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How much money does a cosmetic chemist make?

When you go through college and get a degree in science, you can rest assured that you are taking the hardest courses that the university offers. I suppose there are a few math majors who might disagree but there is so much overlap that I feel confident in my claim. You can’t be a good science student without also taking a lot of math.

Anyway, this means that the people who can get through these science courses are usually the smartest ones coming out of college. And if you were like me, you thought that the smartest people would get the best jobs and make the most money. Unfortunately, they don’t.

Want to make a lot of money?

If making a ton of money your primary concern, you will be disappointed with a job in cosmetic chemistry. Switch to Finance or Marketing or some other business major and get a job in those fields. That’s where the big money is. Of course, to someone with an interest in science, those jobs may also be incredibly dull and unfulfilling.

Realities of cosmetic R&D

Ok, now for the good news. Although it’s unlikely that you will quickly become a multimillionare as a cosmetic chemist, you can still make an excellent salary that gives you a comfortable life. The job is also a relatively low stress one and the demand is high enough that unemployment is pretty low.

Wonder what salary you might make?

Well, it will vary around the country (and the world) but this report from Happi magazine of the 2011 R&D Salary survey is a pretty good snapshot of what you can expect.

Some highlights…

Cosmetic chemist salaries

Here are the average annual salaries in the US for people who get jobs in the cosmetic R&D field.

Lab Technician = $43,000
Chemist / formulator = $58,000
Senior Chemist = $83,000
R&D Manager = $101,000
R&D Director = $110,000

Starting right out of college you can expect to get a job as a technician or chemist so that is your salary range.

Cosmetic chemist job frustrations

Another interesting aspect of the survey was the job frustrations. I remember feeling all of these in my cosmetic science career.

1. Lack of advancement
2. Internal office politics
3. Inadequate compensation
4. Inadequate project funding
5. Regulatory issues
6. Pressures from marketing department

Other tidbits

There were a few other things in the report which are interesting.

1. Salaries for chemists outside of the US are typically lower.
2. Women make only slightly less than men (but still less)
3. Most (48%) cosmetic chemists have Bachelor’s degrees. 27% have Master’s degrees, and 14% had PHDs. 6% did not have college degrees.

It’s an interesting survey and a pretty good reflection of what you can expect when entering the job market as an R&D worker in the cosmetic industry.

{ 46 comments… add one }
  • Sarah Ledogar 01/28/2016, 12:45 pm

    I am a senior in high school and am currently doing a career research essay and have had no luck finding the average retirement of a cosmetic chemist. Would you happen to know?

    • Perry Romanowski 01/29/2016, 10:20 am

      The average retirement age is probably around 62 years old.

  • Lis 12/01/2015, 9:48 pm

    I’m a Junior at Dalton State College and I’m interested in skincare but also in business. Would you recommend to change my major into a double major in business and chemistry? Or to major in business and to minor in chemistry?

    • Perry Romanowski 12/04/2015, 10:11 am

      If having a skincare business is your dream then I would suggest you major in business and do a minor in chemistry. You can also take a course like ours to learn the practical information about formulating. http://chemistscorner.com/members

  • Alana 08/22/2015, 3:56 am

    Hi there,
    I’m interested in cosmetic chemistry, however, I am unsure as to what ‘area’ as such of chemistry this falls under (e.g. organic, analytical, physical, inorganic). Thanks for your time and this informative post :)

    • Perry Romanowski 08/24/2015, 9:18 am

      I guess it would mostly be Organic chemistry.

  • Nguyen Thanh Tam 08/19/2015, 10:48 am

    Thanks PERRY ROMANOWSKI for useful article. I graduated 4-years university in Biotechnology 2 years ago. At the moment, i am studying Japanese in Japan. Next year, after graduating Japanese School, i am going to attend to Cosmetic Formulating Course for 2 years in Japan. Someone gives me the suggestion that i should attend to Master Course because the salary maybe higher, but i am wondering because in Master Course i cannot be trained how to make cosmetic, they just train students about Beauty Business (we must study by ourselves almost).

    • Perry Romanowski 08/20/2015, 4:07 pm

      I would recommend getting a job first as your employer will often pay part of the cost of going for extra schooling.

  • ragini 06/05/2015, 6:27 am

    sir i m in 11th standard i dream to became a cosmetic chemist i am confused what to do after completing my i.se please guide line me what shoud i do?????¿

    • Perry Romanowski 06/09/2015, 6:50 pm

      Get a 4 year degree in chemistry at a university.

  • Mary M. Ernsberger 04/14/2015, 7:12 pm

    I’m being courted by a natural products company to be their formulator. Instead of offering a salary, the company would like to pay per formulation. This is a new area for me and I’m honestly not sure what kind of fee I should place on this type of service. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

    • Perry Romanowski 04/21/2015, 2:48 pm

      I would suggest you post your question in our forum. http://chemistscorner.com/cosmeticsciencetalk

      It really depends on the nature of the project. how long will it take you? what kind of testing will you have to do? who will own the formula? Basically, you could charge roughly $2000 per formula.

