How Does It Feel To Work As An Analytical Chemist?

Science is fundamental to everyday life. As we uncover more about the effects of global warming, genetic engineering, and a myriad of other subjects, the role of chemists particularly that of analytical chemists is becoming increasingly important.

Analytical chemistry is a burgeoning field of science that gives practitioners plenty of scopes to be creative and uncover fascinating insights into the nature of substances.

What is an analytical chemist?

Analytical chemistry is a broad and active branch of chemistry that deals with the gathering, processing, and communicating of information related to the composition and structure of matter.

An analytical chemist
An analytical chemist

An analytical chemist is a chemistry professional who is responsible for performing experiments and conducting research to better understand the chemical elements of substances. They use their knowledge of chemical compounds to solve problems and research unknown chemicals using specialized laboratory equipment. They complete most of their work within a laboratory, though they might present their findings at a conference or they may travel to research sites to collect chemical samples.

Analytical chemists perform controlled experiments to explore the exact chemical components of a substance. Typically they will analyze various samples to discover what it is made of and how it reacts under certain conditions. Utilizing various pieces of specialized equipment and advanced software, data is collected and analyzed to determine possible uses for the substance. 

They must then write up complex technical reports detailing their findings. In addition, Analytical chemists may be required to work on research teams and collaborate with other experts to achieve their end goal.

Analytical chemist skills required

Communication

Analytical chemists possess excellent written and verbal communication skills so that they can convey the results of their research and experiments clearly with other professionals in their field. Since analytical chemists share their research, typically through scientific journals and research studies, they must have written communication skills that allow them to explain their hypothesis, the steps of their experiment and the outcome of their research. 

They must also use verbal communication skills when conducting experiments so that they can direct members of their team and answer chemistry questions as needed.

Teamwork

Teamwork skills are important for analytical chemists as they often work on a team of other science personnel while performing experiments or conducting research. Having excellent teamwork skills helps analytical chemists to foster a safe working environment and allows their experiments to run smoothly. 

Teamwork
Teamwork

Analytical chemists can use teamwork skills by actively listening to their team members while organizing experiments and being aware of where their team members are at all times to ensure they are safe while working with dangerous chemicals.

Research

Since a large part of an analytical chemists job is researching chemical compounds, they need to have excellent research skills. Having research skills as an analytical chemist means reviewing relevant information to chemical compounds, interpreting the information correctly and analyzing the outcome of research to understand how it relates to their experiments.

How to become an analytical chemist

Start with a bachelor’s degree

Earn a bachelor’s degree in analytical chemistry or a field related to chemistry, like physics or microbiology. While completing your bachelor’s degree, try to gain as much experience within a laboratory as you can, so that you can familiarize yourself with using laboratory equipment safely and wearing safety materials properly, like goggles and lab coats. 

To find opportunities to work within a lab while in college, contact your professors to see if they’re aware of any research opportunities or laboratory assistant positions.

Gain lab experience

Consider applying for internships to help you gain opportunities within laboratories. Internships can sometimes offer academic credit towards your college degree, and they give you the chance to work alongside other analytical chemists while they conduct experiments, analyze chemical compounds and develop their research. During your internship, you could observe the dynamic of team members while they complete experiments and produce research projects.

Gain lab experience
Gain lab experience

Continue to higher education

Completing a high education program will help you gain more knowledge and skills to advance in your career path. A master’s degree or PhD can show employers that you have extensive knowledge of analytical chemistry that can assist you while working in a laboratory. To find a higher education program that is the right fit for you, research colleges that offer master’s degrees and PhDs in chemistry fields

Networking

It’s important to fill your network with other chemists and science professionals to help you learn about research opportunities and laboratory jobs. Networking also allows you to communicate with other professionals about research topics and advancements within the chemistry field. To build up your network, consider joining professional organizations for analytical chemists.

Job outlook and salary

The average salary for an analytical chemist is roughly $81,000 per year, though this very much depends on location, employer, and level of experience.

Graduate starting salaries for analytical chemist jobs range from $20,000 to $35,000. With a PhD in a related field, it may be possible to start on a higher salary. For analytical chemists at a more senior level with years of experience, salaries are in the region of $50,000 to $80,000 per year. 

Place that analytical chemist work in

Analytical chemists are employed across a diverse range of industries in a variety of locations. One sector that commonly employs analytical chemists in the pharmaceutical industry. In this field, analytical chemists determine the shelf-life of a compound and ensure if the quality of a drug substance is suitable for use in clinical trials. Using a wide variety of analytical techniques, they check for chemical impurities.

Other major industries with an analytical chemist presence include research and development, food and drink, agriculture, forensics, healthcare, academia, energy, and government.