Yes, specialty chemicals is a good career path. If you are passionate about pursuing a career in a chemistry-related field but you are not sure what branch of chemistry to opt for, you should definitely keep the specialty chemicals career path on your list.
While the chemical industry offers a wide variety of career opportunities, the specialty chemicals career path is one of the most fascinating options and there are several reasons to think so. First and foremost, specialty chemicals jobs focus on using and developing chemicals that are supposed to address particular needs.
But how do you end up in the specialty chemicals industry? What qualifications do you need to become a specialty chemicals professional? What types of jobs are available in specialty chemicals? And what are the benefits of working as a specialty chemicals professional? If these are some of the questions you are trying to find answers to, we’ve got you covered. This article will discuss everything you need to know about the specialty chemicals career path.
What Is the Specialty Chemicals Career Path?
Specialty chemicals include single-chemical entities or mixtures of different chemicals that are typically made in low volumes for specific applications. According to S&P Global Commodity Insights, there are market-directed and functional specialty chemicals that can be further classified into 30+ categories. These include construction chemicals, agricultural chemicals, electronic chemicals, feed and food additives, industrial cleaners, lubricating oil additives, mining chemicals, antioxidants, antibiotics, catalysts, adhesives and sealants, flavors and fragrances, corrosion inhibitors, polymers, and others.
As many industrial sectors are highly dependent on specialty chemicals, professional chemists with adequate knowledge and experience are required. And this is when the specialty chemicals career path comes into play. The specialty chemicals industry offers a broad range of career opportunities for individuals majoring in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, and a few other related subjects. The career path is pretty diverse, meaning that you can easily find a suitable job based on your skills, preferences, and interests.
What Job Opportunities Are Available in Specialty Chemicals?
If you are enthusiastic about pursuing a career in specialty chemicals, there are plenty of job opportunities you can choose from after getting a degree. Along with numerous internship and research opportunities, you get a chance to be hired for various laboratory-based positions.
Specialty chemicals job opportunities include analytical chemist, organic chemist, biochemist, synthetic chemist, materials scientist, pharmacologist, medicinal chemist, agricultural chemist, polymer chemist, chemical technician, chemical batch maker, chemical engineer, toxicologist, research and development chemist, academic researcher, quality control analyst, production supervisor, and others.
Some of the most popular and best-paying specialty chemicals jobs are discussed in more detail below.
Analytical chemists use various instruments and devices to obtain information about the structure of molecules in a compound and determine the composition of substances. As an analytical chemist working in specialty chemicals, your primary role is to perform quantitative and qualitative analysis that help scientists synthesize, improve, or develop different chemical products.
Professionals with organic chemistry background often work in specialty chemicals to analyze, synthesize, or produce various organic chemicals or products made of organic compounds. Typically, organic chemists are involved in the synthesis and production of agricultural chemicals, paints, and lubricants. When working in tandem with biochemists and medicinal chemists, organic chemists are also responsible for improving or developing new drugs.
Many specialty chemical companies look for biochemists to develop, synthesize, or improve various drugs, especially antibiotics. As biochemists have knowledge of chemical processes and transformations that take place in living organisms, they provide organic chemists with valuable information to synthesize effective and safe pharmaceutical products.
Synthetic chemists are involved in various types of chemical synthesis that involve the transformations of one or more compounds under certain conditions. A synthetic chemist can be a person with a background in organic or inorganic chemistry. Since synthetic chemists work in numerous industries, they can easily find jobs in companies producing or testing specialty chemicals for different purposes. Read more about the importance of synthetic chemistry in the pharmaceutical industry.
Materials scientists are professionals who study and analyze the structure and chemical properties of both natural and man-made materials. By understanding how different materials work, materials scientists are able to create new or improved materials. In specialty chemicals, materials scientists are crucial for determining the ideal properties of materials to grant them desired characteristics.
As specialty chemicals include a variety of drugs, including antibiotics, the knowledge and experience pharmacologists have is absolutely crucial in this field. By examining how drugs work and the way biological systems respond to them, pharmacologists ensure that specialty chemicals used in the pharmaceutical industry are both effective and safe for human consumption.
Medicinal chemists focus on designing and creating novel pharmaceutically active chemicals to prevent or treat diseases and health conditions. As a medicinal chemist, you may also be able to work on improving current drug formulations to make them even more effective. Medicinal chemists typically work closely with other scientists, including chemists, organic chemists, biochemists, analytical chemists, and more.
Agricultural chemists aim to design and produce agrichemicals, including but not limited to pesticides, fertilizers, soil conditioners, acidifying agents, and others. As these products are on the list of specialty chemicals, individuals with an educational background in agricultural chemistry are crucial for the development of the industry.
