Article by: Perry Romanowski

A lot of people have asked us what they should major in if they want to become a cosmetic chemist. There are a wide variety of majors you can have and still become a formulator but these are the best.

1. Chemistry major

No doubt that the most versatile major for breaking into the cosmetic industry is a BS in Chemistry. By far the largest percentage of people working in cosmetic science have these kinds of degrees. A BA in Chemistry is also acceptable and in my experience, there is no difference between a BA and a BS in chemistry when it comes to getting hired. The jobs you can get with a chemistry degree include formulator, research scientist, quality control chemist, and analytical scientist.

2. Chemical Engineering

There are a number of chemical engineer majors who have become cosmetic chemists. However, since engineers often know about mixing equipment they usually end up in the process engineering group. These are the scientists responsible for scale-up of batches. If you like this kind of job you should get a chemical engineering degree.

3. Biology

The third most common degree for cosmetic chemists is Biology. This degree will help you get a job in the industry but will usually be in the microbiology department. If formulating is what you want to do you may have to work a few years in the micro area then try to move jobs.

4. Environmental sciences

Some cosmetic chemists get specialized degrees in environmental sciences. This allows them to get safety and environmental jobs in the cosmetic industry.

5. Any Bachelors of Science degree

While it is harder, it is not impossible to get a cosmetic chemist job with a degree in something like Physics or Anthropology. You’ll probably have to start in the role of a technician or QA scientists and work your way up but it can be done.

If you are interested in getting into the cosmetic industry and you’re just deciding on a major, Chemistry is probably the best one to pick. However, if you did choose something else and are too far along to change, that doesn’t mean you can’t become a cosmetic chemist. It may just take you a little longer.

52 comments

  1. Alice Kim

    Hi Perry!

    I’m still in high school and soon going into gr 12. Many people tell me not to stress, but I’m stressing!! Before I go into gr 12 and university, I really need to know which gr 12 courses I need to choose, and to do that I need to choose a major in university. Right now I’m struggling because I took my Gr 11 physics, and Chemistry, but I did not take Bio. I know I want to stay in the cosmetic area since I’ve been interested since I was very young, I’m also very interested in engineering. so when i came across chemical engineering without the need of bio to get in to the program I feel like this is the road for me, but then I see that you put biology major on the list, so now I must ask if i need to take all these majors or I can just take chemical engineering or just chemistry.

    Sorry for blabbing, Thank you!
    Alice

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello Alice,

      It would be good to take Biology at some point. If you get a degree in Chemistry you will have to take biology at the university. The most desired majors for cosmetic companies are people with Chemistry degrees and people with Chemical Engineering degrees. Hope that helps.

  2. Hannah

    Hi Perry,

    I am currently enrolled in school and am considering transferring due to some personal circumstances. I am curious to know how important it is where I get my chemistry degree. One school versus another. Thank you

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I don’t think where you get your chemistry degree is too important. It’s most important that you get a chemistry degree.

  3. Kim

    Hi Perry,

    I am in the middle of my education and am currently an intended Bio major, but I feel that biology may not be appropriate for me. I was wondering if getting a BS in clinical laboratory sciences will get me an opportunity in the Industry. I intend to get my Masters at University at Cincinnati after my BS. Do you feel I would have a good opportunity in the field ?

    Thankyou.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      If you get a Masters degree for sure. If you don’t get the Masters degree you might have a little more difficult time getting into the cosmetic industry as a formulator. They usually prefer Chemistry or Chemical Engineering majors.

  4. christine

    What course do I study I am in middle school to be a cosmetic chemist

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Just study as much chemistry and biology as you can. In middle school, that means probably general science courses.

  5. Sophie

    What duties does a cosmetic chemist have to carry out??

  6. Dercio

    Hello!
    I am interested in starting my own cosmetic product line business. I am first going to business school. Do you think I can launch my own business if I take your courses?

  7. Mia Brown

    Hi Perry!
    This article really helped me! I”m planning on becoming on a cosmetic chemist when I grow up. Recently, at a science camp I learned a lot there. It was so interesting. It taught me chemical reactions, gasses, and all kinds of other things. I am also taking a field trip to Nashville, TN to visit the lab at Vanderbilt University. Again, Thank you sooooo much!!

  8. Gabriella

    Hello, Perry. I’d like to know if a pharmacy degree is accepted as much as a chemistry degree to work as a formulator in the cosmetic industry.

    Thanks.

  9. Hina Huynh

    Hi Perry,

    I absolutely love your page. It has provided so much insight, and I have done plenty of personal research on here. Although, I do have a question in regards to what major and university I should go for.

