What Can You Do With a Chemistry Degree? [2024 Guide]

By Megan Patiry
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on April 14, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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What can you do with a chemistry degree? You might be asking this question if you’re fascinated with chemical reactions, the development of new substances, and the study of molecules.

What Can You Do With a Chemistry Degree

Earning a chemistry degree may lead to rewarding opportunities working with this central science that spans many sectors. From product development and manufacturing to environmental and forensic analysis, the opportunities for those involved in chemistry can be endless.

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Read on to find out what chemistry degrees are available and what potential career outcomes they may lead to.

What Can You Do with a Chemistry Degree?

People working in the Chemistry lab

Earning a chemistry degree may result in many diverse and exciting career opportunities. Chemistry degrees often feature concentrations to let you tailor your studies to your preferred career or industry.

Types of concentrations can include inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and theoretical chemistry, among many others. As a foundational aspect of scientific innovation, chemistry plays a role in a number of sectors, including:

  • Product, plastic, and chemical manufacturing
  • Petroleum extraction
  • Energy production
  • Pharmaceutical production
  • Forensics
  • Geoscience fieldwork

Chemistry graduates could also be valuable at wastewater treatment facilities, in the steel industry, in environmental agencies, and in the healthcare field.

Graduates with a chemistry degree may be able to work in a variety of different laboratory settings. Some chemistry professionals perform forensic analysis, provide toxicology reports, or conduct quality control analyses.

Those with a doctoral-level degree may conduct advanced research or teach at the university level. Some even move into government sectors and are involved in reviewing patent applications.

5 Things You Can Do with a Chemistry Degree

Earning a degree in chemistry can lead to a variety of chemistry degree careers in science, healthcare, and research. The five sample careers below are only the tip of the iceberg of a number of diverse options.

1. Toxicologist

Toxicologists preparing to run some blood testing

Toxicologists are responsible for testing various blood and tissue samples for the presence of certain chemicals, such as pharmaceutical drugs, poison, or alcohol.

Because of this, they are commonly found working with law enforcement and even in criminal cases to determine cause of death. They may also test other substances for the presence of toxic materials.

2. Quality Control Chemist

Quality Control Chemists testing some products

Quality control chemists are responsible for testing and monitoring the usage of certain materials in production processes.

This may take place in manufacturing and pharmaceutical fields where standards of chemical levels need to be met. Alongside this, they may also help develop new methods of quality control and testing.

3. Water Chemist

Water Chemist collecting ground water sample

Water chemists study and monitor the presence and levels of chemicals in various types of water, such as groundwater or drinking water.

A water chemist may be found testing the quality of water purification systems, where they determine whether the process is safe and effective. Water chemists may also help make projections about various water ecosystems to help meet certain regulations.

4. Geochemist

Geochemist reading a case study

Geochemists specialize in studying the movement and effect of chemical compounds on the Earth. This can include tracking the movement of certain compounds through water systems.

Geochemists may also study the effect of chemicals on mineral deposits and their makeup. They are often found working for environmental agencies or the government.

5. Chemical Engineer

Chemical Engineer working in the lab

Chemical engineers are responsible for developing production processes that utilize chemicals. This can include creating production methods that help manufacture pharmaceuticals, food, and more.

Chemical engineers may be found working in laboratories that are tied to pharmaceutical, fuel, or food development companies.

Online Chemistry Degrees

student taking Online Chemistry Degree

There are many types of chemistry degrees that can lead to a variety of different career paths, depending on your goals.

  • Associate’s in Chemistry. In an associate program, students will cover topics in applied research, organic chemistry, and chemical engineering. Earning an associate’s degree in chemistry can help prepare graduates to advance to a bachelor’s program or to several entry-level careers in the field. These entry-level chemistry degree jobs may include food science technicians, chemical technicians, and environmental science technicians.
  • Bachelor’s in Chemistry. A bachelor’s in chemistry expands into chemistry subdisciplines, such as inorganic chemistry, pharmacology, and biochemistry. This degree is designed to equip students with the practical training required for research and laboratory work. It can also help prepare them for graduate degree programs. Potential chemistry major careers include environmental specialist, chemist, materials scientist, and clinical laboratory technician.
  • Masters in Chemistry. A master’s degree in chemistry dives into more advanced chemistry concepts that deal with mathematics, research and development, advanced laboratory work, and life sciences. Graduates with a master’s degree may choose to pursue a doctoral degree, but many may also be qualified for advanced chemistry major jobs, like that of a biomedical engineer or natural sciences manager.
  • Doctorate in Chemistry. A doctoral degree in chemistry is designed to prepare students for advanced, complex laboratory work and to further their research, development, and leadership skills. Graduates may pursue careers in postsecondary teaching or research or enter advanced chemistry careers. Doctoral-level positions include biochemist and medical scientist.

The chemistry concentration and level of education you pursue will likely depend on your professional goals.

Chemistry Careers & Salaries

Chemistry Careers and Salaries

There’s a wide range of careers in the field of chemistry, which is why many chemistry majors choose a concentration or specialization.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median annual salaries for a number of chemistry careers.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Natural Sciences Managers $137,900
Chemical Engineers $105,550
Biochemists and Biophysicists $102,270
Materials Scientists $100,090
Medical Scientists $95,310
Geoscientists $83,680
Chemists $79,430
Postsecondary Chemistry Teachers $79,410
Forensic Science Technicians $61,930
Chemical Technicians $48,990

Salaries and qualifications for chemistry careers can vary depending on a number of factors, such as degree level, degree concentration, work experience, industry, and employer.

