By Kailey Brennan
Although more women are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), women are still underrepresented in these fields. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, “women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 28 percent of the science and engineering workforce.” With high-paying and fulfilling careers available, women with chemistry degrees have an opportunity to break through gender barriers.
If you’re looking for a career beyond teaching or solitary laboratory work, consider these jobs for chemistry majors that influence change, protect our environment, and shatter glass ceilings.
1. Food scientist
Food scientists study and develop methods to improve the production and sustainability of crops and livestock. They can specialize in specific areas such as plants, soil, nutrition levels, or food technology, which deals with the development of packaging techniques, new food products, and methods of detecting (and preventing) contaminants. According to Glassdoor, a food technologist can make an average of $59,000 a year, while a food scientist who specializes in product development can make an average of $69,000 a year. A bachelor's degree in chemistry is usually enough to break into the food science industry, especially if you have coursework in microbiology.
2. Nuclear engineer
If you have a master’s or Ph.D. in chemistry, you have an opportunity to make some big money as a nuclear engineer. Commonly used in the design, maintenance, and operation of nuclear power, the expertise of a nuclear engineer can also translate to medicine, where nuclear technology, such as radiology, is used to diagnose and treat disease. Nuclear engineers can also be involved in national security measures, where they develop methods and technologies for catching nuclear terrorists or create radiation detectors to protect airports, seaports, and border crossings. Depending on the career you pursue, a bachelor's degree in chemistry may not be enough to find employment in this field. It may behoove you to pursue a master’s degree or even a doctorate in nuclear engineering or another branch of nuclear science. A nuclear engineer can expect to make an average salary of $85,000 per year, but experienced engineers can make well into the six figures.
3. Environmental consultant
Specializing in subfields like air or water pollution, waste management, natural disaster risk, or renewable energy, environmental consultants conduct both field and desk-based research. They have extensive knowledge of environmental regulations and can advise clients in private industry or government institutions environmental policy and practice. Taking additional coursework in environmental science, ecology, and forestry can improve your chances of getting hired. The average salary for an environmental consultant is $59,000.
4. Forensic scientist
Forensic scientists assist criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing physical evidence, such as bodily fluids, fibers, fingerprints, DNA, tissue, or spent shell casings. This could include on-site collection or work in a laboratory. Your work could also include using sophisticated chemical and biological technologies, like mass spectrometry or liquid chromatography, or could mean reconstructing crime scenes or testifying in court as an expert witness. A degree in chemistry is often enough to get your foot in the door with entry-level employment, if accompanied by coursework in forensic science or related areas of study like toxicology or pathology. Payscale reports forensic scientists make between $54,000 and $92,000 yearly, depending on experience, location, and area of expertise.
5. Pharmaceutical chemist
Pharmaceutical chemists study chemicals, disease, and the human body to develop pharmaceutical drugs and treatments. Pharmaceutical chemists who work in medical marketing may generate funding for drug development, work with the FDA to get a new drug tested and approved, promote a new drug to the public. Pharmaceutical chemists can make between $52,000 and $70,000 a year, according to Glassdoor. A bachelor’s or master’s degree may be enough to qualify for some entry-level positions as a biological technician or lab assistant, but a doctorate is typically required to work in independent research and development positions.