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Careers

What do chemists do?
Chemists study the structure and properties of substances and the interactions between them. They search for new information about materials and for practical uses. Overall, it is a great career with a lot of opportunities.

Some types of chemists are:
Organic Chemists work with carbon compounds to develop commercial products including drugs and plastics.

Analytical Chemists examine the content and quantity of substances. Analytical Chemists also identify the presence of pollutants in the environment. A field related to analytical chemistry is forensic science. 

Inorganic Chemists work with non-carbon compounds, including metals and minerals. In the electronics industry, they work on ways to build solid-state electronic components.

Biochemists study the principles of chemistry applied to living systems. A special emphasis is usually placed on studying diseases and searching for new medicines.

 

What do Southwestern chemistry graduates do?
Below are examples of what recent Southwestern graduates with chemistry and biochemistry degrees have done.

    * University of Kansas Medical School
    * Chemist at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in McPherson
    * University of Nebraska Dental School
    * University of Kansas and Missouri Schools of Pharmacy 
    * Forensic Scientist for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation
    * Pharmaceutical sales
    * Molecular biologist with Archer Daniels Midland
    * Environmental chemistry
    * Graduate school at Iowa State University

Wages

The salary of a Chemist depends on experience, degree, geographical location, and employer. Typical salaries from national surveys by the American Chemical Society are listed below. 

Highest Degree Obtained Median Starting Salary Median Salary
Bachelor’s Degree $40,000 $77,000
Master’s Degree $55,000 $85,000
Doctoral Degree $76,000 $105,000

 

Where do chemists work?
More than 60 percent of chemists work for manufacturers. The majority of these work in chemical manufacturing and the pharmaceutical industry. Chemists also work in industries such as plastics, biotechnology, food, environmental testing, paints, and cosmetics.

Academic institutions are the second largest employer of chemists. This ranges from major research universities to small teaching oriented colleges to high schools.

Federal, local, and state governments also hire chemists. Positions include forensic chemists who work for law enforcement agencies analyzing blood, saliva, and other samples; water quality chemists who analyze treated and untreated domestic water supplies; and agricultural chemists who study the chemical interaction of soils, fertilizers, insects, and animals.
 

Entrance Requirements and Training 
High school students who want to major in chemistry should take high school chemistry, physics, and four years of mathematics. Computer experience is also an asset.

A bachelor’s degree with a major in chemistry is normally the minimum requirement for starting a career as a chemist. A master’s degree is usually required for jobs in applied research and for teaching in two-year colleges. Doctorates are required for many chemists in administrative, managerial, and basic research positions in industry. Chemistry teachers at four-year colleges and universities must have doctorates.

Advancement, Graduate School, and Other Fields 
In private industry, chemists with a bachelor’s degree have the opportunity, with experience and additional training, to advance to more responsible positions. Another opportunity for advancement is through an advanced degree.

Students can obtain advanced degrees in chemistry from most major universities. A master’s degree typically requires two and a half years beyond the bachelor’s degree, while a direct route to a doctorate requires about five years beyond the bachelor’s degree. At most universities chemistry and biochemistry graduate students receive a salary of about $22,000 per year, health insurance, and no tuition charge in exchange for being a lab instructor and working in a research lab. In a typical doctoral program, students take advanced courses for the first year or two and then work on a research project for the final 3-4 years. After completion of the research project a thesis describing the work is written.

Chemistry and biochemistry is also great for students interested in professional schools such as medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy. Many Southwestern graduates with chemistry and biochemistry degrees have gone on to work in medical fields.

 

Want More Information? 
Feel free to contact the chemistry department at Southwestern by phone (620) 229-6339, by e-mail and look around the website.

More information regarding careers in chemistry can also be found at the American Chemical Society's Career Navigator.

 

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