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Chemistry and Material Science

Earnings Potential

Median annual earnings of chemists in May 2004 were $56,060. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,900 and $76,080. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,010. Median annual earnings of materials scientists in May 2004 were $72,390. The middle 50 percent earned between $53,350 and $92,340. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $113,460.

Facts at a glance

  • A bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related discipline is the minimum educational requirement; however, many research jobs require a master's degree, or more often a Ph.D.
  • Slower-than-average growth in employment is projected.
  • Job growth will be concentrated in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies and in professional, scientific, and technical services firms.
  • Graduates with a bachelor's degree will have opportunities at smaller research organizations; those with a master's degree, and particularly those with a Ph.D., will enjoy better opportunities at larger pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms.

Summary of what this career entails

An individual in the chemistry and material science field researches and uses new knowledge of chemicals. The reason it is important is everything in the environment is composed of chemicals. Examples of the important work chemical researchers have done includes the discovery and development of new and improved synthetic fibers, paints, adhesives, drugs, cosmetics, and electronic components. A materials scientist studies the structures and chemical properties of different materials for the purpose of developing new products or making existing products better. Another part of the job description is figuring out ways to strengthen or combine materials, as well as developing new materials for existing products. Many times a chemical or material scientist works in research and development. He/she will research properties, composition, and structure of matter and the laws that govern the combination of elements and the reactions of substances. When a chemical or material scientist is applying the research, he/she is creating or enhancing products based on the investigations.

Examples and or details of work

Examples of work done in the chemistry and material science field include the 6-kw prototype SOFC system that was developed by General Electric through the Solid-State Energy Conversion Alliance Program. The prototype was able to achieve 49 percent efficiency, which was well above the 35 percent that the program originally thought. Knowledge of chemistry and material science is also important for anyone who wants to become an inventor, because the base of any material is chemistry, without knowledge of that it is hard to invent anything. There is even a book out entitled Introduction to Wine Laboratory Practices and Procedures, which shows how chemistry is related to making wine.

Degrees that lead to this career

Degrees needed for a career in the chemistry and material science field include chemistry, material science, physics, electrical engineering, physics, and engineering. The American Chemical Society, as of 2005 has approved 631 bachelor degrees, 308 master's degrees and 192 doctoral degree programs.

Specific Career openings in this field

Specific career openings in this field include material scientist, chemist, analytical chemist, organic chemist, inorganic chemist, physical and theoretical chemist, macromolecular chemist, medicinal chemist, materials chemist, and biochemist.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Chemists and Materials Scientists, on the Internet at (visited October 29, 2006).

"GE Announces Major Milestone in Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) Technology Development as Part of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Program". GE Global Research. 12 October 2006. 29 October 2006.