Polymer chemists in the specialty chemicals industry typically work in research and development labs where they design new polymers by conducting a variety of experiments and analyses. To create new polymers or improve the properties of already existing ones, polymer chemists work in tandem with other scientists, including chemists, biochemists, organic chemists, analytical chemists, and chemical engineers.
Chemical technicians help scientists analyze different samples for research and product development purposes. This is sometimes an entry-level position that does not always require a master’s degree or Ph.D. After getting a bachelor’s degree, you can start working as a chemical technician, as long as you have sufficient knowledge and lab experience.
Chemical Batch Maker
As the term suggests, chemical batch makers are responsible for making batches of chemicals according to predetermined specifications. As a chemical batch maker, you will not have to conduct research or develop new synthetic pathways. Instead, you follow the provided steps while documenting all your activities. Working as a chemical batch maker also involves collecting test samples of each batch for quality control reasons.
While chemists design and create new chemicals, they often need flawless manufacturing processes to make the production of chemicals easier. This is when chemical engineers come into play. As a chemical engineer, you use the knowledge of chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and maths to develop chemical manufacturing processes or solve related issues.
While specialty chemicals are widely used across the globe, they are not always safe for humans or our planet. To understand the potential harmful effects of different chemical agents, companies producing specialty chemicals typically hire toxicologists. As a toxicologist, your role is to determine if the chemicals used or manufactured by the company are toxic or harmful to living organisms or the environment.
Research and Development Chemist
While having academic knowledge is a huge plus, applying this knowledge to real-world problems is much more important. In order to develop specialty chemicals that meet a specific need, companies hire research and development chemists who use their theoretical knowledge while conducting experiments.
If you are more into understanding theoretical principles rather than working in a lab, then becoming an academic researcher might be the right choice. Having a background in chemistry, biology, biochemistry or related subjects will allow you to work as a research chemist and contribute to the development and production of various specialty chemicals.
Quality Control Analyst
In any industry that designs, creates, or produces chemicals, quality control is pretty much essential. And specialty chemicals is no exception. Although specialty chemicals offer plenty of benefits, they are not always effective or safe. To ensure that the quality of these chemicals meets industry-related specifications, quality control analysts perform various tests to check if the chemicals and manufacturing processes meet quality and safety standards.
Working in specialty chemicals does not always require a chemistry degree and being a production supervisor is a great example. As a production supervisor, you coordinate production processes so that they meet manufacturing schedules. You also ensure that quality control checks are performed properly and on time. As long as you have leadership and management skills and you are enthusiastic about working in specialty chemicals, this job position might be the right fit for you.
How Much Do Professionals in Specialty Chemicals Earn?
While the specialty chemicals industry features some of the highest-paid positions, entry-level jobs are available as well. According to PayScale, professionals with specialty chemical manufacturing jobs earn as low as $40,000 per year. The annual salary goes up to around $180,000. On average, people working in specialty chemicals earn $80,000 a year.
Note that the salary of individuals working in specialty chemicals may vary depending on their location, company, and position. It also depends on the level of experience and assigned duties at a given company.
What Do You Need to Become a Specialty Chemicals Professional?
In order to become a specialty chemicals professional, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related scientific field. However, if we’re talking about higher-paid jobs, then you will definitely need a master’s degree or a Ph.D. with adequate knowledge and experience.
Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a degree in specialty chemicals. To work in the specialty chemicals industry, you should have a background in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, or related subjects.
On many occasions, you will be required to complete a special training as working in the specialty chemicals field means that you will need to handle many toxic, hazardous, and flammable chemicals.
What Do Professionals Specializing in Specialty Chemicals Do?
Individuals pursuing a career in specialty chemicals perform various tasks, ranging from simple lab tests to extensive research and development of new products. Specific duties and responsibilities depend on your job position and the industry you’re working in.
What Is the Job Satisfaction in Specialty Chemicals?
If you are someone passionate about making a difference, a career in specialty chemicals might be the right choice for you. As an individual working in specialty chemicals, you will be granted the ability to create something new or enhance the chemicals we already have. If this is the case, working in specialty chemicals may grant you a feeling of fulfillment and enjoyment.
What Are the Benefits of Choosing a Career in Specialty Chemicals?
Although working in chemistry-related fields is not an easy job, choosing a career in specialty chemicals offers numerous benefits. Why choose a career in specialty chemicals? Here are a few reasons:
- Being able to design and create specialty chemicals is rewarding;
- Having a career in specialty chemicals allows you to choose from a broad range of industries;
- The specialty chemicals industry offers a myriad of job opportunities to choose from;
- You get a chance to work with other scientists while sharing knowledge and experience with each other;
- You learn something new every day, no matter how experienced you are in this field;
- Many specialty chemicals jobs are high-paid;
- You can grow and develop as a professional pretty much continuously.
If this is something that makes you even more enthusiastic about pursuing a career in specialty chemicals, then it’s probably the right time to proceed!