How to Know If a Degree in Chemistry Is Right for Me

Students taking Chemistry Degree

If you’re fascinated with the elements that make up matter and how they undergo reactions and create new substances, then you might consider a chemistry degree.

Here are some other clues that you may enjoy this degree path:

  • You are a problem-solver who enjoys hands-on experimentation (such as in a laboratory).
  • You are excited to learn about molecules, atoms, and their interactions.
  • You are considering a career in research, academia, or government.

This field can also be rewarding for those who want to have a positive impact on the world. For instance, a degree in chemistry might lead to careers involving manufacturing new medicines or researching environmental solutions.

Is Financial Aid Available?

Chemistry Degree Financial Aid

Many students seek financial assistance to complete a chemistry degree program. There are many types of aid options available, including federal aid, state aid, scholarships, and grants.

Scholarships and grants exist for different types of students across the country. Different awards might be based on need, academic merit, athletics, or area of study. Both federal and state governments may have a student loans and grant opportunities for students who qualify. Student loans often have lower interest rates than private loans.

To determine your eligibility for need-based aid, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

What Is a Chemistry Degree?

Quality Control Chemist checking some chemical substance

A chemistry degree is a degree that explores the structure and properties of existing substances and compounds. It also studies methods to develop new compounds and analyze chemical processes. It is designed to equip students with strong skills in laboratory work, research, mathematics, and life sciences.

Chemistry degrees may lead to entry-level positions as well as advanced positions in the field, depending on the degree level and specialization. Chemistry degree paths may focus on certain concentrations, such as environmental chemistry, organic chemistry, pharmacology, and more.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Chemistry Degree?

Chemical Engineer working in the lab

“What can I do with a chemistry degree?” The answer to this question may depend on your goals, education level, experience level, degree specialization, and a number of other factors.

Here are a few potential career paths related to the field of chemistry:

  • Chemical engineer. Chemical engineers focus on creating production processes to help manufacture products like food, pharmaceuticals, fuel, and more.
  • Toxicologist. Toxicologists test various blood and tissue samples for the presence of certain chemicals, such as pharmaceutical drugs, poison, or alcohol.
  • Chemistry teacher. Chemistry teachers may teach at the high school or postsecondary level, depending on their goals or level of education.

Chemistry degree holders can be employed in a number of settings, including laboratories, research facilities, universities, manufacturing plants, and more.

Where Do Chemistry Professionals Work?

Chemistry Professionals in the laboratory

Chemistry professionals can work in many diverse environments, depending on their specialization. A large number of chemistry professionals work in laboratories, where they help develop and trial pharmaceuticals and other chemicals to assist in various manufacturing processes.

Chemistry professionals can also be heavily involved in research, where they work with universities or in the public sector to help develop vaccines, provide forensic analysis, and more. Others work directly with the oil, gas, and energy sectors to help design and develop products and manufacturing processes.

What Are the Highest Paying Chemistry Jobs?

Highest Paying Chemistry Jobs

There is a wide range of chemistry career paths. The types of jobs you may qualify for will depend on several factors, such as your level of education, level of experience, and chosen concentration. Potential salaries can vary greatly as well.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the median salaries of some of the highest-paying chemistry careers:

  • Chemical Engineers — $105,550
  • Materials Scientists — $100,090
  • Medical Scientists — $95,310
  • Postsecondary Chemistry Teachers — $79,410

Postsecondary teachers and medical scientists generally hold doctoral degrees, while chemical engineers and materials scientists may hold bachelors or masters degrees.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Chemist?

Medical Scientists working in the lab

A chemist is a scientist who conducts research and experiments in order to help manufacture specific products and processes, such as cosmetics, medicine, and oil refining techniques.

Entry-level positions as a chemist usually require a bachelor’s degree at minimum, though some employers require a masters. It can also be beneficial to complete a program that is approved by the American Chemical Society.

Chemists generally specialize in a certain area, such as organic chemistry or environmental chemistry. Those with a doctoral degree are often preferred for advanced positions with more responsibility.

What’s the Difference Between a Chemist vs. Chemical Engineer?

Chemists working on a substance development

While a chemist and chemical engineers both use concepts of chemistry in their work, their main focus differs in several ways.

  • Chemist: Chemists focus more on developing materials and processes and on analyzing the physical processes of substances to test theories. They are typically found in laboratories and classrooms.
  • Chemical engineer: Chemical engineers apply chemical discoveries and engineering science to create useful products and aid in the design and construction of machinery and plants. They can often be found in offices or in the field.

In short, chemists analyze and develop substances and processes, while chemical engineers put them to use through engineering principles.

Is a Chemistry Major Worth It?

Biochemists discussing inside the lab

Yes, a chemistry major is worth it for many students. Through a chemistry degree program, students are equipped with scientific knowledge and research skills that can span many sectors. These can include pharmacology, engineering, manufacturing, geoscience, and more.

The skills acquired in a chemistry degree program are highly valued across many sciences, so they can potentially lead to more diverse career opportunities. A chemistry concentration could also let you hone in on a specific specialty area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, life, physical, and social science occupations overall are expected to see 7% job growth over the next ten years.

Getting Your Chemistry Degree Online

student pursuing Chemistry Degree Online

Earning your chemistry degree online is a convenient way to get started on a potentially lucrative and rewarding career path.

You might be interested in pursuing a chemistry major if you’re passionate about the scientific process alongside molecule structures and the reactions between substances. Since chemistry is a major component of all sciences, chemistry professionals can be valued in many different fields.

You can start exploring accredited schools today to discover which available chemistry programs and concentrations best support your interests and professional goals.

Ready to start your journey?