  • Sidra 03/27/2015, 3:25 pm

    Hi Perry,

    I have been trying to get more information on how much a cosmetic chemist makes from entry level to mid level in terms of experience. Thank you for posting this up. I was hoping to as you if you would know what the chances of moving up from an entry level formulator to chemist to senior chemist?
    Is there too much office politics that prevents one from pursuing higher positions? After how long can one expect to move up from formulator to chemist and then to senior chemist?
    Thank you.

    • Perry Romanowski 04/02/2015, 7:16 pm

      Hello Sidra,

      Whether you move up or not depends on two things. First, if your boss & rest of the company think you are doing a good job that improves your chances. Second and even more important, if your boss likes you your chances of moving up are better. Unfortunately, your technological abilities are less important than your ability to make people like you. But if people like you you could expect to be promoted every 3 years.

  • Alexus 03/13/2015, 11:11 pm

    I’m graduating in May 2015 with an associate degree in applied sciences. I really love make up and want to become a cosmetic chemist. Any cosmetic chemist out there who’s willing to do an informational interview? I’m very interested to hear how you got where you are and where you work.

    • Perry Romanowski 04/02/2015, 7:53 pm

      Hello Alexus,

      Here’s my story. http://chemistscorner.com/how-i-became-a-cosmetic-chemist/ You can hear from others on our podcast. I frequently interview people and ask how they got into the industry. Finally, feel free to send me an email if you have more questions.

      • Tiffany ESquivel 05/22/2015, 7:42 pm

        hello i’m about to graduate high school and I hope to one day work as a cosmetic chemist. I have a project that I am working on in British literature. I have to explain my passion for the career I want to pursue and how it’ll benefit society. I was hoping if maybe could email you and ask some questions.

        • Perry Romanowski 06/03/2015, 8:49 am

          Sure – feel free to send me an email.

  • Stephenie 10/20/2014, 2:05 pm

    Hello Perry,

    I am currently looking into becoming a cosmetic chemist. I want to develop products that are all natural and safe. Is there any advice you can give me as far as what schools to look into. I live in southern California in the San Fernando Valley. Do you know what courses I should focus on? I am a lil lost of were to get started. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    • Perry Romanowski 10/22/2014, 2:03 pm

      Well, if you haven’t gone to college yet I would suggest you get a degree in chemistry. Then spend time learning about cosmetic science (they won’t teach you that in college). Also, check in with the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. They have a California chapter. Good luck!

  • Dubai 10/12/2014, 12:53 am

    Perry I follow your blog regularly and it’s a great job you’ve done here.
    I had to share here that finding a formulating position in Dubai, UAE , that has a decent salary looks highly impossible.
    Just couple of days ago a job was advertised on a local website for a Chemist for NG Group (Italian apparently)… “Develop new formulas for color, Hair Care Products, lip gloss, makeup and mascaras” and the salary offered is 550$-1100$ per month!!! And this is the complete package! Although I am sure that there are many people here in the Middle East that would accept this salary (it is tax free) still it’s unbelievably low compared to Europe or US!

  • ThankGod 09/03/2014, 5:03 am

    Hi perry I,m frome Nigeria. I apply for MEDLAB in my state university but thy change it to Pure Chemistry. In Nigeria the working opportunity as a chemistry graduat is very difficult.
    What is your advice for me.

    • Perry Romanowski 09/04/2014, 1:07 pm

      I’m not really sure. What would you like to know?

  • Brianna 06/16/2014, 5:11 pm

    How does this compare to pharmaceutical pay? What would you say are the tradeoffs between working in the two industries?
    Thanks for all the informative posts/videos!

  • natasha 02/19/2014, 2:29 pm

    hey i wanted to know what the day to day job is like for a cosmetic chemist- are their job involved like a project (making a product for a couple of months, then developing it…) or is there job different every day?

    I also want to find out do they work on weekends?
    How many weeks do they have off in a year?

    Thanks in advance

  • Joselyn Cortes 12/06/2013, 11:00 am

    Hi I was wondering if a Chemical Engineer would be the same as a Cosmetic Chemist’?
    since both fields are creating something, and i’m also going in Buisness i plan on being an Entrepenuear as well do you know how well a salary can be if I opened up my own Beauty Cosmetic store with my own beauty cosmetics that i’ve done?

    • Perry Romanowski 12/06/2013, 11:12 am

      If you open your own store you can make any where from Zero to millions of dollars. Most likely you could make enough to live. A chemical engineer is a little different than cosmetic chemist but if you get a degree in chemical engineering you would still qualify to be a cosmetic chemist. Hope that helps and good luck.

