Article by: Perry Romanowski

We get lots of career questions about cosmetic chemistry related to salary, how much education you need and how easy it will be to advance in a cosmetic chemist career. So, I thought you might find my experience interesting.

Becoming a cosmetic chemist

When I first started in the cosmetic field (1992) I didn’t have an advanced degree. I came in as a formulating chemist. I had no plans to become a cosmetic chemist while in school rather, I was just looking for a job…any job.

I even remember thinking as I left the interview that working for a “shampoo” company didn’t seem very important. I was a “scientist” after all and i should be using my brain to work on more pressing problems. I figured I’d work there for a couple years then go back and get a PHD. That never happened. Mostly, because I liked the job and had no burning desire to study anything in particular. Also because I got over my arrogance.

My starting salary was low. $26,000 per year. I actually created a bit of a scandal because the offer was for $25,000 a year and I countered them with $28,000. They never had a beginning chemist do anything like that and that story stuck to me for a half dozen years after I was on the job. The R&D VP frequently referred to it whenever he would see me.

But I digress.

Chemists Salary

The truth is if you wanted to make a lot of money, cosmetic chemistry is the wrong field. Jobs in Finance or Stockbrokers or Hedge fund managers make the big bucks. Chemists…not so much. If money is your driver, go get an advanced degree in Finance or something like that. (This is actually a problem in the US as people who would have traditionally gone into science & engineering are chasing the big bucks on Wall Street.)

However, you can still make an excellent salary as a cosmetic chemist. When I left my job after 16 years I was making over $120,000 annually.

And I wasn’t particularly ambitious in my career nor did I have all the right skill set for moving up the ranks of corporate America.

I should note that my experience is probably not typical because I was able to increase my salary without moving jobs. Most people need to move jobs to increase their salary like I did.

Realities of being a scientist

If your focus is being a cosmetic chemist and doing a good job at that…you won’t advance much in a corporation. Corporations value things like pleasing your boss, being bold and decisive in meetings, and making good presentations. They don’t particularly value being a good scientist. To advance in a corporation you need to become a manager & you need to be a good “people person”. Sucking up to your boss and your boss’s boss helps too.

Many scientists have a hard time doing this.

Should you get an advanced degree?

I’d direct you to Kelly’s thoughts here since she has actually gone through the experience.

There is certainly value in getting an advanced degree. But I’m not certain it will improve your prospects for starting a career in cosmetic chemistry. My advice would be to get a job first then start school after you’ve started your job. This way you can get your company to pay for your schooling. Many / most will.

That’s what I ended up doing (as did Kelly).

In the cosmetic industry, a bachelors degree is crucial. Then getting an entry level job and impressing your bosses is next in line in importance. Just find that first formulating job, learn everything you can, then change jobs to improve your salary prospects. And If you can get an advanced degree, do it.

40 comments

  1. CeAnna Curtis

    Hello Perry. I’m a sophomore in high school, and don’t really have an idea on what I would like to do as a job when I’m older. I’m leaning toward a job in cosmetic marketing, though. I was wondering if you know of any articles I could take a look at for more information.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      If you’re interested in cosmetic chemistry you can see our articles on Career.

  2. Jennifer

    Hi, my name is Jennifer and I’m going to graduate soon with a bachelor degree in chemistry and everyone keeps asking me what I’m going to do! I’ve been searching around and honestly something about cosmetic chemistry makes me happy. What kinds of books would you recommend for cosmetic chemistry? I’d like to learn about it!
    Thank you for your time,
    J.J.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello – I’d suggest you take our course. http://chemistscorner.com/members
      But you can also learn a lot by reading. See if you can get a copy of Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry. Or listen to our free 30 days podcast series

  3. shruthi

    hi im shruthi..im in 12th and i really like chemistry and would like to take chemistry as my subject…but being a girl,they say that chemical engineering is nt a gud scope…can u suggest me some good careers i can go forward with?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Lots of women are in cosmetic chemistry. You shouldn’t let that stop you.