    I am currently in community college, anticipating to graduate with a B.S. But as for transferring I can not decide between simply majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Business Administration, or going to a school which specifically has a program for Cosmetic Science (http://www2.brooklyn.liu.edu/pharmacy/div_pharmaceutics_Master_phar.html).
    Both schools have a Master’s program, in which I planning on going forward with.

    The biggest factor here is money. The tuition for the two university differ about $40,000. So I can not decide whether it will be worth it for me to spend the extra money if I will end up gaining the same outcome.

    Thank you for your help in advance.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I would suggest you get the BS degree, then get a job in the cosmetic industry. If you want to take the Master’s program often your company will pay for some of the classes.

      1. Hina

        Thank you for the quick response.

        I would like to graduate with a Master’s this way I am well qualified. But I do not know if majoring at Stonybrook as a Chemistry Major will be enough, versus going to LIU Brooklyn Pharmaceutical / Cosmetic Science program, as they offer a program just for Cosmetic Science.
        As I see it, I have two options. Graduate at SB with a master’s in Chemistry versus getting my BS and having my job pay for my Master’s.
        Will SB allow me to be just as qualified if I went to LIU?

  10. Iylia

    Hi,

    I’m Iylia and I just finished my degree BS in Biotechnology. I would like to pursue masters degree in microbiology. However, I love cosmetic industries so much and hoping to get into this industry in future. Are my qualifications acceptable for cosmetic industries to hire me? And I would like to know what are the job scopes for microbiologist in cosmetic industry and also the chemist formulator.

    Thank you.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yes, you could get into the cosmetic industry with a degree in microbiology. But you probably wouldn’t start out as a formulator. You would have to work towards that once you are hired.

  11. Shannon Tamara

    Hi,
    I’m a senior high school student and I’m very interested in the subject field of Biology and Chemistry. I am also intrigue of the idea as a cosmetic chemist but I don’t know what Major I should take for University. I don’t really one to just take Chemistry BS because then I won’t learn much about Biology.
    I was thinking of Biotechnology, or Biochem, but I’m not really sure myself if it would beneficial for a cosmetic chemist as well as keeping my ranges open for other bio/chem-like jobs.
    What are your recommendations? I’m taking full Sciences and Maths for my A levels. Thanks!

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Try Biochemistry.

  12. Celeste Tidwell

    Do you mind if i interview you for my project on your career ?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      sure, send me your questions via our contact button above.

  13. Tatiana

    Hello, Perry

    I am currently studying for Biochemistry major at UCLA and I was considering my future jobs to be connected with cosmetics ( I am a person who has lots of cosmetics at home and as a female interested in all organic products that current market offers nowadays.. basically I love to take care of myself and give advises to other people).
    I was interested to work as cosmetic chemist but the thing is.. I don’t really imagine myself working at lab. I am more outgoing personality and would like to be on top of everything .
    What would you advise in my case? probably I would sound not reasonable enough to you.. but I was thinking of getting MBA and working at some cosmetic company as being a supervisor or smth like that.

    Is that possible?

    Any ideas!!! I would appreciate it!

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello Tatiana,

      Indeed if you do not want to work in a lab but you do want to be in the cosmetic industry, getting a degree in Marketing is a great way to go. Marketing people are the ones who basically run the cosmetic industry anyway. 🙂

      1. Tatiana

        Thank you, Perry for answering me!!!
        do you recommend while studying at my university to get some internships (paid I hope) at cosmetic companies? but as what position should I apply as? (not for lab….so what should I call that position?) I have some experience in working at business company….
        UCLA has a good career center but unfortunately, counselors over there don’t have such a specific knowledge (as cosmetic industry) and cant advise correctly.
        thank you so much!

          1. Tatiana

            Thank you for reply…

            but i cant relocate 🙁
            I was thinking about USC MBA! Also I got business related internships so it might help me..
            What do you think?

  14. handariel

    Hy!
    It is an interesting question what you should learn to get a cosmetic chemist job, BUT I want to ask an other thing: what is you are already in a job of cosmetic chemist, but your knowledge is very pour in this area (this is my situation, I work in a firm in this job, but I am a full biology/ecologist with some experts in environmental skills and a little chemistry skill, now I work in this field and I should learn more from formulation, stability, raw materials, etc ).
    What kind of books do You suggest for me to learn? (Our is a little new firm, after I found your forum I asked for many times for money to make your beginner course for cosmetic chemist, without good result to now 🙁 )
    Thank you!

