Wondering “What can you do with a chemistry degree?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Lucky for you, however, Pete is here to walk you through just some of the major subfields chemistry has to offer.
So you want to major in chemistry, huh? I commend you. The road to your bachelor’s degree won’t be an easy one, and you’re sure to have many late nights of studying ahead of you – but trust me, the payoff will be worth it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chemists earned a median salary of $69,790 in 2010, with the top 10 percent bringing home more than $116,130. So the money will be good, but how exactly will you be earning it? What does a chemist actually do? Let’s find out…
According to Merriam Webster, chemistry is the science that deals with the composition, structure and properties of substances and with the transformations those substances undergo. Naturally, that makes a chemist someone who studies and/or researches these transformations and uses that understanding for a variety of different reasons, creating a variety of different sub-classes from which to form a career. So, what can you do with a chemistry degree?
Well for starters, you could become an analytical chemist. These guys investigate the chemical nature of substances and how they behave in different and certain conditions. This can mean anything from examining food products to find out what chemical they contain, to monitoring rivers for pollution.
There’s also organic chemistry. Organic chemists are involved in the study of the structures, composition and synthesis of carbon-containing compounds. They are readily accepted and employed by pharmaceutical, petroleum and consumer product industries – most commonly in the area of research and development (or R&D).
Conversely, you could become an inorganic chemist, or someone who studies the synthesis, structure and behavior of inorganic compounds. Like organic chemists, inorganic chemists are utilized across the board in almost every part of the chemical industry including environmental inorganic chemistry, food safety and inspection services.
Or you could be a medicinal chemist and apply the principles of chemistry to R&D in the medical industry. While the primary focus of a medicinal chemist is to create new pharmaceuticals, part of that job involves using medicinal agents in plants to create synthetic drug compounds.
Finally, physical chemists take the concept of chemistry and apply the techniques and theories of physics to the study of chemical systems. This special combination of chemistry and physics allows them to create entirely new materials and applications. For example, a team of physical chemists might develop bio-compatible materials in a unique way to serve as artificial skin.
Of course all these routes could also prepare you with the experience and education needed to join the ranks of a college professor, where you are growing and molding the chemists of tomorrow!
That’s all I have for this post. Congratulations again to all you future chemists on making your decision to become a part of this highly specialized field… Okay, that’s enough congratulating. It is now time to go out and discover exactly where YOU fit into the world of chemistry. Happy explorations!
Pete the Panther