  4. Alaa

    Hello.
    I’d like to ask is it better to earn a bachelors degree in pharmacy or chemistry for wanting to become a successful cosmetic chemist and later on owning a company.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Probably getting a degree in Chemistry will be better if you want to be a cosmetic chemist

  5. Abby

    Hi Perry,

    I recently graduated with my Doctorate in Pharmacy and I really want to work in the cosmetic industry. I have recently become a member of the Society of cosmetic chemist. Do you have any advice for finding an entry level jobs as a pharmacist in the cosmetic industry? Thanks!

  6. risa j

    hello , I am a junior and majoring chemistry , and also a graduate of paul Mitchell the school my biggest question is do you think that becoming a cosmetic chemist can help if not add to eventually strating my own cosmetic line and if so how could I possibly start building a foundation now ?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Learning about cosmetic chemistry can help but if you want to focus on starting your own line you do not have to become a cosmetic chemist first. You just have to know about launching a product line. I’d suggest you see our free report. http://startacosmeticline.com

  7. Jenny

    Hi Perry,

    I am a senior studying biology (about to graduate this spring semester.) I can’t seem to find any internships/temp job listings anywhere – any advice on how to break into the cosmetic formulating world with my Bachelor’s degree?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      We have a blog post written about finding internships so you should look that up. However, there are not a lot of these available. I would suggest you contact your local Society of Cosmetic Chemists group.

      1. michelle

        Hey Perry my names Michelle, I’m a sophomore in High school. I need to ‘interview’ someone for a major project. I was just wondering what were some ‘road blocks’ in becoming a cosmetic scientist and what your inspiration was to become one, and what are your favorite and least things about the job?

        1. Perry Romanowski

          Feel free to send me your questions through our “Contact Us” form on the front page.

  8. supraea

    Hi Perry,

    I;m really interested in cosmetic engineering and my dream is to work for L’oreal one day. However, I’m also interested in marketing and sales… Do you think there is flexibility in this job role?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yes. You can do both formulating and work in cosmetic marketing. But probably not at L’Oreal. They tend to specialize there.

  9. Stephanie Li

    Hello,
    I am currently an undergraduate student and very interested in being a cosmetic chemist. I know I should get some experience, but I don’t know where to start. Are there certain sites where I can find a job perhaps after my bachelor degree? Or even now as an undergraduate. How do I find companies that need cosmetic chemists?

    -Thanks

  10. Lucy Kumbiye

    Hello Perry.
    I have being looking through your answers and i find it very interesting. I come from a country the in the pacific Island which is Papua New Guinea. The color of my skin is brown and with frizzy curl black hair. My country is developing and the fashion of industry is advancing also. However, here in my country, we have not develop any cosmetic product. All we have is foreign products which which is not suited to the texture of my country man and women’s skin. I have a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in chemistry and minor in environment. I am really interested i cosmetic chemistry. I will appreciate your kind assistance on this matter. Thank you for your time. Ms. LUCY KUMBIYE

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello – I don’t know what you want me to do. What is your question?

  11. Brookelyn

    I am doing a Project for my school on cosmetic chemist and this helped me figure out what I am going to write. Thanks

  12. liz

    Hi Perry,
    Thanks so much for this post. I recently got a bachelor’s and am getting a PhD in the chemical engineering. I am so SO eager to get a job in cosmetic chemistry as makeup and skin care are my passion. I have a question I was hoping you could help me with. I wear a head scarf and am wondering if that hurts my chances in the industry, especially since you emphasized how important presentation and ‘people skills’ are.
    Thanks so much,
    Liz

  13. Shai

    Hello People, I’m currently seeking a Contract Cosmetic Chemist with a lot of experience. If you know anyone that has experience with Skin Care and Cosmetics please provide them my email shai@jordane.com

    Thank you

  14. Pingback:Lisa Leigh – Cosmetic Science podcast 30

  15. maggie

    Hi Perry,

    I am doing my master on cosmetic science in Long Island University. I will be graduating this summer, And I am trying to find an entry level job on cosmetic. But most of the position required some experience, which I dont have. Any suggestion how I can find one doesnt require any experience??
    Thanks

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello Maggie,

      I’d suggest you take a look at the articles we’ve written on the Career page. Also, be sure to attend the SCC meetings in Long Island. Someone there might have a lead on a new position.

