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Chemistry Overview - Preparation - Specialty Areas - Co-ops and Internships - Employment - Earnings - Profiles of Chemists - Career Path Forecast -Professional Organizations - PowerPoint - Podcast

Career Path Forecast
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of chemists is expected to grow 2 percent over the 2008-2018 decade, slower than the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur in professional, scientific, and technical services firms as manufacturing companies continue to outsource their R&D and testing operations to these smaller, specialized firms.

Demand for chemists is expected to be driven by biotechnology firms. Biotechnological research, including studies of human genes, continues to offer possibilities for the development of new drugs and products to combat illnesses and diseases that have previously been unresponsive to treatments derived by traditional chemical processes.

The chemical manufacturing industry is expected to employ fewer chemists as companies divest their R&D operations. To control costs, most chemical companies, including many large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, will increasingly turn to scientific R&D services firms to perform specialized research and other work formerly done by in-house chemists. As a result, these firms will experience healthy job growth. Also, companies are expected to conduct an increasing amount of manufacturing and research in lower-wage countries, further limiting domestic employment growth. Quality control will continue to be an important issue in chemical manufacturing and other industries that use chemicals in their manufacturing processes.

Chemists also will be employed to develop and improve the technologies and processes used to produce chemicals for all purposes and to monitor and measure air and water pollutants to ensure compliance with local, State, and Federal environmental regulations. Environmental research will offer many new opportunities for chemists. To satisfy public concerns and to comply with government regulations, chemical manufacturing industries will continue to invest billions of dollars each year in technology that reduces pollution and cleans up existing waste sites. Research into traditional and alternative energy sources should also lead to employment growth among chemists.

New chemists at all levels may experience competition for jobs, particularly in declining chemical manufacturing industries. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms will continue to be a primary source of chemistry jobs, but graduates with a bachelor's degree in chemistry may also find science-related jobs in sales, marketing, and management. Some bachelor's degree holders become chemical technicians or technologists or high school chemistry teachers. In addition, they may qualify for assistant research positions at smaller research organizations.

Graduates with an advanced degree, particularly those with a Ph.D., are expected to enjoy somewhat better opportunities. Larger pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms provide openings for these workers at research laboratories, and many others work in colleges and universities. Furthermore, chemists with an advanced degree will continue to fill most senior research and upper management positions; however, similar to applicants in other occupations, chemist applicants face strong competition for the limited number of upper management jobs.

In addition to job openings resulting from employment growth, some job openings will result from the need to replace chemists who retire or otherwise leave the labor force.

During periods of economic recession, layoffs of chemists may occur—especially in the industrial chemicals industry. Layoffs are less likely in the pharmaceutical industry, where long development cycles generally overshadow short-term economic conditions. The traditional chemical industries, however, provide many raw materials to the automotive manufacturing and construction industries, both of which are vulnerable to temporary slowdowns during recessions.

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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