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Chemists and Materials Scientists Job Outlook

Employment of chemists and materials scientists is expected to increase by 4 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations.

Employment of chemists is expected to grow by 4 percent, as they will continue to be needed in scientific research and development and to monitor the quality of chemical products and processes.

Employment of materials scientists is expected to grow by 10 percent, owing to demand for cheaper, safer, and better quality materials for a variety of purposes, such as electronics, energy, and transportation.

Declines in employment of chemists is expected at chemical and drug manufacturers. To control costs and minimize risks, many of these companies are expected to partner with research universities and smaller scientific research and development (R&D) and testing services firms to perform work formerly done by in-house chemists. Additionally, companies in these industries are expected to conduct an increasing amount of manufacturing and R&D in other countries, further limiting domestic employment growth.

Environmental research will offer many new opportunities for chemists and materials scientists. For example, chemical manufacturing industries will continue to invest billions of dollars each year to develop technologies and processes that reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency at manufacturing facilities.

Also, the development of improved battery technologies and alternative energy sources should lead to greater demand for chemists and materials scientists. Chemists will continue to be needed to monitor pollution levels at manufacturing facilities and ensure compliance with local, state, and federal environmental regulations.

Job Prospects

In addition to job openings resulting from employment growth, some job openings will result from the need to replace chemists and materials scientists who retire or otherwise leave the occupations.

Chemists and materials scientists with advanced degrees, particularly those with a Ph.D., are expected to experience better opportunities. Large pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms provide openings for these workers at research laboratories, and many others work in colleges and universities. Furthermore, chemists with advanced degrees will continue to fill most senior research and upper-management positions.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition