How to Become an Organic Chemist

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Organic chemistry is a chemistry discipline that studies chemical compounds that are the building blocks of a variety of living organisms. Organic chemists are professionals that study the chemical makeup of a variety of carbon compounds that are in all living things.


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What does an organic chemist do?

Organic chemists study and perform research on many different carbon compounds. They test and create new products for research, industries, and pharmaceutical uses. They are involved in the development of a variety of commercial products such as plastics, medications, and elastic substances. They create simple compounds or elements to develop new substances that have different properties. Organic chemists may also improve or modify current products that are used for organic purposes. Many organic chemists write procedures and create information for laboratories. Organic chemists that work in laboratories are responsible for maintaining laboratory and test equipment. Some apply their expertise to develop solutions for the medical, public health, safety, and manufacturing industries.

What kind of training does an organic chemist need?

Organic chemists typically need at least a bachelor degree in organic chemistry. A graduate degree is required for most research and management positions. The American Chemical Society accredits many organic chemistry programs. In addition to many organic chemistry courses, prospective chemists typically complete courses in biology, mathematics, physics, computer science, and statistics. Some prospective organic chemists complete internships while pursuing their education to gain practical experience in the field. Most employers provide new organic chemists with on the job training to enable them to learn the procedures and policies of the company. Organic chemists must stay up to date on current advancements in the field and often complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers.

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

Employment of all chemists is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2006 to 2016 (1).

Job prospects are expected to be good with some competition. Organic chemists with advanced education will have the best job opportunities. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace organic chemists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do organic chemists make?

As of December 2009, organic chemists with less than 1 year experience earn average annual salaries between $22,000 and $45,000. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $36,798 and $53,023. (2).

A career as an organic chemist is a great choice for people with a strong interest in organic chemistry and applying it to a variety of tasks. Organic chemists must have a strong knowledge of organic chemistry principles and must enjoy working with their hands to perform a variety of experiments and other duties. Patience, organization, perseverance, eye-hand coordination, and detail orientation are essential characteristics. Organic chemists must be able to effectively work independently as well as part of a team.

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