Chemist Career Information
What a Chemist does
In fact everything in the environment whether natural or man-made, is composed of chemicals. Chemistry offers a wide field for study and work.
Let's explore options within the field of chemistry. Large number of industries depends on chemicals. For instance the drugs industry, food industry (chemicals are used as colouring, flavouring and preserving agents), the petrochemical industry (the largest producer of primary organic chemicals), the plastic and synthetic materials industry (used for manufacture of a wide range of finished products), the soap, cosmetics and cleaning agents industry, paints, coatings and allied products industry and the agrochemicals industry which manufactures fertilisers and pesticides are all dependent on chemicals.
Chemist may work in any of the following sub fields of specialisation:
Analytical Chemists are engaged in conducting chemical analysis of inorganic and organic samples to ascertain their composition, reaction and properties. The Analytical Chemists report their findings to medical or other authorities and conduct statistical analysis.
Organic Chemists work with organic carbon compounds and specialise in petroleum, dyes, rubber, alcohol, oils, natural fats, organic acids, pesticides, organic compounds and their polymerisation and precipitate products which include plastics and soaps.
Inorganic Chemists work with metals, acids, salts and gases. You can specialise in production of acids, salts, minerals, metals, etc.
Physical Chemists work with metals, ores, gases, and different chemical elements and compounds to ascertain their physical and chemical properties, radioactivity, structures, atomic and molecular weights, etc. As a Chemist, you can specialise in electrochemistry, thermodynamics, chromatography, etc.
Industrial Chemists are primarily engaged in testing samples from production lines.
Biochemist - The action of chemicals, both as a part of chemical reaction and its effect on living systems, is the concern of the Biochemist.
Specialisation: You can also specialise in other related specialisations such as polymers, foods, rubber, paints, petroleum and so on.
Research chemists investigate properties, composition, and structure of matter and the laws that govern the combination of elements and reactions of substances.
Development: Chemists are also engaged in developing processes that save energy and reduce pollution, such as improved oil refining and petrochemical processing methods. Research on the chemistry of living things result in progress in field like medicine, agriculture, food processing, and other fields. Chemical scientists also work in a variety of manufacturing industries such as electronics, photographic equipment, and pulp and paper mills.
Chemical research has led to the discovery and development of new and improved synthetic fibre, paints, adhesives, drugs, cosmetics, electronic components, lubricants, and thousands of other products.
Chemists engaged in research and development work with computers and a wide variety of sophisticated laboratory instruments. They test large quantities of chemical compounds simultaneously in order to find compounds with desired properties.
Chemists, involved in the field of applied research and development, create new products and processes or improve existing ones. For example, synthetic rubber and plastics was discovered from research on small molecules uniting to form large ones, a process called polymerisation.
The production and quality control departments in chemical manufacturing plants recruit Chemists. They devise the entire production process for plant workers that specify ingredients, mixing times, and temperatures for each stage in the process. Chemists also look into improving methods of production, maximizing product yield, testing samples of raw materials or finished products to ensure they meet industry and government standards, including the regulations governing pollution.
Chemists involved in production are often exposed poisonous chemicals. But there is little risk if proper procedures are followed. The work hours are pretty regular for chemists in offices as well as laboratories. Research chemists spend most of their time in laboratories. However chemists also do theoretical research or plan, record and report on their laboratory research which involves office work.
The field of chemistry offers both production and non-production jobs. Production work requires handling of raw material and managing the production process as well as operating highly technical equipments.
Non-production jobs have professional specialists, technical and managerial staff, marketing and administrative personnel. The chemical industry has executive, managerial, and administrative positions. Workers in sales and marketing departments promote the sales of chemicals and chemical products.
They work with research and development chemists and engineers to help them develop new products. They also create marketing plans and inform customers about the company products and services.
Chemists can work in the following fields:
• Graduate/postgraduates in chemistry can work in industries manufacturing textiles, petroleum products, rubber, tyre, plastics, agricultural products, papers, pharmaceutical, food, fertilizers, paints, cement and even in cosmetic and other aromatic product manufacturing industries. Jobs are mainly in their analytical process laboratories and quality control laboratories. One can also get involved in product development or basic developmental research in these companies.
