Is Major Chemicals a Good Career Path?
The chemical industry is a rapidly evolving and complex sector that covers a vast range of products, processes, and services. Critical to the global economy, the chemical industry is responsible for meeting most of the essential needs of people worldwide, and innovations in this field have an infinite capability of addressing the world’s greatest challenges, including climate change and food security.
The chemical industry is focused on the manufacture of what we call industrial chemicals, using processes to convert raw materials such as oil, natural gas, air, water, metals, and minerals into more than 70,000 different products. These products–which include plastics, fertilizers, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and specialty chemicals–have a variety of uses in other industries, in people’s livelihoods, and in everyday life.
As it continues to adapt to the needs of today’s world, the chemical industry is increasingly leaning more toward sustainability and has become a major player in achieving circular economies and reducing emissions. It also continues to innovate in developing renewable energy sources, advanced materials, and nanotechnology.
Overall, the chemical industry is a powerhouse in the global economy and offers diverse opportunities for career growth.
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The Best Jobs in the Major Chemicals Industry
Chemical engineers are heavily involved in the design and development of products. As a chemical engineer, it would be your job to transform the chemical, biochemical, and physical state of raw materials into products. As with any job, the responsibilities of a chemical engineer also depend on the sector and the products or services that a company offers. Daily responsibilities can include maximizing output levels and production facility efficiency, designing equipment and plant configuration based on the product needs and process technologies involved, applying new technologies, and researching new products.
To become a chemical engineer, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in chemical, process, or biochemical engineering. If you wish to take on more advanced positions, you will need a master’s degree, and for the most specialized areas of development and production, chemical engineers would usually need a PhD.
Chemists are responsible for researching and analyzing the chemical properties of substances, leading the development of new materials, products, or knowledge. They are typically involved in carrying out research projects, directing technicians in chemical processing and testing, preparing solutions, compounds, and reagents for laboratory procedures, and analyzing substances to determine the composition and concentration of elements.
To become a chemist, you would need at least a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related physical science field. As with most jobs, chemists can advance their careers by gaining experience or through further education that allows them to develop a specialization.
Production managers are focused on manufacturing and typically handle one or more manufacturing units. They are responsible for ensuring that finished products comply with quality standards and lead times and that production is compliant to cost, safety, and environmental requirements.
To become a production manager in the chemical industry, you would need a general or chemical engineering degree and must gain experience in production, process engineering, or technical operations.
Quality Control Analyst
Quality control analysts handle analyses of materials, environmental samples, and finished products. Aside from testing and interpreting test results of materials and products and comparing them to the set criteria, you would also be in charge of visually inspecting finished products. Some of the quality control analysts’ daily tasks include performing chemical evaluation, recording research and operational data, and calibrating scientific or technical equipment.
To enter this job, you would need a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, quality assurance, or quality management. You will need to take classes in quality management, auditing and planning, statistical process control, and customer service. You might also be required to study the Six Sigma methods and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) quality systems.
Maintenance technicians handle routine maintenance activities and procedures and are also in charge of troubleshooting and repairing equipment and solving mechanical or electrical problems. These involve inspecting and surveying buildings, performing maintenance of electrical systems, and maintaining the heating, plumbing, ventilation, refrigeration, and other systems needed for a facility to function properly and efficiently.
To start in this field, you can take an associate’s degree in chemical technology or applied science and earn undergraduate certificates in chemical technology. If you’re looking for more advanced positions, a bachelor’s degree can be a plus.
Why You Should Get a Job in Major Chemicals
Now that you know a little bit about the chemical industry and the types of jobs available, you might be wondering about what sets it apart from other industries in terms of opportunities, compensation, and career outlook. Here are some of the things you need to know.
The chemical industry is rapidly evolving and growing, and this means that there are endless career opportunities that can be available to you depending on the type of job that you want. You can widen your career opportunities by gaining experience in specialized areas, expanding your skillset, and getting involved in research and innovation. Demands for developing new, more cost-effective, and environment-friendly products heavily influence this field, widening the prospects for people looking to enter this industry.
Aside from the jobs mentioned, you can also explore product development research, regulatory compliance, and other employment areas like formulation chemistry, process chemistry, health and safety, industrial management, and quality assurance and control. Specialized fields are also very diverse.
As with any other industry, compensation for jobs in the chemical industry depend on several factors like job experience, education, training and certifications, location, and company size. Below are some of the approximate salary ranges for common chemical industry jobs in the US based on data from Payscale:
- Chemical Engineer: $63,000 – $126,000 per year
- Chemist: $44,000 – $82,000 per year
- Production Manager: $62,000 – $134,000 per year
- Quality Control Analyst: $45,000 – $84,000 per year
Actual figures may vary depending on a number of factors, and some jobs may offer lower salary ranges for entry-level positions.
In recent years, the chemical industry has grown to lead materials transformation worldwide. Although it is affected by volatile energy prices, higher production costs, and changes in trading patterns, the chemical industry is well-equipped in adapting to demands for greater sustainability and evolving consumer preferences. It plays a major role in effectively tackling climate change and is involved in products that are essential even in people’s modern-day lifestyles.
Innovation and sustainability, balancing costs, carbon footprint, and resilience, as well as embracing emerging technologies in value chains are crucial trends that you should watch out for if you intend to grow in this industry. Being able to pivot to other jobs in the field as well as other industries should also be your top priority. To advance in this sector and to get a higher salary, you can explore the following certifications, depending on the type of job or sector you wish to pursue:
- Petroleum Engineering Certification
- Reliability Engineer Certification
- Six Sigma Black Belt, Green Belt, and Yellow Belt
- Certified Process Safety Professional Certification
- Plant Engineer Certification
- Physical/Chemical Waste Operator Certification
- Laboratory Lubricant Analyst Certification
Ready for a Career in Major Chemicals?
The chemical industry is incredibly vast, and choosing a career entry point can be challenging, but keep in mind that no matter which job you start with, there are plenty of career paths that you can take. Continue studying industry trends and exploring opportunities for further training and education and you won’t be left behind.
Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.