Chemistry Careers Outlook
Due to plant automation and more efficient production methods, job opportunities for production workers, who made up almost 43 percent of the total chemical industry workforce in 2004, are expected to decline, despite a projected growth in output. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that the chemical manufacturing industry will decline by 14 percent through 2014. For those in the specialty occupations, including chemical engineers and chemical technicians, the employment outlook will be slightly better as the chemical manufacturing industry continues to research and develop new chemicals and streamline production processes for existing products. Employment for chemists will grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014. Chemists who have at least a master’s degree will be in the strongest demand. Opportunities for all workers will be best in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology and in research, development, and testing firms.
Opportunities in academia may not be as strong as overall employment declines in the chemical industry create less demand for teachers in chemical-related disciplines. Many openings that do arise will be for part-time or non–tenure track positions.
One area of strong growth is expected to be forensic chemistry, especially DNA analysis. According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), experts predict that more than 10,000 new forensic scientists will be needed over the next decade to work in private laboratories and government agencies. There is also a need for chemists to do crime-scene investigation and analysis of evidence.
Companies that provide environmental services and earth-friendly products should do well. Environmental concerns will also continue to compel the chemical industry to devote resources to comply with governmental regulations. Therefore, occupations related to compliance, improvement of product visibility, and promotion of consumer confidence should grow. International competitiveness will also be important.
Other trends include a continued emphasis on research and development. In order to stay competitive and differentiate their products, companies will continue to produce specialty chemicals, such as advanced polymers and plastics, which are designed for specific uses. This should increase employment of chemists in research-oriented positions. A focus on new manufacturing processes will also continue and should represent opportunities for chemical engineers. The market shift to specialty chemicals and increasing competition will create more marketing and sales positions as companies strive for product visibility and an increasing market niche. In general, opportunities in the chemical industry continue to be best for those with advanced degrees.
Careers in Chemistry:
- Air Quality Engineers
- Asbestos Abatement Technicians
- Chemical Engineers
- Chemical Technicians
- Environmental Technicians
- Industrial Chemicals Workers
- Laboratory Testing Technicians
- Nuclear Medicine Technologists
- Paper Processing Workers
- Petroleum Engineers
- Petroleum Technicians
- Plastics Engineers
- Plastics Technicians
- Quality Control Engineers and Technicians
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For More Information:
- American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists
- American Chemical Society
- American Institute of Chemical Engineers
- Fragrance Foundation
- American Cleaning Institute (formerly Soap and Detergent Association)
- Rader’s Chem4Kids