How to Become an Analytical Chemist

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Analytical chemistry is a division of chemistry that studies with the chemical make up of natural and artificial materials. Analytical chemists are highly trained professionals that determine the structure, composition, and characteristics of a variety of materials. They are essential to the pharmaceutical and other industries.

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What does an analytical chemist do?

Analytical chemists study and recognize the various compounds and elements of a variety of substances. They help develop analytical methods and examine the interactions and relationships among the components of compounds. They also recognize if chemical pollutants are present in air, soil, and water and determine their concentration. Analytical chemists also sample populations of a variety of environments. They use many different chemical and physical methods to conclude the identity and concentration. Analytical chemists use their skills to develop new medications, evaluate the safety of food, create new scientific instruments, and provide instruction.

What kind of training does an analytical chemist need?

Analytical chemists need at least a bachelor degree in chemistry, analytical chemistry, physics, or other related field. Most employers prefer applicants with graduate degrees in analytical chemistry. Students complete many courses in analytical chemistry as well as various other chemistry, mathematics, and science courses. Many prospective analytical chemists complete internships or obtain part time positions in laboratories while completing their education to gain practical experience. Most analytical chemists choose an area of specialty such as environmental science, polymer chemistry, synthetic organic chemistry, and instrumentation design. Analytical chemists must stay up to date on the current advancements in the field and often complete continuing education throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as an analytical chemist?

Employment of analytical chemists is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increased demand for biotechnical and pharmaceutical research and technological advances will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good with strong competition. Analytical chemists with advanced education will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will arise from the need to replace analytical chemists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do analytical chemists make?

As of November 2009, analytical chemists with less than 1 year experience earn average annual salaries between $34,604 and $55,000. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $37,225 and $49,574 (2).

A career as an analytical chemist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in analytical chemistry and identifying a variety of materials. Analytical chemists must be able to interpret data and use complex problem solving strategies to develop solutions. Leadership, perseverance, detail orientation, and curiosity are desirable characteristics. They must also have excellent oral and written communication skills because they interact with many different professionals in the field. Analytical chemists must also be able to work independently and follow the necessary precautions to avoid health and safety hazards.

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