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.

2 thoughts on “How much money does a cosmetic chemist make?

  1. Avatar
    Andreas says:

    Dear Perry,
    I hold a BSc in pharmacy, and operate a compounding pharmacy. Through the years I have been intrigued by cosmetics, and their formulation. As daily obligations are many, I do want to pursue a MSc in cosmetic science. In your opinion, would these 2 degrees compliment eachother in the industry; is this a sought after “mix” of degrees?
    Many Thanks

    • Avatar
      Perry Romanowski says:

      Yes, this would actually be a great mix. In fact, many of the cosmetic science programs are run through the Pharmacy schools of different universities. Much of what you learn for pharmacy can be applicable to cosmetics.

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