You’ve just earned your bachelor’s degree in the chemical science field or are a few years out of college. You’re starting to think about what comes next, and the choices can be overwhelming. So, where do you start? In this article, we’ll discuss steps to help guide you through career planning in the chemical sciences.
Assessing Your Interests and Skills
The average wage that graduates in chemistry earn is about $110,000 per year. It is higher than many other fields, making it a lucrative option for aspiring students. However, many subdomains within chemical science make assessing your interests and skills essential.
You’ll need to know what careers are available to assess your interests and skills. The following list describes the different types of skills, interests, and values that might be important for each career path:
- Technical Skills: These include knowledge of chemistry or other sciences and computer programming or other technical expertise that can be applied in the workplace. If a job requires these abilities, they should be highlighted in your resume and cover letter.
- Interpersonal Skills: These are social abilities such as communication and time management. These skills allow you to interact with others effectively at work or school.
- Organizational Skills: These refer specifically to organizational competence rather than leadership ability.
Exploring Career Paths
There are many different careers and job titles to consider, each requiring skills and experience. Some jobs require a bachelor’s degree; others require an advanced degree or certification.
Here are some career paths you can choose from during you career planning in the chemical sciences:
Academic careers are satisfying and rewarding. The job of an academic scientist is to teach, conduct research, and serve the community. Chemical science students who pursue academic careers must balance these demands with their interests and goals.
Academic scientists are responsible for teaching at all levels. These levels include introductory undergraduate courses, advanced graduate-level seminars, and specialized postdoctoral training programs offered by their institution.
Data shows that almost 30% of chemists work in academic settings. But to get a job in the teaching field, you need to be aware of everything in chemistry, from basic formulas to carbon-rich chemistry. That’s because you need to teach all of it to students.
You might have to teach even the electron configuration of elements in the classes for the introductory levels. Hence, remembering the basics is vital for a job in this field. A student might ask you about the electron config of copper.
In this case, it is not ideal to just answer that the configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s1 3d10. You also need to help the students understand how you determined the electron configuration of copper.
According to Proprep, you need to start by identifying the atomic number. Next, you must follow the Aufbau Principle, meaning the lowest energy orbitals will be filled first. The third step is to start filling the orbitals. And lastly, consider electron stability. Knowledge of these aspects will enable students to find out the electron configuration of any element on their own.
Also Read: Top 10 Marketable Careers in the World
Industry careers are often more stable but less flexible than academic ones. They also tend to have higher salaries and more opportunities for advancement. Hence, almost 36% of chemistry graduates from 2022-23 joined the workplace as chemical scientists, laboratory technicians, and business analysts.
If you’re interested in working for a company that produces chemicals or other products, consider the following:
- Skills needed: You’ll need strong communication skills and an understanding of how science can be applied to real-world problems.
- Types of industries: There are many different types of chemical industries. Some focus on research and development, while others manufacture products such as drugs or pesticides. You may work at an international company or something smaller, like a start-up.
- Pros/cons: Pros include better pay than most entry-level positions. Cons include lower flexibility because you’ll probably be working on a similar trajectory, which would benefit your company.
The research field is highly competitive, and you must be prepared to compete with other students for positions. Fortunately, there are many ways to prepare yourself for this process.
First and foremost, take courses that will help you stand out. You can take courses on organic and inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, spectroscopy, etc. Talk with your professors about what skills are relevant to your major and career goals so that you can plan accordingly.
Second, consider internships or summer research positions. These opportunities give you valuable experience while allowing time off between semesters so that it doesn’t interfere too much with coursework.
Analytical and Forensic Chemistry
Analytical chemistry is the analysis of substances. Forensic chemistry largely helps the legal system by identifying blood stains or determining how long ago a body was murdered.
However, analytical and forensic careers can be found in many industries, including education, research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and quality control. In California alone, almost 2,270 people are employed as Forensic Science Technicians. So, you can easily find a job in this field if you have the right skills.
A bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biochemistry will provide a strong foundation for entry-level positions in these fields. However, graduate school options are available if you want to pursue higher-level roles later down your career path.
Crafting Your Career Plan
Once you’ve identified the skills and experiences you need to acquire, it’s time to start exploring the job market. If your ultimate goal is to work for a particular company or organization, research their website for available positions.
You may also want to speak with someone who works at that organization. It will help you learn more about what kinds of jobs are available and how people get hired.
Once you know what jobs are out there, create a list of employers whose work interests you and start researching them further:
- What do they do?
- Where do they operate?
- Who works there?
- How many employees does each company have?
- How much money does each earn in revenue per year?
- Are there any trends that could affect future hiring needs within this industry?
Navigating the Job Search
The job search is an essential part of your career planning. Your resume and cover letter are the first things employers will see when they look at applicants. Hence, they must be well-written, concise, and attractive.
Here are some tips for writing a resume:
- Keep it brief; one page if possible, two pages at most. A longer resume may signal laziness or lack of focus on what matters most to employers.
- Use bullet points rather than paragraphs when describing your experience and accomplishments. This makes it easier for busy hiring managers to scan many resumes at once and find candidates who fit their needs.
- Make sure there are no spelling errors or typos. You don’t want to appear careless in any way during this process.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to career planning career planning in the chemical sciences or any other field. You can take your own way and time to plan your career in the chemical science field.
However, it’s important to remember that you should understand the entire process and work before selecting a career. This will ensure that you can stick to your work for a long time and build a rewarding career.