    1. Perry

      Great question. Well, no doubt I would say take the online Complete Cosmetic Chemist course if you get a chance. Or take the Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry SCC course if your company will pay for that. Both courses cost about the same when you include travel costs. But if you are looking for less expensive route, continue following this blog & check out some of these basic cosmetic science books.

      1. Handariel

        Thank you Perry!
        At first I will check these books.
        Have a nice day!

  15. Jenny

    Hi Perry, I am in school for forensic toxicology (and most likely double track with molecular biology). Would that major be ok if I want to pursue a career as a cosmetic chemist?

    1. Perry

      Yes, that major should work. Before you interview I would suggest you go through this website (be sure to get the free introductory video series) and learn all you can about cosmetics.

    2. Robert Zonis

      From my experience, the most important undergraduate courses are Org. Chem and lab. Second most important is microbiology (with lab). Third most important was biochemistry. If you’ve got those three/four courses, you will have enough educational background to do the job well. Whether or not you can get hired is another issue. Please give serious thought to a master’s degree.

  16. Paige Fleming

    Hi, Perry
    I am currently working on my bachelors in Chemistry however I find that Physics courses are becoming a challenge for me so I am debating on whether I should just stick it out for 1.5 years or change over to microbiology… I would like to work in the formulating area and I was just wondering if you could give me any words of advice and if you think I would have a fair chance in working in the formulation departmet with a bachelors in microbio

    1. Perry

      Hello Paige, I would suggest sticking it out as getting a Chemistry degree is the most direct route to becoming a formulator. However, Microbiology could help get your foot in the door at a cosmetic company as there is often less competition for microbiology jobs. You’ll just need to work on politicking to get moved into the formulating groups.

    2. Robert Zonis

      Hi, Paige

      Some universities offer a BA in chemistry, along with a BS. It usually is for pre-med, etc. students, and may actually be a better fit for cosmetic chemistry jobs. It usually has less emphasis on physics and more emphasis on biochemistry. I don’t think it’s an easier degree, though, and Perry is right – there’s less competition for microbio jobs, but it may take quite some time to break into formulation.

      This is from CSU:

      “The B.A. Chemistry degree is designed for pre-health professional students. The program places greater emphasis on biochemistry and biology than the B.S. degree, because of the greater relevance to health professional careers. Graduates from our B.A. program have gone on to medical, dental, pharmacy, and other health professional schools. They have begun careers as high school science teachers and have entered the work force in chemical-based industries.”

      An alternative might be a Microbiology major with a Chemistry minor.

      If you go with a Microbiology degree, and still really want to be a cosmetic chemist, you should seriously consider one of the cosmetic chemistry Master’s degree programs. It’s more schooling & money, but you would be far less likely to hear “You’re just not qualified enough” at a job interview.

  17. uduakobong

    is cosmetic technology about formulating and manufacturing cosmetic and skincare products? if so, which of the Universities in USA can i find such a post graduate course?
    thanks

  18. priya

    Hi Perry,

    Thankyou for the great help..I have done my Masters in Pharmacy(pharmacognosy) from INDIA…am on a dependant visa…What can i do to get a job in cosmetic industry..am i eligible , if so what are the required courses should i work on ??
    Thanks again for your time,
    priya

    1. Perry

      Take a look at the list of cosmetic science programs and that should help you get started. Also look at our articles about cosmetic science careers.

  19. jessica

    Hi Perry, just wondering would a bachelor of science degree in Chemistry and Management be useful to someone who wants to get into the cosmetic chemist profession?

    1. Perry

      Yes Jessica. Those degrees would be useful.

  20. jessica

    Hi Perry, I’m in the middle of applying for university (the university of the west indies St.Augustine Trinidad & Tobago) I am very much interested in cosmetic chemistry what do you think i should major and minor in with the choices being : Chemistry,Biochemistry and Biology.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Perry

      Hello Jessica,
      I would suggest you take Chemistry as a major and Biology as a minor.

  21. Robert Zonis

    Thanks for your post, Christy. I’ve taken Perry’s course, and I found it very helpful, and comprehensive. I’m sure Perry will discuss the course with you in detail. You bring up a couple of great points, however, that I think I need to respond to:

    1) There’s a big difference between compounding/formulating for yourself and formulating for someone else – it’s sort of like the difference between being a cook at home and a chef in a restaurant – in one circumstance you are formulating (cooking) purely to please yourself, and in the other you are formulating to please someone else, and on top of that you need to have experience with a much wider variety of formula’s (recipes) than a home cook does.