• The electronic, paper and pulp, metal, cement and aerospace industries also offer employment opportunities for a chemist.
• Chemical scientists also find opportunity for work in water treatment, sanitary and sewage treatment plants.
• Food chemistry and technology incorporates the work chemists do in food flavouring, pet foods and food preservatives. These are the developing areas for research and production.
• Postgraduates/graduates from the field of chemistry work in sales, marketing and management, patent and product liability law, chemicals business market research and public policy. Those with a Ph D are encountered in research labs.
• Army recruits women candidates for the Army Service Corps as Food scientists. Candidates are required to have a post graduate degree in organic chemistry/biochemistry of foods. Graduates in chemistry are enrolled for the Army Ordinance Corps.
• Chemists and chemical engineers are employed in consultancy firms to provide specialist guidance in areas related to their research specialty.
• Chemistry researchers work in museums in art conservation and restoration, carbon-dating and in analysing the genuineness of artifacts through chemical procedures.
• Forensic chemists work in forensic laboratories for crime detection.
• Toxicologists are chemists studying the harmful influence of chemicals on biological systems. They find work in research organisations and University departments.
Career Prospects: Research and development is one of the most sought after and prospective career avenues for a chemist. It could be in any of the several industries like textiles, food industry, pharmaceutical, fertiliser, paint or cosmetic industry. In near future, most of the career opportunities will come from Pharmaceutical and Bioprocess industry like Food industry.
Chemists will also find increasing opportunities in diverse fields like Biotechnology, Leather processing, Sugar technology, Plastic engineering, Pulp and paper technology, Oceanography and other related fields.
With the manufacture and use of almost 50,000 different chemical substances, chemical scientists have a challenging future.
Abilities & Traits Required
If you plan on taking chemistry, as a subject for higher studies you need a strong grounding in the subject. For scientific work and study you require an above average mental ability, good grasp of scientific concepts, a consistent and above average academic record, analytical mind, interest in pursuing studies far beyond graduation, perseverance, hard work and a curious bent of mind.
As research and development chemists are expected to work with interdisciplinary teams, some understanding of business, marketing and economics, will be handy. Good oral and written communication skills will also help. Professional reading can be significant in this profession, as discoveries can change the understanding of the physical systems that are critical to this profession.
A bachelor's degree in chemistry will get you an entry-level job in this field. However, if it is research that you are aiming at then you should stop at nothing less than a Ph.D. Graduates can specialise in a sub-field of chemistry, such as analytical chemistry or polymer chemistry, depending on your interests and the kind of work they wish to do. For example, those interested in drug research in the pharmaceutical industry need to develop a strong background in synthetic organic chemistry. Graduates can also pursue pure sciences.
Chemistry graduates interested in the applied sector may choose from a variety of options like industrial chemistry, sugar technology, food technology, medical lab technology, pharmaceutical chemistry, paper and pulp technology, process instrumentation, textile chemicals, oils, paints, fine chemicals, dyes and intermediates, industrial polymer chemistry, etc.
In government or industry, beginners with bachelor's degrees work in quality control, analytical testing, or assist senior chemists in research and development laboratories. The best qualification would be a Ph.D. or at least a master's degree for basic and applied research. Ph.D. holders are the most likely to be promoted to administrative positions.
Environmental studies are another upcoming field. For that you need to take courses in environmental studies and become familiar with current legislation and regulations. Knowledge of computers is essential, as employers are looking for applicants who can apply computer skills to modelling and simulation tasks and operate computerised laboratory equipment.
For starters, the pay check may vary from anything between Rs 18000 - 25000 a month.
MNCs offer good pay-checks, ranging between Rs 25 000 to nearly Rs 50000 a month for people with brilliant academics, teamed with a good track record on the job.
Freelancing is another way of earning the big bucks. Usually, small scale Indian companies approach you with projects for which you have to come up with viable solutions not only on paper but practically as well. But for getting freelancing jobs, you need to have good industrial experience.
Chemists, employed by colleges and universities as lecturers, begin at Rs 18000-25000 a month.
As a consultant you could easily earn Rs 100000-150000 upward from the commencement of your project till the day it is actually realised.