Chemistry is a physical science concerned with what matter consists of, what its properties are, and how it behaves. The scientists and technicians who do chemical research focus on the different kinds of atoms, how they interact and bond with one another, and how they interact with energy.
Chemists are employed in a variety of industries including pharmaceuticals, energy, government, academia, nonprofits, and start-ups. Chemists can also specialize in subfields such as biochemistry, chemical engineering, geochemistry, physical chemistry, and polymer chemistry.
American Chemical Society - College to Career - Lists chemistry careers by sector and area, linking to helpful pages for each.
Vault Industry Guides - Log in or create an account, with your Colgate e-mail address, and then find “Chemistry” through the search box or in “Industries & Professions”. There are links to pages for many specific professions at the bottom of this page.
What Can I Do with this Major? - Chemistry - Includes areas of employment, specific employers, several areas of specialization, and key transferable skills both in and out of chemistry.
Prepare for Jobs and Internships
Information, tips, and strategies to help prepare you as an undergraduate.
- Maintain a high grade point average and secure strong recommendations for graduate school admission.
- Develop robust computer, mathematics, and science knowledge. Consider electives in computer science, engineering, business, public speaking, and writing.
- Seek coursework and opportunities to enhance laboratory skills.
- Obtain part-time, volunteer, co-op, internship or research opportunities with a professor to gain relevant experience.
- Develop industry contacts at companies, government laboratories, and research organizations.
- Schedule informational interviews to learn about the profession and specific career paths.
- Read scientific journals to stay current on relevant issues in the field and join related professional organizations.
American Chemical Society - a non-profit organization chartered by Congress. ACS is at the forefront of the evolving worldwide chemical enterprise and the premier professional home for chemists, chemical engineers, and related professionals around the globe.
Weddle's Professional Association Directory, Chemistry - a searchable listing of professional associations by category.
A master's degree is sufficient for most applied research positions, industrial work, and some community college teaching positions. A Ph.D. degree is required for university teaching and advanced positions in management and research and development. Postdoctoral experience may be required for research positions at companies, universities, and government. In the United States, doctoral students typically receive full tuition waivers and annual salaries to attend graduate school because there is a strong need for teaching assistants in general chemistry classes. There is also excellent federal and industrial monetary support available for research.
Advice from alumni who work in this industry.
Zafir Zaman ’10
Current Title and Organization: Sr. Engineer, The Dow Chemical Company
Major at Colgate: Chemistry
Advanced Degrees: Ph.D. in Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University
What do you currently do?
I work in Business R&D in Polyurethanes since 2016.
What was your first position out of Colgate and what did you do in that role?
Graduate Research Assistant, Northwestern University: I was an experimentalist in a granular flow and mixing lab, working on my Ph.D.
How can students prepare themselves while at Colgate to work in your field?
To be successful in a research-based graduate program, it was important to take advantage of the research opportunities at Colgate to get acclimated to the rigors and mindset of research. Classes teach you how to consume and synthesize knowledge in contrast to research where one is essentially producing a new body of work or knowledge.
I participated in research with Prof. Rick Geier in the Department of Chemistry from my sophomore year to senior year, both during the school year and during the summers. The summers were nice because I got a great mentoring experience since classes do not take up time for both you and your research mentor. On the other hand, during the semester, it was good to learn how to juggle research and classes simultaneously since graduate school requires that. That experience taught me the rigors of experimental research by experiencing the level of care and thought required to execute proper experimental techniques. I also experienced failure, which is a necessary part of research. I was persistent and learned how to diagnose and troubleshoot my reactions until I achieved success. The ability to handle failures and learn from them is of the utmost importance for being successful in a Ph.D. graduate program. I was also a lab assistant for the organic chemistry instructional labs for Prof. Jue and Prof. Hough. This experience was my first experience teaching, which I had to do more of in my Ph.D. program.
In addition, since Colgate does not have an engineering program, it was essential to take math classes (at least up to differential equations) to supplement my chemistry degree during my time at Colgate so that I was considered a competitive candidate for a chemical engineering Ph.D. program. I also took extra physics classes which helped.
What extracurricular activities, associated with your profession or not, were you involved with while at Colgate?
Aside from research, I worked with Colgate IT to service computers and with The Game's Afoot. My friend founded the club, which brought the gaming scene to Colgate. I particularly like board games. I have been known to be ruthless at Settlers of Catan.
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James joined Colgate Career Services in September 2014 as a Career Advisor with a focus on the STEM disciplines. Prior to his arrival at Colgate James was employed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he served as an Associate Director and Lecturer in the Archer Center for Student Leadership Development.
James earned an Ed.M. degree in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies with a concentration in Student Affairs Administration from the University at Buffalo and a BA in History from the State University of New York, College at Geneseo. James brings to Colgate more than ten years of experience working with college students in a variety of capacities including, leadership education, curriculum design and assessment, community development, and one-on-one coaching. He enjoys helping students bridge their interests and passions with their professional goals to find a sense of fulfillment and success.
Originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State, James resides in Syracuse and is excited to enjoy the diverse array of outdoor recreational activities that Central New York has to offer.
Questions? Call 315-228-7380 for an advising appointment.