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How Do I Become an Analytical Chemist?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

In order to become an analytical chemist, you must pursue a university degree in chemistry, then gain specialized job experience related to chemical analysis and the understanding of chemical composition. Most universities offer undergraduate chemistry degrees, but it is rarely possible to specialize in anything as nuanced as chemical analysis. Students who know that they want to focus on analysis in their careers often pursue graduate-level degrees and conduct significant independent research before entering the job market.

Like any hard science, analytical chemistry is based on a firm understanding of math and conceptual principles. The best way to prepare to become an analytical chemist is to take as many math and science classes as you can in high school. Then, look for colleges or universities with competitive chemistry programs.

Many companies hire analytical chemists in their research and development departments.
Many companies hire analytical chemists in their research and development departments.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry is almost always the first step to becoming an analytical chemist. It is not usually the finish line, however. Most undergraduate chemistry degrees, while intensive, are designed to be broad surveys of the wider field. Degree candidates must usually study organic chemistry, physical and theoretical chemistry, and material chemistry alongside analytical chemistry.

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

Students can augment their analytical experience by looking for jobs, internships, or lab rotations focused on sampling and isolating matter. Skills can also be built through independent research. Many schools require chemistry students to conduct thesis research before graduating, and most will permit upper-level students to complete independent study projects for credit. Designing and executing research in the analytical field is a great way to prime yourself to become an analytical chemist.

Analytical chemist careers almost always require experience. Some jobs will hire scientists with only undergraduate degrees, but many seek out candidates with at least a master’s degree, if not a doctorate. Part of what makes an analytical chemist valuable is his or her expertise and intensive knowledge of how compounds are formed and broken down. Analytical chemist requirements vary, but in most cases knowledge is built primarily through schooling.

Of course, actually landing a job is the most important part of becoming an analytical chemist. There are usually several different avenues to choose from. Chemists working primarily in research and development often find work within pharmaceutical companies, with commercial food and drink manufacturers, and with the producers of industrial products, particularly synthetics. Others work in a more advisory capacity, often helping companies and lawmakers understand the implications of certain product manufacturing techniques.

There are analytical chemist training opportunities in a variety of disciplines. Finding the fit that is right for you is often the hardest — but most important — part of the process. Foundations are essential to become an analytical chemist, but at the end of the day your career should center around your own interests and particular skills within the field.

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    • Many companies hire analytical chemists in their research and development departments.
      By: Creativa
      Many companies hire analytical chemists in their research and development departments.
    • Analytical chemists must have specialized job experience.
      By: sudok1
      Analytical chemists must have specialized job experience.