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Planning Your Career

Life Beyond the B.S. in Chemistry

The options you will have upon completion of your B.S. degree in chemistry are quite numerous. The majority of our graduating seniors continue into professional programs and graduate school. A number of students enter the job market immediately after graduation with the B.S. degree. They are in an enviable position relative to some fields in that chemistry enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates of any major job market. The Cohen Career Center has information on career pursuits of chemistry alumni.

Where are these jobs located? Roughly 60% of all chemists in the U.S. are employed by private industry, 25% are in academia, and 10% are in government positions. Chemists are employed by many sectors of private industry: petroleum and natural gas; pharmaceuticals; electronics; paper; biochemical products; coatings, ink, & paints; plastics; food; basic chemicals; specialty chemicals; agricultural; rubber; soaps and detergents; aerospace; and metals & minerals. The Cohen Career Center provides extensive resources for career planning and job search. The American Chemical Society also provides listings of current employment opportunities.The specialty that one becomes familiar with can branch out beyond the traditional boundaries of chemistry, including such areas as polymer chemistry, computational chemistry, environmental chemistry, biochemistry, medicinal chemistry, materials science, biotechnology, clinical chemistry, and forensic science to name a few. The particular job functions can vary greatly depending on your goals, ambitions, and training. At the B.S. level, you can expect to be involved in research and development, quality control, production, or even marketing. Small companies tend to offer more opportunities for advancement to B.S. chemists. If you have an inclination towards teaching, then you will need an education certification (degree) to teach at the secondary level and in most cases a Ph.D. to teach at the college level.

The major obstacle is finding where the jobs are and taking the appropriate steps to be made a job offer. You may want to make a list of criteria that are important to you in reaching a decision for a prospective employer. This may include such things as location, desired salary, size and stability of the company, job description, opportunities for career advancement, etc.

Most employers do not want trained specialists at the B.S. level (this is generally true at the Ph.D. level as well), but would rather hire someone with a good working knowledge of chemical principles and techniques. They will typically pay for whatever specific training is needed. Your willingness to relocate for a job can be critical since research and industrial facilities are not usually mobile or widespread throughout all regions of the country.