How Do I Become a Physical Chemist?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Leigh
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2020
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Physical chemists study physical characteristics of chemical elements such as atoms, molecules and properties of matter. To become a physical chemist, it is typically necessary to obtain education in physical chemistry, research experience and experience working in the field. Jobs are available in physical chemistry at laboratories, research facilities, for the government and in academics. It is important to be knowledgeable in math and science, as well as to have extreme precision, to become a physical chemist.

The first step toward reaching this goal is to obtain an education in the basic sciences, particularly in the area of chemistry. High school classes should be taken in science and mathematics so that an individual is prepared to enter college as a science major. At least a four year degree is required for most jobs in the field of chemistry, but many research and academic jobs require a master's degree or a doctor of philosophy degree in chemistry. There are many college programs that have physical chemistry as an area of study, so attending school at an institution that focuses on this subject matter can be extremely helpful in future job searches.


As college students, chemistry majors often have access to various research opportunities while completing their degrees. Locate research opportunities that focuses on the area of physical chemistry to work with professors who are knowledgeable about the field and opportunities available after graduation. This may provide mentoring opportunities as well as the possibility of getting recommendations for jobs by professionals in chemistry.

Students can gain further experience in the area of physical chemistry by finding an internship during college. Internships are often offered at chemistry research facilities, labs and through schools and can help an individual eventually become a physical chemist. Doing this gives individuals references to use when searching for a job as well as the opportunity to learn more about the field..

Once an individual has completed school, obtained significant research experience and possibly participated in an internship, they are ready to begin looking for a professional position in the field. Working in academics is possible as a professor or a researcher. Opportunities are also sometimes available working for the government or working in private or corporate research laboratories. Those successful in this career must accurately measure physical properties of materials, so having an eye for detail and extreme precision in experimentation is important to become a physical chemist.



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