Chemist Careers for the Uncertain Science Major

When I was in college, I had no idea what kind of job to get when I graduated. In fact, I switched from a biology major to chemistry major in my first seniorchemist careers year because I realized there were a lot more job listings for chemists in the newspaper than for biologists. Biology was great but I needed to make money to pay off my college loans. I accidentally stumbled into the cosmetic science field and have enjoyed it as my chemist career.

If you are unsure about what to do with your science degree, you might find it helpful to know the types of jobs you might enjoy in the cosmetic industry. And if you’re in the cosmetic market, you might find it useful to know about the other jobs you might get.

Chemistry Majors

In the cosmetic industry, a degree in chemistry or chemical engineering is most useful. No doubt other scientists are hired, but chemists always have a leg up. There are a variety of different jobs available depending on the type of chemistry you liked.

Organic Chemistry

If you liked mixing things together in the lab during organic chemistry course than you’re well-suited for a job in a cosmetic laboratory. Here are just a few of the jobs you would like.

  • Formulation Chemist – Responsible for creating product formulas.
  • Synthesis Chemist – Responsible for synthesizing new raw materials for formulation chemists to use.
  • Basic Science Researcher – Responsible for doing basic research on skin, hair, or surfactants.  Not many of these jobs out there.

Analytical Chemistry

If you enjoyed your analytical chemistry classes and liked doing those chemical isolation investigations then these are a few jobs you’d like.

  • QA/QC Chemist – Run samples through instruments like GC, Mass Spec, IR to test raw materials, formulas, and insure quality.
  • Analytical chemist – Use instruments to come up with tests for QA/QC scientists to run.  Also, solve complicated production problems & assist product development group.

Physical Chemistry

Although this is one of the toughest classes you had to take, if you enjoyed it you might also enjoy the following cosmetic industry job.

  • Process Engineer – Responsible for scaling up formulas from beaker sized batches to thousands of gallons tanks.  Also, assist in picking batching equipment.
  • Basic Science Researcher – Responsible for doing basic research on skin, hair, or surfactants.  Not many of these jobs out there.

General Chemistry

If you didn’t specialize in any specific area of chemistry these jobs might appeal to you.

  • Technical Services – Responsible for evaluating raw materials and finished products to see what they can do.
  • Sensory Scientist – Develop and conduct tests which will predict consumer response to formulas.
  • Claims Substantiation Scientist – Develop tests to help support cosmetic claims made about products
  • Cost Savings Chemist – Take existing formulas and figure out how to make them less expensive.
  • Regulatory Scientist – Ensure your formulators are not infringing on patents or otherwise getting themselves into legal trouble.

Biology

If proteins, genetics, plants and animals held your interest, there are a few jobs in the cosmetic industry you can do.

  • Microbiologist – Responsible for ensuring finished products are not contaminated with microbes.  Also, will recommend preservative systems to formulators.
  • Sensory Scientist – Develop and conduct tests which will predict consumer response to formulas.
  • Claims Substantiation Scientist – Develop tests to help support cosmetic claims made about products
  • Regulatory Scientist – Ensure your formulators are not infringing on patents or otherwise getting themselves into legal trouble.

Corporate Food Chain

Depending on the size of your company and the number of scientists they hire, you can expect something like the following hierarchy to exist.

  • Technician – People with associate science degrees or those fresh out of college with a BS but no experience.
  • Associate Scientist – People with college degrees just entering the cosmetic industry.
  • Research Scientist – Scientists with a 2 to 7 years of experience.  People with Masters degrees will often start at this level.
  • Senior Scientist – Those who have over 7 years of experience.  Sometimes a PHD will enter the industry at this level.
  • Principle Scientist – Someone who has a PHD with relevant experience or someone who has worked 15+ years in the industry.
  • Research Fellow – A 20+ year veteran who has managed to stay relevant and convince the people around them she is smart. 🙂

Other Chemist Career Avenues

While I’ve outlined one path that takes your career through the lab, there are others that are likely more lucrative for science majors.  These would be the Sales path (you sell chemicals to these scientists) and the Management path (you tell these scientists what they have to work on).  We’ll discuss those jobs at another time.

Were you unsure about what to do with your science degree?  How did you figure it out?  Leave a comment and let us know.

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