Most employers will require you to have a college degree when you want to become a research chemist. A bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related field is usually the minimum level of education required, but earning a graduate degree may improve your chances of securing the job you want. Additionally, there are skills an employer will likely want in a new research chemist, such as analysis, organizational, and teamwork skills.
A high school education or a general educational development (GED) diploma is usually required if you want to become a research chemist. While in high school, however, you don't have to take any specific classes in order to pursue this goal. Most colleges just want to see that you have finished high school and earned a diploma or have earned an equivalent credential instead. Taking advanced math and science courses, including chemistry, may help prepare for college as well as for your career as a research chemist. Additionally, the results of standardized testing may also figure into your acceptance to college.
After you have graduated from high school or earned a GED, you will typically have to pursue a college degree in order to become a research chemist. Most students planning to enter this field choose to pursue bachelor's degrees in chemistry, though undergraduate degrees in other science fields may be acceptable as well. For example, you could pursue a bachelor's degree in biology or biochemistry and still qualify for this job in most cases.
You may find an entry-level position with some companies after earning an undergraduate degree, but you might find that earning a graduate degree is a better option. This is because many employers have a preference for candidates who hold master's degrees or even doctoral degrees instead. This means you may have more opportunities for employment if you continue your education at the graduate level. You might also improve your chances of getting promoted within a company or even earning higher pay if you earn a master's or doctoral degree.
In addition to a college degree, there are also certain skills and qualities you will likely need if you want to become a research chemist. To start, a natural curiosity and an analytical mind are both critical for this job. You will also need to be detail-oriented and have organizational skills, and computer and communication skills are usually important as well. Additionally, teamwork skills are often necessary for working with other scientists on assigned projects.