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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzFkcba_ZzI.
Quick Facts: Chemists and Materials Scientists
2023 Median Pay $87,180 per year
$41.91 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 95,000
Job Outlook, 2022-32 6% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 5,800

What Chemists and Materials Scientists Do

Chemists and materials scientists research and analyze the chemical properties of substances to develop new materials, products, or knowledge.

Work Environment

Chemists and materials scientists work in laboratories, offices, and manufacturing facilities. Most work full time.

How to Become a Chemist or Materials Scientist

To enter the occupation, chemists and materials scientists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related field. However, they may need a master’s degree or Ph.D. for some jobs, such as research positions.

Pay

The median annual wage for chemists was $84,680 in May 2023.

The median annual wage for materials scientists was $106,160 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of chemists and materials scientists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 7,200 openings for chemists and materials scientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for chemists and materials scientists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of chemists and materials scientists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about chemists and materials scientists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Chemists and Materials Scientists Do About this section

Chemists and materials scientists
Most chemists and materials scientists work as part of a team.

Chemists and materials scientists research and analyze the chemical properties of substances to develop new materials, products, or knowledge.

Duties

Chemists and materials scientists typically do the following:

  • Plan and carry out research projects, such as development of products and of testing methods
  • Direct technicians and other staff in chemical processing and testing, including for ingredients, mixing times, and operating temperatures
  • Collaborate with engineers and other scientists on experiments, product development, and production processes
  • Prepare solutions, compounds, and reagents used in laboratory procedures
  • Analyze substances to determine their composition and concentration of elements
  • Conduct tests on materials and other substances to ensure that safety and quality standards are met
  • Write technical reports that detail methods and findings
  • Present research findings to scientists, engineers, and other colleagues

Chemists and materials scientists work usually work in either basic or applied research. In basic research, chemists and materials scientists investigate the properties, composition, and structure of matter. They also experiment with combinations of elements and the ways in which they interact. In applied research, chemists and materials scientists investigate developing new products or improving existing ones, such as medications, batteries, and cleaners.

Chemists and materials scientists use computers and other laboratory equipment for modeling, simulation, and analysis. For example, chemists may use three-dimensional modeling software to study the structure and properties of complex molecules.

Most chemists and materials scientists work as part of a team that may include physicists, microbiologists, and engineers. For example, chemists in pharmaceutical research may work with biochemists and biophysicists or chemical engineers to develop new drugs and with industrial engineers to design ways to mass-produce the drugs.

Chemists may work in interdisciplinary fields, such as biochemistry or geochemistry. They also may specialize in a particular field. The following are examples of types of chemists:

Analytical chemists identify elements and compounds in a substance to determine its structure, composition, and nature. They also study the interactions between parts of compounds. Some analytical chemists specialize in developing new methods of evaluation. Their research has a range of applications, including food safety and pollution control.

Forensic chemists aid in criminal investigations by testing and analyzing evidence, such as DNA. These chemists work primarily in laboratories but may testify in court as expert witnesses to explain the results of their analyses.

Inorganic chemists study the structure, properties, and reactions of substances that do not contain carbon, such as metals. They work to understand the behavior and the characteristics of inorganic substances, such as ceramics and superconductors, for modifying, separating, or using in products or for other purposes.

Medicinal chemists research and develop chemical compounds to create and test new drug products. They also help develop and improve manufacturing processes to effectively produce new drugs on a large scale.

Organic chemists study the structure, properties, and reactions of molecules that contain carbon. They also design and make organic substances for use in developing new commercial products, such as medicine and plastics.

Physical chemists study how matter behaves and how chemical reactions occur. From their analyses, physical chemists may develop theories, such as how complex structures are formed, and research potential uses for new materials.

Theoretical chemists investigate abstract methods that predict the outcomes of chemical experiments. Their specializations may incorporate different branches of computer science, such as artificial intelligence. Some examples of theoretical chemists are computational chemists, mathematical chemists, and chemical informaticians.

Materials scientists typically specialize in the material they work with most often. Examples include ceramics, metals, polymers, and semiconductors.

Work Environment About this section

Chemists and materials scientists
Chemists must wear protective clothing such as gloves and goggles when handling hazardous chemicals.

Chemists held about 87,100 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of chemists were as follows:

Chemical manufacturing 30%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 21
Testing laboratories 9
Federal government, excluding postal service 7
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 4

Materials scientists held about 7,900 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of materials scientists were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 36%
Architectural, engineering, and related services 12
Chemical manufacturing 11
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 8
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 5

Chemists and materials scientists typically work in laboratories and offices, where they conduct experiments and analyze their results. Some chemists and materials scientists work in industrial manufacturing facilities.

Chemists and materials scientists who work for manufacturing companies, especially ones with multiple facilities, may travel occasionally.

Injuries and Illnesses

Chemists and materials scientists may be exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain chemicals. They wear protective clothing, such as goggles and masks, and follow safety procedures to reduce the risk of injury or illness.

Work Schedules

Most chemists and materials scientists work full time. Occasionally, they may have to work additional hours to meet project deadlines or perform time-sensitive laboratory experiments during off-hours.

How to Become a Chemist or Materials Scientist About this section

Chemists and materials scientists
Laboratory experience through internships, fellowships, or work–study programs in industry is useful.

To enter the occupation, chemists and materials scientists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related field. However, they may need a master’s degree or Ph.D. for some jobs, such as research positions.

