Beyond those tainted walls of your school’s chemistry lab, there is a magical world of substances, compounds, and chemical transformations. This world will actually let you interact with names you saw on the periodic table your chemistry teacher showed you. Acids! Bases! Reactions! Yes, I’m talking about the world of chemistry. If you were someone who loved inventing new compounds with them in your school days, a career in chemistry is what you are looking for.
Though most of the chemistry lovers we know are into teaching, that’s not the only place where chemistry can lead you. In fact, there are many other interesting professions where you will actually get to experiment with different substances. If you are up for the challenge, I can tell you about a few career options you can take up in the future.
Do you know that plastic is made using oil? If you are hearing this for the first time, it might sound a little crazy. Let me tell you that it’s not magic, but chemistry. Raw materials undergo different chemical processes to become things that we use in our everyday life. Be it the paper you write or the glass you drink water from, everything is a product of a chemical transformation.
The masterminds behind making this transformation possible are called chemical engineers. They use concepts from chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology, and economics to efficiently use, create, plan, transport and transform energy and materials.
So, how to become a chemical engineer? Take up the science stream for HSE. Attempt JEE after passing. Then, get into any of the best institutions that offer BTech chemical engineering courses like the IITs or NITs. You will become a chemical engineer on successful completion of the program. Once out of college, you will find opportunities in many private and public organizations. Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, ONGC, etc are a few of the biggest organizations that hire chemical engineers.
Career in Chemistry: Biochemist
If you don’t mind a little bit of a mix-up between biology and chemistry, biochemistry is an interesting career choice. While general chemists work on all kinds of compounds and chemical reactions, biochemists deal only with those chemicals and processes that have something to do with living organisms. Let’s say they are more into biomedical research. Biochemists usually work in chemical laboratories or research organizations. They go deeper into chemistry at the cellular level. The knowledge they gain is used in genetic engineering, inventing pharmaceutical drugs, DNA therapies, and agricultural products
Now, how to become a biochemist? In India, anyone who has an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in biochemistry is a biochemist. Many prestigious institutions in the country like Ethiraj College for Women, Chennai, St. Xavier’s College, Ahmadabad, Jaipur National University offer programs in Biochemistry. But to advance in the field, you will need a doctorate or at least a postgraduate degree.
Career in Chemistry: Geochemist
A company believes that there is a huge oil deposit in an area. Whom do they consult to make sure that their belief is true? Most probably, a geochemist. These experts inspect the proposed area, study the physiological components of that land and passes on that information to the company.
If you are looking for a definition, geochemists are the people who study the composition, structure, processes, and other physical aspects of the earth. Let’s say they study the matter that the planet we live in is made up of. They often advise and support their clients who need such information for various needs. Geochemists are hired by research institutions, consultancies or energy extraction companies. They usually work for institutions that are into energy production like oil and mining companies.
Graduates in the field of chemistry will find entry-level jobs in research organizations and private companies. But masters or Ph.D. degrees along with relevant experience is mandatory to occupy higher-level positions in the field.
Career in Chemistry: Analytical chemistry
Have you heard of the chemists who look into different substances to identify and understand its components? They are commonly called analytical chemists. As the name suggests, they analyze substances or compounds to identify its chemical composition.
They perform tests on samples of various substances to understand what they are made up of and how will it react to other substances and conditions. This is done using advanced software and machinery. After identifying the possible uses of the substance under study, they make detailed reports of their findings for the institution that have hired them.
Analytical chemists usually find jobs in research institutions or R&D wings of private or government institutions. They may also be required to work with research teams that include scientists from other fields. Though a bachelor’s degree in chemistry will make an individual qualified for entry-level roles, masters or Ph.D. degrees along with relevant experience in the field is a mandatory requirement to occupy higher-level positions. An Extensive laboratory experience is necessary for advancement in this field.
Career in Chemistry: Pharmaceutical chemist
If you are a fan of home medicine, you must be knowing how salt reacts to a wound on your body. It is just one of the many examples we know of compounds reacting to our bodies. Pharmaceutical chemists are professionals who study this. They try to understand the chemical processes that take place when a living organism interacts with different substances or compounds. They use this knowledge to design, develop, analyze, evaluate and regulate new and existing pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceutical chemists are of two types, synthetic pharmaceutical chemists, and analytical pharmaceutical chemists. While synthetic pharmaceutical chemists research and develop new cost-effective drugs, analytical pharmaceutical chemists focus more on the testing and chemical analysis of new drugs, ensuring each product is suitable for public consumption and in accord with governmental regulations.
You can’t be a pharmaceutical chemist with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry. Masters and doctorate programs with a specialization in pharmaceutical chemistry is a mandatory requirement in most organizations.
Career in Chemistry: Toxicologist
Someone invented a tablet for fever. It can’t be made available in the market unless we prove that it’s not harmful to human beings. And here comes the role of toxicology. It is the study of the harmful effects of chemicals or substances on a living organism.
Not every substance available is good for our bodies. Some can be toxic. In the medical field, toxicologists ensure the safety of substances. According to ACS, ‘they study the safety and biological effects of drugs, chemicals, agents, and other substances on living organisms’. They are the experts who study a substance to explore its adverse effects on human beings and also to suggest ways to diagnose or treat the exposure to toxins.
So, how to become a toxicologist? An undergraduate degree in chemistry will introduce you to the basic concepts that come in toxicology. You can later specialize in toxicology for your postgraduate program or Ph.D.
Career in Chemistry: Forensic chemist
In investigation thriller movies, you often see guys wearing white coats roaming around the crime scenes with a lens in hand. They are called forensic scientists. The people who collect, preserve and analyze the scientific evidence during the course of an investigation.
Going by the definition provided by explorehealthcareers, ‘Forensic chemists analyze non-biological trace evidence found at crime scenes in order to identify unknown materials and match samples to known substances. They also analyze drugs/controlled substances taken from scenes and people in order to identify and sometimes quantify these materials.’ They usually work with federal organizations or research institutions.
So, how to become a forensic chemist? Again, an undergraduate degree alone won’t be of much help. You will need to do an MSc in chemistry or clinical chemistry. Only chemists with a doctorate will enjoy advancements in career. But don’t jump into it thinking that it’s all about excitement. The job role of a forensic chemist can be hard with repeated tasks, strict guidelines and work pressure
Career in Chemistry: Chemistry Teacher
Let’s be honest. We always end up here. Teaching is one of the most common career options chosen by students from almost all fields. This is true for students of chemistry as well. I don’t think there is any need to tell you what teaching is. So, let’s skip that and go to the ‘how to’ part.
You must be knowing that you can’t start teaching with just an undergraduate degree. If you’re planning to teach in school, a B.ed degree will be required. But even that won’t be enough to teach in college. You will need to do your masters and then clear UGC NET or do Ph.D. to become a lecturer in colleges.
So, these are a few career options available to individuals who love chemistry. Though you can take up entry-level roles with an undergraduate degree, it is recommended to go for higher studies. We hope the illustrated analysis has powered up your insights and widened your perspectives about the career options for chemistry lovers. Always remember that you make your own destiny. Make sure that you invest time and thought before making your life-changing decisions.