  16. sarah

    Hello! I really really really want to do something like this! I love Science, makeup, and art. I was just wondering how common this job is- do many people do it?

    The only down side is the money. Hoenstly, this job is perfect but money for me is also important. Do you have any suggestions that may make more money, but are still related to cosmetics and science? :S

    Thanks for this article!

    1. Julia

      Hi I am interested in the same things like art, makeup and science! I am trying to figure out what type of bachelor’s degree would be the best to incorporate all of those.

      1. Perry Romanowski

        A degree in Chemistry is best.

  17. Lisa R.

    I came across your article in pursuit of looking for another job. I am frustrated with how my R&D department is running and feel my skills will only be lost due to the inadequacies of management. Its to the point where I don’t want to be a cosmetic chemist anymore. I am not enthused as I was when I left college and I have only been in the industry 8 years with 5 years at my present job. Your article gave some great insight on how the industry really is and how to get a more money. Like you said, a scientist has a very hard time kissing up to their boss and that’s how I am. I can’t do it when I know it won’t get me anywhere or the presumed assumption that it will take me somewhere and be disappointed in the end. I just need a new direction in where my career is heading and a brighter outlook on this industry. Thank you for this article it brought me back into perspective in how I initially felt when I first wanted to be a chemist. Any ideas in what my next step should be?

    1. Perry

      Hello Lisa,

      Sorry you are experiencing some career troubles. I would encourage you to look around for other opportunities because not every management group is awful. (Many are though). There are numerous contract manufacturers who look for cosmetic chemists. They don’t have the same nice equipment, budgets, or labs that big companies have, but they also don’t have the same annoying politics.

      Ultimately, however, you might find that running your own business is the way to go. This could be as a consultant or even starting your own line. It’s definitely a different kind of work than formulating, but the power that you feel when you get to make all the decisions is great. It’s also a bit scary which is why I would recommend starting on the side and maintaining your current position until you are more positive about the new business.

      Take a look at our start a cosmetic line free report. It might inspire you to think differently.

      Good luck! I hope you stick with it. This really is a fun industry when you find the right opportunity.

  18. Any15

    I think it’s really interesting ur experience… I’m student of Chemical Engeneering in Venezuela and here it’s really difficult to find information about this area of the science.. I’ve trying to find institutes were I could make a master in this area but sadly here in my country there isn’t one.. Maybe u can give me any advice of where can i look for ? I just had found in countries like France and Argentina…

    1. Perry

      You might try our online training program. See the link at the top of this page.

  19. Angela

    Hi Perry,

    I just found your website and found it very informative. Thank you!

    I’m currently a graduate student in chemistry (PhD track, specifically in biological applications of mesoporous silica). I currently have an MS, however I’d like to break into the cosmetic chemistry field. Ultimately, I’d like to go into R&D (of cosmetics or consumer products) with a managerial track. Is it too late to change gears? And what sort of advice can you give?

    Thanks,

    Angela

    1. Perry

      Hello Angela – Congratulations on your schooling thus far. No, it is not too late to change gears. I’d suggest you look into one of the cosmetic science programs we list here. You could also put together a resume and start applying for jobs just based on your schooling thus far. For more tips see our Career category on the right side of this website.

  20. Eliza

    LOL Perry, this is sooo funny: ” Sucking up to your boss and your boss’s boss helps too.
    Many scientists have a hard time doing this.”

    This is what got me into trouble, I really suck at sucking up 😉

  21. Gary Neudahl

    And impress the boss Perry did. If there was indeed any arrogance (versus self-confidence), he masked it well. Though he never got the Ph.D., he certainly thought outside the box and framed important questions, in addition to providing useful answers. As for the need for an advanced degree, if you’re interested in pharmaceutical formulation, it could help. But there is nothing like time at the bench, loosely(!) guided by a seasoned formulator (so you learn how to make mistakes into assets, and don’t end up an automatonic lab technician) and continuing education from your trade journals, trade events, and ingredient and packaging suppliers, to develop your formulating talents.

    1. Perry

      Thanks for the kind words Gary! You were an excellent boss and one of the hardest working people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Alberto was not the same when you left.

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