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

Specialty Areas
- Agricultural Chemistry
- Analytical Chemistry
- Biochemistry
- Biotechnology
- Catalysis
- Chemical Education
- Chemical Engineering
- Chemical Information
- Chemical Sales and Marketing
- Chemical Technology
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry
- Consulting
- Consumer Products Development
- Environmental Chemistry
- Food and Flavor Chemistry
- Forensic Chemistry
- Geochemistry
- Hazardous Waste Management
- Inorganic Chemistry
- Materials Science
- Medicinal Chemistry
- Oil and Petroleum
- Organic Chemistry
- Physical Chemistry
- Polymer Chemistry
- Pulp and Paper Chemistry
- R&D Management
- Science Writing
- Textile Chemistry
- Water Chemistry

Environmental Chemistry
Because our environment is so complex, environmental chemists always underscore the interdisciplinary nature of their field. Environmental chemists must be able to understand and use the terminology of a range of other disciplines, including biology, geology, ecology, sedimentology, mineralogy, genetics, soil and water chemistry, math, and engineering. They may be involved in analytical testing, new product development in the lab, fieldwork with users of chemicals, and safety and regulatory issues. Many opportunities exist to move into different areas of expertise, often outside the lab. Many chemists return to school to study public policy, law, or business -- applying their chemistry know-how in new ways. For example, knowledge of chemical processes is often vital for an individual who works in a corporation's regulatory affairs department and must ensure compliance with government regulations. Environmental management is becoming a popular career track. Students who hold degrees in environmental sciences are finding jobs throughout the chemical industry, often working alongside geologists, biologists, and chemists.   

Food and Flavor Chemistry
Food chemistry focuses on the chemistry of foods, their deterioration, and the principles underlying the improvement of foods for consumers. It applies chemistry to developing, processing, packaging, preserving, storing, and distributing foods and beverages to obtain safe, economical, and aesthetically pleasing food supplies. Few people recognize the science behind the food they consume. While food science involves chemistry, biology, physics, biochemistry, microbiology, nutrition, and engineering, the major portion of a food science curriculum is chemistry. Food chemists develop and improve foods and beverages; analyze methods of heat processing, canning, freezing, and packaging; and study the effects of processing on the appearance, taste, aroma, freshness, and vitamin and mineral content of food. These chemists also test samples to make sure foods and beverages meet food laws and labeling requirements and experiment with new foods, additives, and preservatives. Food chemistry encompasses everything from agricultural raw materials to consumer end-use products.   


Forensic Chemistry
A forensic chemist is a professional chemist who analyzes evidence that is brought in from crime scenes and reaches a conclusion based on tests run on that piece of evidence. A forensic chemist's job is to identify and characterize the evidence as part of the larger process of solving a crime. Forensic chemists rarely conduct any investigative work; they handle the evidence collected from the crime scene. Evidence may include hair samples, paint chips, glass fragments, or blood stains. Understanding the evidence requires tools from many disciplines, including chemistry, biology, materials science, and genetics. The prevalence of DNA analysis is making knowledge of genetics increasingly important in this field.


A wealth of information is buried in the liquids, gases, and mineral deposits of rock. Geochemists must understand this information and use it to make decisions about a range of industrial and scientific research applications. Understanding the chemical composition of rocks tells oil companies where to drill for oil, enables scientists to put together broad-based theories about the way the earth is changing, helps environmental management companies decide how to dispose of toxic or hazardous substances, and steers mining companies toward using natural resources with a minimum environmental impact. The geochemist collects and analyzes samples from abandoned mine land piles and performs leach studies to determine the geology or makeup of the rock and how the elements in the rock affect water. The scientist also tests waters that have come into contact with minerals in these waste piles to determine their acidity and metal content.


Hazardous Waste Management
Chemists in this field enjoy a wide range of careers. They are an integral part of teams of scientists responsible for identifying the presence of chemical pollutants in the air, water, and soil. Chemists also help design techniques that reduce pollution and remediate (clean up) problems caused by hazardous waste. Opportunities also include positions as chemical engineers and environmental engineers focused on waste management. Hazardous waste management is a fairly new field that dates back to the 1970s. As it evolved, many companies realized they would need to use rigorous scientific investigation to solve their environmental problems. As various government agencies began to issue and enforce waste management regulations, these organizations sought chemists who could provide the scientific knowledge necessary to comply with the law. Opportunities for chemists have been growing ever since. Chemists in hazardous waste management work for a variety of organizations including academia, government, and chemical companies. There are also companies specifically formed to provide hazardous waste management services, often in a focused area. For example, zero-discharge hazardous waste companies take in sludges -- mainly from industrial manufacturing processes -- which they clean or convert into new products, leaving nothing that must be sent to a landfill.


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

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