What Types of Careers Can I do with a Degree in Chemistry?
A Bachelor of Science in Chemistry is far more than a badge of academic achievement. It’s also the foundation for a number of health science careers. Specialized training in medical and laboratory sciences often takes place at the post-baccalaureate or graduate level.
In order to get a slot in a competitive program, a person needs the right academic background; there may be a long list of natural science prerequisites. Some careers, both in the clinic and in the laboratory, are especially well suited for a person with a chemistry degree. Here is a look at some of the hottest healthcare careers for chemistry majors, in both direct care and laboratory settings.
Medical Laboratory Scientist
Laboratory science is a classic career choice for chemists. Medical laboratory scientists prepare and analyze medical specimens and report their findings. Samples may be analyzed for anything from lipids or viral count to alterations in DNA or RNA. Some laboratory scientists advance to develop protocols or participate in research. Laboratory scientists often have a post-baccalaureate education, entering NAACLS-accredited clinical laboratory science programs with a biology or chemistry major. It is possible to earn multiple certifications; a chemistry major might end up becoming both a Medical Laboratory Scientist and a Technologist in Chemistry. It’s not necessary to complete two educational programs for these related roles.
Another possibility is to become a pathologist assistant. This is a separate track and entails completion of an NAACLS-accredited PA program. Forensic science represents yet another career choice. Forensic scientists also analyze samples; unlike other laboratory scientists, they focus on materials collected from a crime or accident scene. Samples may consist of human tissue or of other materials picked up at the crime scene.
There is also demand for biomedical chemists working at the graduate level. Original research generally requires a PhD or similar level of education, but those with lower levels of education can work in an assistive role; biomedical internships are available at virtually every level. PhD biomedical chemists research many of the same things that MDs do. The main difference is that they don’t apply their knowledge to patient treatment. Learn more about Biomedical Chemists.
Industrial Hygienist or Toxicologist
Industrial hygienists apply scientific knowledge to evaluate and improve workplace safety. Chemistry is among the preferred majors for post-baccalaureate or graduate study in the field. Those considering this path can turn to the American Board of Industrial Hygiene for certification information. Learn more about Industrial Hygienists and Toxicologists.
Physician assistants, or physician extenders as they’re sometimes termed, carry out many duties that used to be reserved for MDs. They typically enter competitive master’s programs with a BS in a healthcare or a science related field. The admission process is selective and generally requires clinical experience as well as academic aptitude. Requirements vary. In some cases, a stint as a certified nursing assistant is sufficient to show you have what it takes. Learn more about Physician Assistants.
Veterinary science is not for everyone, but those who have the passion and dedication will find that their undergraduate chemistry degree serves them well. Veterinary school admission is academically competitive, and high scores in chemistry classes can tip the balance in your favor. It is common for veterinary schools to require 32 – 36 semester hours of science prerequisites. There is typically a higher chemistry requirement even than a biology one.
Veterinary schools typically turn away more students than they admit, however. In order to be a strong candidate for veterinary school, you’ll also need some related experience. You might consider volunteering at a clinic or animal shelter. You might also try looking for a paid position as veterinarian assistant. Learn more about Veterinarians.