Does the idea of being a chemist conjure up memories of this?

Are you wondering if being a real chemist will bring you that much joy? Let's find out!

What Do Chemists Really Do?

Chemists develop new chemical compounds, drugs, and other products to solve problems in society.

In their work, chemists:

  • Create and study new formulations for substances such as drugs and material products that use chemical compounds

  • Improve on existing products and drugs

  • Collect data from their experiments, often using sophisticated technology and lab equipment

  • Interpret data from complex experiments and publish research about it

  • Often (but don't always) work in a controlled lab environment using protective equipment

Reads: Lab Safety. It's no accident. Person has a paper bag on their head and it's on fire.

Quiz

What is NOT something a chemist usually does during a normal day?

Be Special: Fields Of Chemistry

Most chemists specialize in a particular field of chemistry. A few of the main fields of chemistry are: 

  • Biochemistry: These chemists work with chemicals and reactions in living organisms. They might develop new technologies, tests, or drugs to improve the lives of all creatures, especially humans. 

  • Neurochemistry: As a sub-field of biochemistry, neurochemists work with the neurochemicals of the brain. They study the human brain to better understand thoughts, emotions, and behavior. 

  • Nuclear chemistry: Nuclear chemists focus on radiation, the energy that travels in waves or particles all around us. They might study the effects of radiation on living creatures, or how to safely store radioactive material using chemical substances.  

Other fields include: theoretical chemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, and medical chemistry.

Homer Simpson drops a piece of radioactive material and it bounces into his hazmat suit.

Does Being A Chemist Pay Well?

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In Canada, the average salary for a chemist is $54,765 (CAN).

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In the United States, the average salary for a chemist is $57,056 (USD).

Chemists may start with a Bachelor’s degree, but most chemists report that in order to progress in their career (and make more than the average salary), they need an advanced degree, often a Ph.D.

Will I Enjoy It As Much As Exploding Diet Coke With Mentos?

A career in chemistry is for you if...

  • Being precise and accurate are strengths for you

  • You LOVE data!

  • You have solid academic writing skills

  • You consider yourself to be resilient in the face of failure

  • You want your work to positively affect the outcomes of people's lives

Ada Yonath was the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Yonath is a biochemist whose work mapping the structure of the ribosome led to an understanding of antibiotic resistance and the creation of new antibiotics.

Picture of Ada Yonath, 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner, working in her lab.

Quiz

Which personality trait is best suited to being a chemist?

Or Maybe It's Not Your Cup Of Tea?

You may want a career outside of chemistry if...

  • You become easily bored by a repetitive work routine

  • You don’t like documenting or recording precise information 

  • You want to work outside 

  • Aren’t willing to pursue an advanced degree to further your career

bored to death yawn GIF by Rose McGowan

Take Action

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Does being a chemist sound like the right career formula for you? If so...

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This Byte has been authored by

SO

Susan Ogilvie

Instructional Designer