Education

Chemists and materials scientists typically need a bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related physical science field. Some jobs require a master’s degree or Ph.D. and work experience. Chemists and materials scientists with a Ph.D. and postdoctoral experience may lead research teams.

Undergraduate chemistry programs typically require a number of courses in chemistry, most of which include a laboratory component. They also require courses in a variety of other subjects, including math, biological sciences, and physics.

Some chemistry programs offer materials science as a specialization, and some engineering programs offer a joint degree in materials science and engineering.

Graduate programs in chemistry commonly include specialization in a subfield, such as analytical chemistry or inorganic chemistry. For example, those interested in doing pharmaceutical research may choose to develop a strong background in medicinal or organic chemistry.

Combined programs, which offer an accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemistry, also are available.

Training

Laboratory equipment in the workplace is expensive and may differ from the equipment available in university laboratories. As a result, chemists and materials scientists may receive training after they are hired, with experienced chemists and materials scientists demonstrating proper use of their employers’ laboratory equipment.

Laboratory experience gained through internships, fellowships, or cooperative programs in industry is also useful.

Advancement

Chemists may advance as they gain experience, typically by receiving greater responsibility and independence in their work.

Another path to advancement is through further education. For example, Ph.D. chemists may lead research teams and take on larger, more complicated projects as they progress.

Some chemists and materials scientists advance to become natural sciences managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Chemists and materials scientists need to evaluate the results of experiments to ensure accuracy in their research.

Communication skills. Chemists and materials scientists must be able to convey information clearly in reports and presentations for both technical and nontechnical audiences.

Interpersonal skills. Chemists and materials scientists typically work on teams and need to be cooperative. Chemists and material scientists who serve as team leaders must be able to motivate and direct others.

Math skills. Chemists and materials scientists regularly use calculus, algebra, statistics, and other math for calculations.

Organizational skills. Chemists and materials scientists must document processes carefully when conducting experiments, tracking outcomes, and analyzing results.

Perseverance. Chemists and materials scientists must persist in the trial-and-error demands of research. They must be self-motivated to avoid becoming discouraged.

Problem-solving skills. Chemists’ and materials scientists’ work involves posing questions during research and finding answers through results.

Time-management skills. Chemists and materials scientists usually need to meet deadlines and must be able to prioritize tasks while maintaining quality.

Pay About this section

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Median annual wages, May 2023

Materials scientists

$106,160

Physical scientists

$89,350

Chemists and materials scientists

$87,180

Chemists

$84,680

Total, all occupations

$48,060

 

The median annual wage for chemists was $84,680 in May 2023. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $149,550.

The median annual wage for materials scientists was $106,160 in May 2023. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $64,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $170,900.

In May 2023, the median annual wages for chemists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $128,020
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 103,130
Chemical manufacturing 80,840
Testing laboratories 63,730
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 60,630

In May 2023, the median annual wages for materials scientists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Computer and electronic product manufacturing $140,180
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 118,860
Chemical manufacturing 98,360
Architectural, engineering, and related services 85,840
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 82,010

Most chemists and materials scientists work full time. Occasionally, they may have to work additional hours to meet project deadlines or perform time-sensitive laboratory experiments during off-hours.

Job Outlook About this section

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Chemists

6%

Chemists and materials scientists

6%

Physical scientists

5%

Materials scientists

5%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Overall employment of chemists and materials scientists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 7,200 openings for chemists and materials scientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Demand for chemists and materials scientists is expected to stem from innovations in a variety of research areas, including nanotechnology and biomaterials.

Chemists will be needed to develop improved products and processes, such as new medicines and methods for ensuring food safety. Materials scientists will be needed to research and develop affordable, safe, high-quality materials for electronics, energy, transportation, and other uses.

Employment projections data for chemists and materials scientists, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Chemists and materials scientists

19-2030 95,000 100,800 6 5,800 Get data

Chemists

19-2031 87,100 92,500 6 5,400 Get data

Materials scientists

19-2032 7,900 8,300 5 400 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of chemists and materials scientists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Biochemists and biophysicists Biochemists and Biophysicists

Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes.

Doctoral or professional degree $107,460
Chemical engineers Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, physics, and engineering to design equipment and processes for manufacturing products such as gasoline, detergents, and paper.

Bachelor's degree $112,100
Chemical technicians Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians conduct laboratory tests to help scientists analyze the properties of materials.

Associate's degree $56,750
Environmental scientists and specialists Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health.

Bachelor's degree $78,980
Forensic science technicians Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence.

Bachelor's degree $64,940
Geoscientists Geoscientists

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth.

Bachelor's degree $92,580
High school teachers High School Teachers

High school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor's degree $65,220
Materials engineers Materials Engineers

Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a wide range of products.

Bachelor's degree $104,100
Natural sciences managers Natural Sciences Managers

Natural sciences managers plan, supervise, or coordinate research and other activities in fields such as life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, and statistics.

Bachelor's degree $157,740
Postsecondary teachers Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $84,380

Contacts for More Information About this section

For information on career opportunities, earnings, and education for chemists and materials scientists, visit

American Chemical Society

American Chemistry Council

ASM International

Materials Research Society

For more information about certified degree programs in chemistry, visit

American Chemical Society Committee on Professional Training

For information about academic programs in green chemistry, visit

American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Academic Programs

To find job openings for chemists and materials scientists in the federal government, visit

USAJOBS

CareerOneStop

For a career video on chemists, visit

Chemists

O*NET

Chemists

Materials Scientists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Chemists and Materials Scientists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/chemists-and-materials-scientists.htm (visited May 01, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.