Postdoctoral Jobs in Chemistry

by Clayton Browne
A doctorate in chemistry opens the door to a wide variety of jobs.

A doctorate in chemistry opens the door to a wide variety of jobs.

A graduate degree is almost mandatory for career advancement in the natural sciences. While an undergraduate degree in chemistry is sufficient for most entry-level analytical chem lab or Q/A jobs, more senior positions, especially research-related positions, usually require a doctorate. It typically takes four to six years to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry, including an original research dissertation project, as well as four years to earn your bachelor's degree.

Medicinal/Pharmaceutical Chemists

Medicinal and pharmaceutical chemists research novel chemical compounds that can be developed into useful medicines. They typically work with other scientists such as pharmacologists and biomolecular engineers to create new drugs. Medicinal chemists also assist in the development of improved manufacturing processes to produce new drugs or known drugs more quickly or efficiently. They are often hired by academic institutions, public-private research consortia and pharmaceutical companies.

Inorganic Chemists

Inorganic chemistry is the study of molecules that do not include carbon-hydrogen bonds. Inorganic chemists are employed by public and private research labs to study the behavior and characteristics of inorganic substances such as ammonia and metals. They determine how to separate, combine or modify these substances so they can be applied in products such as superconductors or high-temperature ceramics.

Organic Chemists

Carbon-hydrogen bonds are such an essential part of chemistry that the study of molecules with C-H-bonds has grown into its own sub-field of chemistry -- organic chemistry. Organic chemists research and develop novel organic substances with unique properties and applications. They have developed products that are used in many commercial products, including pharmaceuticals, health and beauty products, and temperature-resistant and color-fast plastics.

Physical Chemists/Materials Scientists

Physical chemists study the basic characteristics of substances at the molecular and atomic level, especially how chemical reactions occur. Some physical chemists study how complex structures are formed, including how electrons interact in forming bonds. They frequently work with materials scientists and process engineers to research potential uses for new substances. Relatively few physical chemists are employed in the private sector, most work in academia or quasi-public research consortia.

Postdoctoral Fellowships

Some chemists who graduate with a doctorate choose to work in a postdoctoral fellowship for a couple of years to gain further specialized skills and develop their professional networks. The large majority of postdoctoral chemistry fellowships are academic appointments, but large companies such as Dow Chemical, Merck and Co. and Genentech do offer some postdoc fellowship positions.

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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