How do I Become a Chemical Analyst?

Carol Francois

There are four steps required to become a chemical analyst: post-secondary training, related work experience, computer software skills, and complete the job interview process. A chemical analyst spends the majority of his day working with chemicals, lab equipment, and data analysis software. They are responsible for completing specific processes, documenting the results, and conducting analysis.

Many companies hire chemical analysts in their research and development departments.
Many companies hire chemical analysts in their research and development departments.

People who have an analytical thought process, enjoy working independently, and are comfortable exploring multiple scenarios find the greatest satisfaction in this type of work. Attention to detail, discipline, and focus are all essential for anyone who wants to become a chemical analyst. In this role, the analyst if often the creator of the official report on the composition of the chemical or solution. Accuracy is very important.

A forensic chemist may examine clothing articles from a crime scene.
A forensic chemist may examine clothing articles from a crime scene.

The first requirement to become a chemical analyst is to complete a post-secondary education program. A university degree in chemistry at the bachelor's level is the minimum requirement, with many firms requiring a master’s degree. The depth and breadth of knowledge required to perform effective chemical analysis is not available at the college level.

Related work experience includes working in a chemical laboratory, research assistant, or chemical compounder. All of these jobs require working with chemicals, mixing and documenting the results or procedures. Chemical analyst is a mid-career position, as most firms require at least five years experience in their industry before you can apply for an analyst position.

Computer skills have become increasingly important for a chemical analyst. Software is now available that will calculate the different options, possible scenarios, and outcomes faster and with greater accuracy than previously possible. These programs are quite specialized and either the employer or the software company provides training.

When applying for a job as a chemical analyst, be sure to proofread your resume and cover letter, double-checking for any grammar or spelling mistakes. During the job interview process, be prepared to answer detailed questions about the different types of chemical processes, techniques, and programs. Research the industry and discuss the different challenges they face, and how you can contribute to the firm. Think about your answers, stay calm, and focus on the skills you bring and how you can help the company.

Career advancement once you have become a chemical analyst requires additional education. Additional certification in management, supervisor or specific chemical techniques all expand the number of job opportunities available. Review your options and talk with a career counselor to create a plan that works best for you.

Analytical chemists must have specialized job experience.
Analytical chemists must have specialized job experience.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - It is a tough call. The thing is, a lot of people don't end up even using their degree. And I would suspect that there are a lot of English majors working in the sciences now.

I guess if you really want to become a chemical analyst you'll have to just snatch at opportunities as they appear.

There's no reason you can't get work experience while getting a degree, or get a degree while you're working. There's also no real reason you can't just go without a degree and rely on the experience. You've just got to figure out what works best for you.


@bythewell - The problem comes when you are that same person with five years of experience, competing against a guy with two years of experience, and a degree.

I agree that a degree isn't always necessary, but you really have to look at where you want to go in the industry.

Many analyst jobs recruitment people are going to think of a degree as being the minimum qualification before they even look at your experience.

One thing you might consider though, is that I have a friend who is doing his degree while working in a lab, just going part time. I think the lab is even helping to pay a little bit, with the understanding that he will continue to work there for a certain time afterwards.


There has been more awareness about this recently, but I thought I would mention that you don't need to go to university to get this job.

In some ways, it can help, sure. But in others, it might actually hurt your case.

If you've got two young people applying for the same job and one is fresh out of university and one has been working in the industry for three years and has good references, well, that's a tough decision, but many people will prefer to go for the person they know is a sure bet. The one with the references.

And working in a lab doesn't require a degree. I've had several friends start low and work their way up the job ladder without a degree (or the debt that goes with it).

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