions are more likely to be concerned with the development of new products or with the modification of existing products to perform new tasks. Compared with quality control work, research is more open ended but equally focused on the need for results. Relatively few chemists remain at these entry level bench jobs for their entire careers, and many make the transition to other activities within a few years. The next level of position might be in sales, customer service, instrument support, or some related field.

Many companies support and encourage employees who wish to go on for further education as they work. Depending on the company, this support might include partial or full payment of graduate tuition, released time (with or without pay), or even a chance to do research on company time that will both serve the purposes of the company as well as be applicable to the research work need for an M.S. degree. If this possibility is important to you, be sure to discuss company policy during your job interview. It is also helpful to check the area around where you would be working to discover what institutions are nearby that would offer graduate work in chemistry. It is difficult to hold down a full-time job while going to graduate school, and so before you decide that this is a viable career path for you, think carefully about your own motivation and ability.

A summer research position or internship can be extremely valuable in preparing you for the job market. Be sure to look at the listing of summer chemistry positions on this site. Don't forget that a chemistry major can also provide excellent preparation for many other careers beyond just working in a lab. For more information, see the other careers for chemistry majors page. You may wish to next go to the page that describes how to find a job in industry.

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