Combining Chemistry with Other Fields

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Last Revised Jan. 22, 2004

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Combining Chemistry with Other Fields

Although unemployment is still quite low for B.S. chemistry graduates, the job market is not nearly as good as it was several years ago. One way to gain an edge in a very competitive job market is to combine your chemistry major with other related courses or programs. One way to accomplish this is to minor in an area related to chemistry, but often it is more convenient, and equally helpful, to choose a set of related courses yourself. Some possible areas that combine well with chemistry are mentioned in the next paragraph, but don't be limited by these suggestions. You will find other possibilities described in some Career Perspective articles from recent issues of Science magazine.

Most Chemistry graduates focus on a relatively narrow set of career choices that offer the greatest number of possible industrial jobs. A number of areas combine chemistry with other studies. Many of these are so-called sunset industries, that is, for one reason or another the employment opportunities are not expanding and the field is not considered to be glamorous. Even though the number of jobs is limited, the number of programs that prepare students with this specialized training may be even more limited. Since both supply as well as demand are important in determining job opportunities, some of these areas may be good career choices for someone who is interested in this type of work.

(Many thanks to Jack Bell, Vista Community College, for some helpful suggestions that I have added to this section.)

Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals -

NaviCyte, a biotechnology company that specializes in the development of in-vitro testing methods, has a superb site that includes links to 350 carefully selected web sites for biotechnology and pharmaceutical, business, science, and law. Another good source if you are interested in jobs in this area is the The Biotechnology Career Center. The Genentech Career Sphere also offers useful information about working for this major biotechnology company, including an on-line application form. The Biotechnology Industry Organization sponsors the BioCareer Center, which covers all aspects of finding a job in the biotechnology industry, including career advice, salary surveys, and more (page down past the ads to get to the good stuff) . The field of pharmacy also offers a number of interesting options, which are discussed in more detail on the pharmacy page, which is part of the Alchemist's Lair site.

Chemistry Materials Science Research

Chemistry materials, that is, the combination of chemistry with materials science, is currently a very hot area. Jason Ritchie, a faculty member from the University of North Carolina, has developed an extensive listing of links to materials science programs associated with chemistry departments, chemical engineering departments, and other sites.

Chemistry and the Law -

Bristol Univ. in England offers a program in Chemistry and Law, which can be used to examine some of the courses you may wish to take. You may also wish to look at the Chemistry and the Law Program at the University of Wales Swansea. NaviCyte, a biotechnology company that specializes in the development of in-vitro testing methods, has a superb site that includes links to a number of fine sites concerned with patent law. The Franklin Pierce Law Center (New Hampshire) specializes in patent law. You may also find some helpful tips at the ACS Division of Chemistry and the Law site.

Patent Examiner

Greg Ritchie has been kind enough to provide a brief description of his work as a Patent Examiner.

Cosmetic chemistry

The New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists employment page seems to have a number of positions listedin the Northeastern U.S., although many of the jobs require prior experience. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition does offer links to Cosmetic Safety, FDA Requirements, and Programs. If you are going to interview with a cosmetic firm, you may want to look at the Code of Federal Regulations for Cosmetic Products, especially Part 2 of the Cosmetics Handbook. Susan Wade, a SUNY Oneonta graduate who currently works as a cosmetics formulator, was kind enough to provide a description of what cosmetics formulator does.

Environmental Programs

The Committee for the National Institute for the Environment maintains an on-line listing of environmental programs in higher education. Many of these programs are at the undergraduate level, but there are also a number of graduate programs included. To find the graduate programs, go to the environmental programs search page and set the degree type to Ph.D, Master. You may also wish to look for summer undergraduate research opportunities at sites, such as Alabama's Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Food chemistry -

Thus far, I have not been able to find a list of links to U.S. schools that offer graduate programs in food chemistry. IN terms of individual departments, be sure to look at the programs listed on the home page of the Cornell University Institute of Food Science and the Cornell Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineeering. If you wish to read more about the chemistry related to food and nutrition, Kansas State University offers an extensive site of Nutrition Links. Another source of links to sites related to food chemistry is the Agribusiness Dept. and CalPoly. If you page down a screen or two on the CalPoly page, you will find a listing of several search engines that are specifically for the Agricultural Business. Be sure to use chemist as a search term, unless you are interested in nonchemical jobs in this field. The ACS Division of Agricultural and Food Chemistry offers a job listing service, but it seems mainly to be used for academic positions. You may also be interested in the internships possibilities found at the International Agribusiness Internship Center (IAIC) at Utah State University.

Forensic chemistry -

For a host of web sites links, see the Forensic Science Society Homepage. Another listing of programs is provided at the Fornsic Chemistry Network (if you don't mind the intrusive ads that come with the information). The Society of Forensic Toxicologists site includes a listing of available jobs in forsenic toxicology. When I visited the Society's site and searched under the word chemist, several job openings did show up. In order to subscribe to a Forensic Mailing List, send an email to with the command subscribe forens insert your e-mail address here.

Laboratory Technician

Many laboratory technician jobs don't require a B.S. in Chemistry, but it is still a career direction that some students interested in Chemistry may wish to pursue. Dr. Johanne Artman's Chemical Laboratory Technician site (at Del mar College, TX) is a source for more information about this option.

Textile and Fabric Chemistry -

SRI International, an independent, nonprofit corporation chartered by the State of California, offers a number of links to specific information about various fibers and other materials. The first item on the list, fibers overview, gives a good review of the status of current fibers.

Technical Writing-

Unfortunately, there are relatively few college-level programs specifically designed to prepare one for this career. You should try to design your undergraduate program so that it is strong in practical writing courses and includes a broad science background. You should also work on developing a portfolio of writing projects that can demonstrate your abilities. Most people seem to begin a career in technical writing with free-lance work, that is, the articles are submitted individually to various journals for consideration rather than the individual having a regular salary. Some individuals like the flexibility that this provides, but the lack of financial security may be a problem for others.

There are several ways to learn more about this field. There is a general on-line discussion list on technnical writing; the on-line placement service has an article on technical writing; abd you will find more information at the Society for Technical Communciation home page.

Toxicology and Industrial Hygiene -

If you are seriously interested in this field you should check the Society of Toxicology home page, especially the Resource Guide to Careers in Toxicology that they offer. In addition,
Ashland University offers a good set of links to Web pages on Biology and Toxicology. There are also many useful links at UK Toxicology Resources. SRI International, mentioned above, also offers a set of toxicology links.

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