  • Dayana 10/09/2013, 2:47 pm

    Hello Perry,
    first of all thank you! your articles are a lot of help.
    I am a Junior in the University of Houston currently working on my BS of Chemistry. I wanted to become a Cosmetic Chemist but now I have realized that it might not be the best idea. but since I am a junior I am basically stock with a major in chemistry. I was thinking that it could be a good idea to get my masters in marketing, maybe that way I could be a potential candidate working in the marketing department since I would have a science background.
    what do you think of this? Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Perry Romanowski 10/10/2013, 6:23 am

      If your interest lies in marketing, then getting a marketing degree is a great idea. The classes will be easier plus your science background will give you a leg up on the competition.

  • vinitha 04/18/2013, 7:17 am

    Hello perry,

    I am vinitha from India, recently I finished masters in organic chemistry. please would you suggest me how can i get a job in industry in USA? please help me out , This is my mail Id is winithawini@gmail.com

    Thanking you,

    • Perry Romanowski 04/24/2013, 8:14 am

      Please see our posts about cosmetic career advice.

  • elika 03/29/2013, 1:05 pm

    HI perry.thanks alot. they are very useful but i have some questions
    1.im 18 years and i love chemistry and i want to study chemistry major first.and then i wanted to study cosmetic chemstry .i thought the salary is very gooD but now my opinion changeD.
    what do u suggest after chemistry majoR?the salary is very important for me.
    and one thing moRE.im iranian and my english is not very well.is that easy for me to study chemistry?

  • sydney hood 01/25/2013, 3:17 pm

    Hello! I just came across this article. I really enjoy science and math. I also truly enjoy (like obsessed) with makeup. I enjoy the art, and packaging of makeup too.

    Its annoying though that you don’t get paid a lot!
    Im only in grade 10 but i need to start planning out my career! I don’t want my job to be extremely stressful. If I do become a cosmetic chemist, is it possible to work at big name brands?

    Or are there any other jobs similar to this kind of area?

    Thanks! Sorry for all the questions just really interested in this!
    Ps. What schools in the US specialize in this?

    • Perry 01/25/2013, 3:20 pm

      I’d suggest you look at our articles in the Career section of the blog. All those questions are answered there. Good luck!

  • Cat 01/07/2013, 6:20 pm

    What would be good colleges for something like this? Or what classes? Do you have to do any testing on animals?

    • Perry 01/07/2013, 6:22 pm

      See our article on cosmetic science programs around the world.
      No, you don’t generally have to test on animals (although some people in raw material companies might have to).

  • hanna 12/01/2012, 1:58 pm

    hello Perry, from the comments above does it mean that the job isn’t worth it cause of the pay? and do u really not do as much chemistry if you are a chemist/formulator as bill says. lastly i would like to know what is the difference between being a chemist/formulator and being a R&D manager or director?

    • Perry 12/01/2012, 2:08 pm

      Hello Hanna,

      I didn’t mean to imply that the job isn’t worth it because of the pay. You can make a very good living as a cosmetic chemist. I was just saying that if making lots of money is your goal, there are better options than being a cosmetic chemist. As a formulator, you do lots of chemical mixing but not very much chemistry. In fact, the goal of cosmetic chemistry is to mix chemicals together and hope that no reactions take place.

      There are a number of differences between a formulator and an R&D manager. But basically, the manager is a team leader who has to work with lab employees to keep them motivated and get things done. They do very little actual lab work. Formulators, on the other hand, do mostly lab work. They are responsible for mostly themselves and typically make less money.

      • hanna 12/02/2012, 3:22 am

        owkay. thank you.

  • Bill 09/24/2012, 10:21 am

    I work as a quality chemist at a cosmetic manufacturer. It is extremely stressful and high pressure. R&D seems a little less stressful at my company but still fast paced. The salary is pretty good, especially being that I am fresh out of school. Bonuses are nice and the company provides free health insurance. I am able to afford whatever I want (within reason) but I’m not sure the stress is worth it. I also find it very frustrating that I don’t really get to do much chemistry. The tasks are very simplistic and even those who don’t have a good grasp of chemistry are able to do them with ease.

    • Perry 09/24/2012, 11:38 am

      Thanks for your insights Bill

  • Ly 04/17/2012, 10:54 am

    By experience I can say that in general terms the abovementioned its true, nonetheless, if you are good, as my dad is, you can come from really nothing to have your own manufacture company with 50 employees plus administrative body. Keep working hard thats the key to succes!!!!

  • aram 04/15/2012, 3:57 am

    very interesting article, I’m working in an Asian company as a new formulator with master degree, my salary is much less than a some one like me in US, as the report says! But I love my job…. 😉

  • Eliza 04/14/2012, 9:00 am

    Very interesting and so true! My salary at my latest employer (a cosmetic manufacturer) was as low as one of a lab technician in Asia (!?) very very low for European standards. I also agree with the frustration points…

    • Perry 04/14/2012, 9:02 am

      The salary part can be extremely frustrating eh? Fortunately, most of the rest of the job was always enjoyable to me.

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