    2) A professional cosmetic chemist needs to know a whole bunch of things that someone who’s formulating skin care for themselves does not need to know – how to function in a corporate environment is one, microbiology is another, anything about color is a third, and there’s more. Much of what a professional cosmetic chemist needs to know winds up revolving around fixing things when they go wrong – that’s when you really earn your salary.

    3) If you want to own and run your own cosmetic business, learning to be a cosmetic chemist is a false economy. It’s not expensive or difficult (in business terms) to hire a cosmetic chemist and an associated contract manufacturer and get really outstanding skin care products made for you. The really, really hard part in this business is getting people to pay enough for them that you show enough of a profit to want to repeat the cycle and have another batch of cosmetics made for you. Taking Perry’s course is a great idea, and taking the Natural course is another great step – but you can stop there, and already have far more knowledge of formulation than most cosmetic industry excecutives. Learning enough about cosmetic chemistry to be able to talk knowledgably to professional chemists about the products you want to make is a really good idea – learning to BE a cosmetic chemist, on the other hand, is a waste of the time that you should be using to learn about sales, marketing, and business operations.

    4) Last point – being a cosmetic chemist is a nice professional job. I love doing it, and so do many other people. But…it is not a particularly rewarding profession (beyond providing a decent, middle class living) If I had put the same amount of time and effort studying law, or medicine, or banking, or marketing, etc. that I have into cosmetic chemistry, I’d be making a LOT more money than I am now. Being a cosmetic chemist needs to be something you really enjoy doing – please don’t start training to be a cosmetic chemist for any other reason, because there are better things to be doing with your time.

  22. Christy

    Hi, Perry, et. al.

    Great website. I have read many of your posts, and am quite interested in taking your online ‘Complete Cosmetic Chemist’ training program. However, I would like to know a few details about the course, if you don’t mind. My educational background includes most of the formal prerequisite coursework listed above in Dr. Zonis’ post (including Inorganic, Organic, and biochemistry, physics, calculus, biology, microbiology, w/ labs).

    I am specificlly looking for a practical hands-on, detailed, and structured online course series that will help me to create my own skin care products. Specifically, I need a course your course get into the nitty gritty lab details of compounding and formulations. I am particularly interested in learning the interactions of the ingredients with the skin and each other, rather than just listings of raw materials or basic information that can be found on the internet.

    Additionally, I am interested also in natural cosmetics, and am considering signing up for your colleague’s course as well, called ‘Developing natural cosmetic formulations’.

    Please let me know if your course (along with book) would be appropriate for me.

    Thank you kindly.

    Christy.
    christysong0913@gmail.com

    1. Perry

      Hello Christy,

      Thanks so much for your questions. Indeed, I think both online courses will start you on your way to ultimately creating your own line. You certainly have the background to take the courses and understand the material.

      However, as Robert suggests in his comments above, there is more to launching your own line than to learning how to create the products. These courses only hint at everything that is involved and it will take more training in business to actually start selling your own product line.

      We will actually be creating a program early next year which teaches the basics of how to launch your own cosmetic line. Look for that in Jan / Feb 2012. In the meantime, taking the basic course and the natural course would be a great start.

  23. Robert Zonis

    I hope future cosmetic chemists do not misunderstand my earlier post – the chemistry degree needs to be your primary focus, but…a full BS degree in chemistry is well, overkill for most cosmetic chemistry positions. If I could design a BS degree specifically for Cosmetic Science, it would look something like this:
    1 yr (two semesters) of Inorganic Chemistry + Lab
    1 yr of Organic Chemistry + Lab
    1 yr of Physics + Lab
    1 semester of calculus
    1 yr of physics
    1 yr of biology + Lab
    1 yr of microbiology + Lab
    1 semester of biochemistry
    1 semester of microscopy and image analysis
    1 yr of project management
    1 semester of business accounting
    1 semester of technical writing (second or third year english class)
    1 semester public speaking/presentation (might be a part of technical writing)
    at least one year of art appreciation and/or studio art painting classes with some emphasis on color theory and paint mixing
    Independent study classes on emulsions and suspensions and formulating products
    Independent study on chemistry of oils and waxes
    Independent study on skin physiology

  24. Robert Zonis

    A BS in chemistry may actually make you TOO specialized to easily get a job in cosmetic chemistry. I’d suggest getting a BA in chemistry (thus skipping physical chemistry) and supplementing your degree with:
    Biology and/or Anatomy&Physiology
    Microbiology
    Biochemistry
    Pharmacology and/or Pharmaceutical Compounding
    Project management
    and a little Business accounting, technical writing, and even a class on Presentations/Public Speaking if you can find one.

    1. Perry

      Indeed, all of those specialties could help a future cosmetic chemist.

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