Chemist Job Description
A chemist is a scientist with an expert knowledge of chemistry- the science of molecules and their transformations. Chemists perform experiments to study the make-up, structure, properties and reactive characteristics of chemicals and materials, and to develop new chemicals and materials.
A chemist should be curious, observant, methodical, analytical and persistent, and have the ability to handle chemicals. They should also have numerical and technical skills, and the ability to communicate effectively.
Famous chemists include Antoine Lavoisier (considered the father of modern chemistry), John Dalton (atomic theory), Dmitri Mendeleev (created the periodic table), Marie Curie (discovered Radium and Polonium), Alfred Nobel (invented the dynamite), and Joseph Priestley (Invented soda water).
Pursue a career in chemistry if you have aptitude for science and enjoy studying chemical elements and compounds and performing experiments with them in the laboratory.
What does a Chemist do?
Chemists may do some or all of the following:
- carry out research to study chemical substances and compounds
- develop methods and equipment to study chemical substances and compounds
- test chemical samples to determine their make-up and properties
- develop new chemical compounds
- work with industries to develop and advance chemical processes
- write research articles and reports
- teach chemistry to others
Where does a Chemist work?
Places of work for chemists include:
- Chemical Manufacturing Companies
- Chemical research laboratories
- Food research laboratories
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Cement companies
- Science Equipment Manufacturers
- Remediation firms
- Environmental consulting companies
- Publishing houses as science writers
- Government agencies
- Schools and colleges
Chemists usually work normal office hours, but may sometimes work evenings and weekends to finish up experiments or to meet project deadlines. They work in laboratories, classrooms, and offices.
Chemists are required to wear protective clothing such as lab coats, gloves and goggles when handling hazardous chemicals.
What is Required to Become a Chemist ?
To become a chemist, you will need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in chemistry or a related discipline. A PhD is required for administrative positions and to conduct independent research.
Secondary school students interested in studying chemistry should take preparatory subjects such as English, biology, physics, chemistry, algebra, calculus, and statistics.
Just to give you an idea, some of the classes that you’ll be taking in college may include:
- Ordinary Differential Equations
- Organic Chemistry
- Inorganic chemistry
- Bioorganic Chemistry and Lab
- Thermodynamics and Kinetics
- Solutions Chemistry
- Techniques in Chemical Experimentation
- Biological Chemistry
- Analytical Chemistry
A chemist may specialize to become any of the following:
- Biochemist – a scientist who studies the chemistry of living organisms
- Organic chemist – a chemist who specializes in studying carbon compounds
- Inorganic chemist – a chemist who specializes in studying compounds without carbon
- Nuclear chemist - a chemist who specializes in nuclear chemistry
- Physical chemist – a chemist who specializes in studying the chemistry of physical systems
- Analytical chemist – a chemist who examines chemical compounds to discern their nature
- Geochemist – a chemist who studies the chemical composition of the earth’s solid matter
- Material scientist - a scientist who studies the characteristics and applications of materials
Knowledge, Skills and Attributes
Chemists need to have:
- manual dexterity
- accuracy and precision
- creativity and innovation
- good memory
- good eyesight and normal color vision
- good attention to detail
- good hand- eye coordination
- good interpersonal skills
- good listening and communication skills
- good judgment and decision making skills
- analytical and problem solving skills
- observational skills
- time-management and organizational skills
- math and computer skills
- technical laboratory skills
- the ability to work well under pressure and concentrate for long periods
- the ability to use scientific knowledge to solve problems
- knowledge of chemistry and chemical compounds
- knowledge of how to use and handle chemicals and chemical equipment
Should I be a Chemist ?
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