When I’ve spoken at high school career days, the most often asked question (after how much do you make?) is “How do you become a cosmetic chemist?” Since you may soon be looking for a chemist career that uses your science background, you might be wondering the same thing. Here are 7 steps you can follow to become a cosmetic chemist. There are different paths, but the following has proven consistently effective.
7 Steps to Becoming a Cosmetic Scientist
1. Get your science degree
You could start your own company or work for a relative that started one, but this isn’t how most people get into the cosmetic industry. If you’re following the traditional path, you should get a 4-year college degree from a college or university. The most common degrees that cosmetic scientists get are Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Biology, and Microbiology. You also find a few Physics majors too. For most companies, the specific school you attend is less important than the degree you received.
2. Maybe get an advanced degree
While a 4-year degree is all you need, bigger companies like P&G or L’Oreal tend to favor students who have Masters or PHD degrees in cosmetic science. The truth is that most of these degrees do not help make you a better cosmetic scientist. The training you receive on-the-job is much more valuable. The exception to this is when you enroll in one of the few cosmetic science focused programs in universities around the United States. This isn’t a complete list but here are three great options.
You can contact the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC) for a complete list.
3. Research Cosmetic Companies
There are literally thousands of scientists and chemists working in the cosmetic industry. Fortunately, the number of jobs continues to grow. This is an industry that continues to sell product even in uncertain economic times. Everyone wants to look good no matter how much money they’re making.
There are various types of companies that employ cosmetic scientists and chemists. These include finished goods manufacturers, contract manufactures, raw material suppliers, and testing laboratories.
A great place to find potential employers is through the trade journals. Here are three sources to find companies. In some cases (like the Thomas Register) you can search by state.
4. Pick a job
In college, they rarely tell you what kind of job you might get when you graduate. If you are looking to work as a scientist in the cosmetic industry there are a wide variety of jobs to choose from. Use the list below to see which one best fits your interests.
a. Cosmetic Formulator — If you like inventing and creating, the formulator is where you should be. Most of these jobs are with Finished Goods & Contract manufacturers. A few raw material suppliers employ formulators in their Technical Services departments.
b. Quality Control Chemist (QA/QC)— If like working with GC, IR, and Mass Spec you might enjoy a QC or QA job. Every company in the industry hires these scientists.
c. Analytical Services — Closest thing in the industry to scientific research. Most raw material suppliers and finished goods manufacturers have Analytical Departments.
d. Process Engineering (PE)— Like building things and engineering? Then this might be the job for you. Almost any cosmetic company with manufacturing facilities will hire PE scientists.
e. Synthesis Chemist — If you loved organic chemistry, then raw material synthesis is the place you should be. Most of these jobs will be with raw material suppliers.
f. Regulatory Scientists — For the people who like science but don’t like to be in the lab, a job in regulatory is a good place to go. Nearly all companies hire regulatory scientists and (unfortunately) more and more jobs are being added. I say unfortunately because more governmental regulations make it tougher to create innovative cosmetics.
g. Sales — If you like talking to people, going out to lunch and negotiating, a job in sales might be right for you. Plus, these are the people in the industry who usually have the most flexible jobs and make the most money.
5. Get a job
To actually get a job, the first thing you are going to want to do is put together a resume. You should be working on this near the end of your junior year in college or certainly in the early part of your senior year. The sooner you have a resume, the sooner you can start sending it to HR departments. You can go the old fashioned route of looking through want ads or college career offices, but you can also use the power of the Internet. For finding jobs, try…
6. Find a temporary assignment
Sometimes you won’t be able to find your perfect job right out of school. Big companies often hire people that worked for them first as temporary workers. Get your resume to a scientist focused temp agency and see if you can land your first assignment.
7. Network with other cosmetic chemists
Perhaps the most powerful way to get a job in the cosmetic industry is to get involved with social networking sites. We are going to create a forum on Chemists Corner so you can chat with other cosmetic chemists. But EVERYONE should create a LinkedIn page. (Don’t worry, it’s free). Here is where professionals hang out and post their career information. Think of it as a fluid, online resume. But it’s even better because you can strike up relationships with people all over the industry of which you want to become part. Another great resource is Facebook. People often list the names of the companies they work for and the jobs they do. Do a little searching and create some important relationships.
You’ll also want to get involved with the industry’s premiere professional society, the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. There are chapters throughout the US. In the UK you can join the Society of Cosmetic Scientists. For other places in the world, check seek out the IFSCC for contact information.
Take Action now!
Cosmetic science is a great career for a scientist. It can be constantly challenging and requires a creative mind to make formulas that stand out. It also provides you the opportunity to walk down the aisles of your local store and see your creation for sale on the shelves. That is incredibly satisfying.
Do you have any ideas on how to get a job in the cosmetic industry? Leave a comment below and let the rest of the community know.