We get asked this question a fair amount by people who are in college, high school or are even just interested in starting a new career in cosmetics. Here are some suggestions.
Figure out your objective
The background you need really depends on your objectives and goals. For example, do you want to start your own cosmetic line? Do you want a job working in the lab? Do you want to make a lot of money?
Answers to questions like these are the first thing to figure out because it will help guide your decisions in the future.
Getting a job
If your primary goal is to get a job in the cosmetic field, then you will want to get an undergraduate degree in chemistry. You can study biology if you find it more interesting but it reduces the number of jobs you will be qualified for. You can also study chemical engineering, though your job options may be geared more towards process engineering than cosmetic formulating. In almost all cases, you’ll need at least a 4 year degree in some science to get an R&D job in the cosmetic industry.
In addition to your science degree, it will be good to take electives in marketing and market research. People in these subjects will be the ones who you will be working with closely (and be making decisions that affect you) so it will be helpful to know what they know.
To advance in your career and improve your chances of getting a job, it will help to get an advanced degree in cosmetic science. See our post about cosmetic science programs.
Starting your own line
While a degree in chemistry is the best thing for getting a cosmetic science job, it may not be the best thing to do if you want to start your own line. If you want to start you own cosmetic line, you do not need any degree in particular. In this case you could get a degree in any subject you want. You should take some chemistry and business courses, but you may want to just learn how to start a business. See our free report on how to start a cosmetic line.
To start your own business you need to come up with a business plan, financing, marketing strategy, and figure out how to get the product made and sold. The best way to learn how to do this is to just do it. A college degree will not be terribly useful for being an entrepreneur, and for some people it is a hinderance.
But not everyone can tolerate the lifestyle of an entrepreneur. If you are unsure or worry about your level of passion, you should get a degree, then a job to learn the business, then start your own line once you figure everything out.
There are a number of ways you can start a career in cosmetic chemistry. Getting a degree is the most straightforward route, but if you want to start your own just going out and starting might be the best way to go.