Holding a Degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry opens up a wide spectrum of career opportunities. Obviously they are a requirement for entry into technical areas of industries one normally associates with these disciplines: pharmaceuticals, materials/polymers, biotechnology and personal care products. While there is great demand for individuals with these skill sets for the generation, formulation, analysis and testing of new agents in all these industries, one is not by any means “tied to the bench” by degree. Chemists and biochemists staff positions that run the gamut of alternatives from management to sales. Because these degrees are technically and intellectually demanding and are focused on training in discovery and problem solving, they are of appreciable value in many “non-traditional” settings, such as business, consulting, law and marketing. While industry employs the vast majority of degree-bearing chemists, ~75%, opportunities in education span from teaching at the elementary level to college and research intensive universities such as UMBC. Overall, the unemployment rate for chemists and biochemists is significantly below the national average.
Different jobs will have different degree requirements. There is significant demand for the chemists and biochemists bearing the bachelors degree and with experience such individuals can rise to significant levels in most industries, particular with a strong commitment and excellent interpersonal skills. The highest entry-level positions generally require an MS and/or Ph.D., and these positions command generally higher entry-level salaries.
UMBC’s Career Services Center offers undergraduate and graduate Chemistry and Biochemistry Students resources and assistance at all stages of their academic carreer. From figuring out what you can do with your major, to getting help compiling a resume or CV and interviewing to finding a part-time job while on campus or full time professional employment, CSC can help. For more details on using the campus’ online recruitment system, UMBCworks; to see who is coming to recruit science students this academic year; for individual help with your resume; or any other career related concern, visit CSC’s website, make an appointment, or stop by during walk-in hours in Math/Psych 212, Monday through Friday from 2:00-4:00. They also offer Evening Resume Critiques hours in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Atrium on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6-8 PM.
Furthering your education
Students should be aware, if they have an interest, that education toward advanced degrees (MS and Ph.D.) generally requires little financial commitment, as tuition costs are born by the Departments and modest but adequate stipend support is typically obtained as a teaching or research assistantship. Undergraduates should ask their major advisor about these possibilities if they have a strong interest.
As the Department at UMBC graduates students at all degree levels (BA, BS, MS and Ph.D.), UMBC chemistry/biochemistry alumni can be found in the whole spectrum of employments described above – from the pharmaceutical and food industries to investment houses and patent law offices to University faculties.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) is perhaps the very best place to start to familiarize yourself with the myriad career possibilities afforded those with degrees in chemistry and biochemistry. Membership in the ACS is not required to access the annotated informational links we’ve collected below, but membership can be quite useful in terms of actually finding the job you want when the time for that comes. The cost of membership for undergraduate and graduate students is ~$75/year. This avails you of access to the Society’s bi-weekly publication Chemical and Engineering News, which carries new job adds and career related literature with each edition. In addition, you have access to searching a larger database of jobs at the web-site and considerable assistance of the Society for employment-seeking members. Below are links to two important areas of the ACS website for career related information, but you can only follow most of the links if you are a member.
Finally, no matter what level you are working at, your advisor or thesis mentor should be able to give you some help with thinking about careers. Don’t be too reticent consult them!! (After all, you’re going to have to start knocking on doors sometime if you’re serious about a career.)
Other Society’s offer employment services, typically free to members, sometimes for a fee to non-members. The Biophysical Society is one such opportunity:
Other sources of interest:
(Warning: These links will take you out of the Chemistry/Biochemistry web-site)
A range of career areas of relevance to individuals with a degree in chemistry.
Chemical and Engineering News: Chem Jobs: Careers in Chemistry
Profiles of individual chemists including women chemists (2013).
Chemical and Engineering News: Opportunities For B.S. and M.S. Chemists
A nice overview of where and how BS and MS chemists can find traditional and non-traditional jobs (2013).
Chemical and Engineering News: Analytical Chemistry carreers
Chemists in Bio-fuel industries (2013).
Genetic Engineering News: Best Companies to Work for in Biotech
Career paths in biotech (2013).
Chemical and Engineering News: Industrial Biotech Gains Momentum
The growing Biotech industry (2009).
Chemical and Engineering News: Salaries And Jobs
An overview of employment and salaries (2013).
Chemical and Engineering News: Class of 2012 Starting Salaries
A report on starting salaries for chemists of all degrees (2012).
Chemical and Engineering News: Career Resources
Resources for finding a job (2013).
Scientific American: What does a PhD in Chemistry get you?
What to expect of jobs in more non-traditional fields
(not necessarily free and without endorsement)