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CHEM 1050: General Chemistry: Careers in Chemistry

Careers in Chemistry

Chemistry Careers In and Out of the Laboratory

A degree in chemistry opens doors to dozens of exciting and rewarding careers.  Here are just a few possibilities.

  • Get involved in product development, manufacturing, or quality control for companies producing anything from chemicals to pharmaceuticals to textiles.
  • Go on to obtain a MS or PhD in chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology, bioinformatics, pharmacology, or any other biomedical field, and take a leading role in medical research.  Design and test new drugs and medical devices.
  • Get involved in sales and marketing for chemical and pharmaceutical firms.  Companies are always looking for people with a strong technical background to market their products, and will pay top dollar for them.
  • Go into the field as an environmental chemist to study and protect the natural world.
  • Use your skills in interesting and challenging ways, from evaluating risk for insurance firms to restoring artwork for museums.
  • Work in law enforcement, in anything from forensic investigation to health and safety regulation.  Or work inside the political process at a government agency to help formulate policy on scientific, medical and environmental issues.
  • Pursue a career in patent law and help bring the next great scientific breakthrough to the market.  Or work in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to insure that inventors’ rights are protected.



Salary Information

Chemistry Degree

Median Starting Salary*

Median Base Salary (all chemists)**

BA or BS










*From Chemical and Engineering News, June 2, 2014, p.28.

**From Chemical and Engineering News, November 9, 2015, p. 30.


Chemists do sometimes have to change jobs or make career choices, but their skills are always in demand.  In 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate peaked at 10.1%; the rate for chemists and chemical engineers that year was 3.9%. (see S. L. Rovner, Chemical and Engineering News, Nov. 7, p. 34, 2011).  A skilled chemist is a valuable commodity.


Salaries for chemists are high, but do not do justice to the excitement of the field.  Science as it is practiced today is collaborative, and chemists have abundant opportunities to travel, to work with interesting people, and to present the results of their work in ways that have a profound influence on the world.  Science will shape the world of the 21st century, and you have the chance to be part of that process.

Medical School, the Chemistry Major, and You

Fiction #1:  Being a chemistry major will hurt my chances for medical school, because the hard courses may lead to a lower GPA.

Fact:  Students majoring in mathematics and the physical sciences (this includes Chemistry) have the highest medical school acceptance rate of any major:

Primary Undergraduate Major

Acceptance Rate

Mathematics and Physical Sciences (including Chemistry)


Biology and Health Sciences


Humanities and Social Sciences





Based on data for the entering class of 2018, reported by the American Association of Medical Colleges

Table compiled from data available at

Fiction #2:  Chemists have to take a lot of hard courses so they don’t have time to do volunteer work, research, and other activities that help with medical school applications.

Fact:  A student who has completed his or her requirements for medical school can obtain a chemistry degree with as few as five additional courses.  This leaves plenty of time for other activities.

Fiction #3:  If I don’t get into medical school, I may be stuck working in a lab all day.

Fact:  Chemists have enormous opportunities outside the lab.  Chemical and pharmaceutical companies desperately need managers and salespeople with chemical knowledge, and will pay top dollar for them.  Chemists also find work in finance, insurance, law, government and manufacturing.  Go to the American Chemical Society website on Careers ( and use the “College to Career” link.

Some other advantages of being a chemistry major:

  • Chemistry majors can receive credit for performing research work with a faculty mentor.  This means the time you spend on research gets you closer to graduating and your research experience appears on your transcript.
  • Chemistry majors get the skills they need to perform advanced laboratory work, so they can get better research positions, accomplish more and get stronger letters of recommendation from their mentors.
  • Thanks to generous donations by alumni, the Department of Chemistry is able to give out more than $10,000 every year in fellowships, scholarships and awards.  These are an aid to both the pocketbook and the resumé.
  • Brooklyn College’s first Rhodes Scholar of the 21st Century was a Chemistry major.

Career Resources