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 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 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.
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.
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.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Chemists and Materials Scientists
- American Chemical Society: Education -- Graduate Students & Postdoctoral Scholars
- Chemical and Engineering News: Finding A Chemistry Postdoc Position In Industry
- The Scripps Research Institute: Postdoc Positions -- Chemistry
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