Why Would You Study Chemistry?


Every year in the spring, I talk to journalism undergraduates about possible career paths they might take, and one piece of advice I always impart is that they should major in anything but journalism. As you can imagine, that nugget doesn’t go over well with the faculty that teaches these journalism students, but it’s something I believe fervently.

 

Invariably, the students then ask me what my major was. Chemistry and biochemistry, I tell them, with minors in physics and math. The next question is then, “What does that have to do with being a writer?” That’s when I tell them that chemistry is an ideal major for a budding writer because the coursework and lab work builds strong thinking, analytical and organizational skills, which is something that most journalism programs, by and large, don’t emphasize.

 

Becoming a writer was not something that crossed my mind when I decided to major in chemistry in college, but knowing what I know today about my chosen profession, I would take the same path again if I had it to do all over again. Chemistry isn’t called “the central science” for no good reason – a good education in chemistry can prepare you for a job in a wide range of fields.

 

Careers in chemical research span the widely known – synthetic chemist, medicinal chemist, polymer chemist, materials scientist, analytical chemist, geochemist, and the like – and the more obscure. In a cursory search on the Web, I found job posting for cement chemists, packing technologists, ethnobotanists, paleoclimatologists, astrobiologist, forensic scientists, and fragrance formulator, all requiring a minimum of a B.S. in chemistry.

 

Then there are the “non-traditional” jobs open to chemists. I found job postings for science writers, environmental and patent attorneys, technical writers, software designers, restaurant test kitchen researchers, information specialists, government policy analysts, and of course, science teachers that all requested applicants to have a chemistry degree.

 

I even found a job posting for a special effects coordinator that required applicants to have completed a minimum of two years of graduate school in chemistry. Maybe MacGyver is making a comeback! Or perhaps the CSI franchise intends to be more realistic when it comes to staging lab scenes.

 

 I’m sure that there are many more unusual professions open to those of us with training I chemistry. In fact, I’d like to hear from you if you are using your chemistry degree for something out of the ordinary. Leave a comment by clicking on the “Comments” link at the end of this blog entry. Let’s see just how creative chemists can be when it comes to career development. I’m sure the results will be surprising.

 

This article was written by Joe Alper, a freelance science writer and technology analyst in Louisville, CO.

9 Responses to Why Would You Study Chemistry?

  1. Cindy says:

    My BS in biochemistry was excellent preparation for my over 25 years in air pollution control. The chemistry background helped me understand fuel combustion, atmospheric pollutant transformations, health effects of toxic pollutants, measurement of pollutants from air and stack samples, composition of gasoline vapors, behavior of gases and particles – I could go on and on. The environmental field is a natural fit for chemistry majors.

  2. Yelena says:

    My pharmacy training in eastern Europe included 3 years of chemistry! No kidding! Three years and numerous courses from synthetic, organic and inorganic, to analytical and physical chemistry. I ended up getting a PhD in medicinal chemistry later on. This is just to explain my bias towards chemistry. So I can ask this question:
    Can you really live/work without it? I mean, without chemistry, in any field. From cooking to medicine, from engineering to art, it is everywhere. I am one of those old fashioned people who want all pharmacists to know chemistry more. With modern clinically oriented programs, chemistry is squeezed out the pharmacist education and made smaller and smaller. This is somewhat changing over past few years, but the students still do not like the idea of getting into the detail about structures and synthesis. More chemistry in medical, dental and pharmacy schools, please!

  3. I have to say, I can not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my opinion, which could be very wrong.
    p.s. You have a very good template for your blog. Where have you got it from?

  4. After reading the article, I just feel that I really need more information on the topic. Could you suggest some resources please?

  5. Josephine says:

    How to extract terpene from bryophyllum pinnatum? Method and solvent to use?

  6. Have everyone tried using this specific previously?

  7. Purushottam Panthee says:

    I am Purushottam Panthee. I did my Masters Degree in Chemistry in 1997 AD from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. After completing my Masters Degree, I have been teaching chemistry in colleges. I participated in different training programs organized by the American Chemical Society in 2005, 2007 ,2008 and 2010. Being a Chemistry student i am involving as a social worker to solve problem facing by Nepalese people in our country.It does not matter which subject had you studied. Freedom, socialism is the main thinks to share our views and opinion.
    Purushottam Panthee
    Now New York.

  8. purushottam panhee says:

    Yes ! Chemistry is my best choice for my Master degree out of Math and Physics were majored in my B.Sc degree.

  9. Heya i’m for the primary time here. I found this board and I to find It truly helpful & it helped me out much. I am hoping to offer something back and help others such as you helped me.

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