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College courses for cosmetic chemists

If you are a science student in college or even in high school and you have an interest in pursuing a career in cosmetic science, then you might be curious which classes will be most useful.

Here are the ones that had the most relevance.

Chemistry

It’s surprising how much of what you learn in most chemistry courses is not applicable to a cosmetic science job. The most relevant are the following.

General Chemistry – this will give you a good background to get you started. Much of what you learn won’t be used but some of the key concepts include pH, solutions, and surfactants.

Organic chemistry – while the chemical reactions that you learn are interesting, there is very little synthesis that you will do as a cosmetic formulator. Mostly, you mix chemicals together and hope nothing happens which is the opposite of Organic synthesis. However, information about chemical names and structures will be helpful as will lab skills, chemical reaction types and learning how to read IR spectroscopy graphs.

Physical Chemistry – one of the most complicated of all chemistry courses with lots of math. If you had trouble with this one, don’t worry, being good at this subject is not critical for good formulation. It will be useful for Process Engineers and aerosol chemists but not much for formulators.

Analytical Chemistry – this will be most important for people who end up in the analytical labs. It will be helpful for formulators to know this stuff but not critical.

Inorganic Chemistry – not much applicable to cosmetic science.

Polymer Chemistry – Many raw materials that you use in formulating will be polymers so this course provides useful background information.

Biochemistry – while this course may not be directly applicable, the future of cosmetics will be moving more and more to cosmeceuticals that interact with biochemical mechanisms. Therefore it will be helpful to learn about biochemical mechanisms.

Non-Chemistry Courses

There is more to being a cosmetic chemist than chemistry. Here are some courses that will also be useful for cosmetic chemists.

General Biology – this course is a requirement of most university science programs but much of the information won’t be directly applicable. The important topics include microbiology and human physiology. If you could take courses in both of these topics, that would be a great idea.

Statistics - Typically science majors will take Calculus but the most useful math course for formulators will be statistics. Much of the cosmetic testing you do will require a good grasp of statistics.

Marketing – In the cosmetic industry the Marketing people drive most product development efforts. It will be extremely helpful for a chemist to understand what is important in marketing.

Market Research – While this type of research isn’t the same as lab research, it is an important type of experimenting that is crucial for launching new products. It’s a great idea to take a market research course.

Psychology – Designing cosmetics depends on more factors than just chemistry. Creating cosmetics that appeal to people’s psychological needs is also critical. A psychology course can help you understand what is important.

Not all of your college courses will be relevant to your job as a cosmetic chemist but there are certainly ones in which you should pay more attention than others.  Of course, you don’t go to college merely to get trained for a career.  Learn whatever you can in all your courses.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Jaclyn 02/01/2014, 9:31 pm

    Hello there! I would like to become a cosmetic chemists. May I know what courses should I take? Is chemical engineering a suitable course?

    • Perry Romanowski 02/03/2014, 6:37 am

      The courses are listed above. Yes, chemical engineering is suitable to become a cosmetic chemist

  • Carol Quezada, Ph.D. 02/09/2012, 8:51 am

    Perry,

    I have a Ph.D in inorganic/organometallic chemistry! While I agree that it is not very relevant to cosmetic science, I successfully made the transition to cosmetic chemist! It really does take a good understanding of chemistry and a lot of creativity to be a good cosmetic chemist.

    • Perry 02/09/2012, 9:16 am

      Hello Carol – Thanks for your comments. I agree that it is much better for people to get a good background in chemistry on the road to becoming a cosmetic chemist. Even the things that are not directly relevant help teach people how to “think like a chemist.” This is critical for any cosmetic formulator.

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