How to Become a Clinical Chemist

If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a clinical chemist:


Those who become clinical chemists have a keen interest in contributing to the body of knowledge of medical science, as well as helping healthcare practitioners save lives and improving the quality of life of patients by helping with early detection of various diseases and health conditions.


You will also need the emotional and intellectual capacity to complete all of the necessary academic work, as well as a high stress tolerance, as this is required for when you don’t achieve immediate results in your work.


To succed in this field, you should be comfortable working in a laboratory or a clinical setting, and you should be comfortable sharing your opinions and findings with others. You will also need a good amount of manual dexterity in order to accomplish many tasks in this career, such as performing tests and using specialized equipment.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a clinical chemist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Clinical Chemist

You'll need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry or a closely related field such as biochemistry. Completing coursework in biology, chemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology, immunology, physiology, mathematics and statistics is a great way to build an educational foundation for your prospective career as a clinical chemist.


Although having a bachelor’s degree may help you gain access to entry-level jobs in clinical chemistry and medical science, such as lab assistant, it will be necessary to obtain a graduate degree or medical degree in order to work as a researcher.


Graduate programs, such as a Master of Science program or a Ph.D. program, are extremely beneficial for future careers in clinical chemistry and medical science, as they place additional emphasis on laboratory work, as well as original research.


Prospective clinical chemists who attend medical school spend most of the first 2 years doing laboratory work and taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and medical law.


Success Tip: Take advantage of summer fellowships, internships, or practicum programs to get relevant and advantageous experience for a career as a clinical chemist. Your local hospital or nearby university laboratory may have internship programs in place or might consider one for you if you ask.





Clinical Chemist - General Job Description

A clinical chemist is a person who uses chemistry to evaluate patient health. They perform medical testing and analysis in order to assist medical staff with the early detection, treatment and management of human diseases and health disorders. In order to accomplish this, they may evaluate blood, study DNA, examine tissue, or study cells.


Clinical chemists may also work as research scientists, or as developers of diagnostic processes or products. When working in these capacities, clinical chemists apply their knowledge to develop practical applications for technological and scientific advances in areas such as molecular biology or transplant medicine (among others). 



Typical Job Duties

• Identify and study the characteristics of human diseases

• Study the molecular structure, behaviour and symptoms of diseases

• Conduct laboratory experiments and analysis

• Advise health care professionals on issues related to the diagnosis and prognosis of diseases

• Assist in the development of laboratory instruments that are used in observing and testing human blood and other bodily fluids

• Establish industry standards for new products

• Follow safety procedures to avoid contamination



What Types of Employers Are There in This Field?

Job opportunities can be found with organizations that are involved with evaluating patient health, conducting research in medical science, or teaching clinical chemistry and other areas of medical science. These organizations may hire clinical chemists on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis.


Organizations that hire clinical chemists typically include:


• Hospital or clinical laboratories

• Private or public research facilities

• Manufacturing companies

• Pharmaceutical companies

• Commercial reference laboratories

• Government regulatory agencies

• Colleges and universities

• Non-profit organizations, such as research foundations for specific diseases (such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy)



Average Salary Levels Typical to This Field

The salary level of Clinical Chemists can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, the specific responsibilities of their job and many others.


Clinical Chemist Salary - Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Chemists occupational group earned on average wage of $41.06, or an average annual salary of $79,450. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available for the rest of Canada from reputable sources.


Clinical Chemist Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Medical Scientists occupational group is $76,700 per year.




Skills and Traits Needed to Be Successful

To be effective in a career as a clinical chemist, you need to posses certain skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will not only allow you to conduct your job duties with competence and skill, they will also allow you to keep a positive attitude towards your work, and ultimately, towards your career.


• A keen interest in contributing to society through the improvement of patient healthcare

• A keen interest in the health and well being of others

• Able to follow procedures without taking shortcuts

• Able to effectively communicate with health care professionals and researchers

• Able to evaluate new technologies to improve quality and reduce processing time

• Manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination

• Excellent attention to detail

• Problem-solving abilities to detect human and machine error

• Able to take direction from others, and direct the work of others

• Able to organize, implement and evaluate projects



Work Environment

Office Setting: Clinical chemists working in an office setting provide advice and counsel to businesses, environmental groups or government agencies. Clinical chemists that work in office settings typically work during normal weekday hours.


Classroom Setting: These chemists typically conduct lectures, grade papers and advise students. They have working hours that can fluctuate from very few hours a week to a very heavy workload. They may work normal weekday working hours with extra hours put in for preparing lesson plans, grading papers and performing other duties during evenings and weekends. Some chemists teaching in universities and colleges may teach classes exclusively, or they may be involved in research as well.


Laboratory Setting: The majority of clinical chemists work in laboratories; they spend the majority of their time conducting, documenting and analyzing research. Working in a laboratory typically involves working with hazardous organic materials and inorganic chemicals. Clinical chemists that work in a laboratory setting typically work during normal weekday hours, although their hours can fluctuate based on those of the laboratory the work in.



Job Postings

Our job board below has "clinical chemist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.



Careers Similar to Clinical Chemist

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to clinical chemist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.




Clinical Research Associate

Clinical Research Coordinator

Forensic Chemist



References for This Career Guide

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession:


Occupations in Alberta:Chemist.” (March 5, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 6, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Medical Scientists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 6, 2019.

Career Guidance: Clinical Chemistry as a Career.” (n.d.). American Association for Clinical Chemistry website. Retrieved November 6, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Clinical Chemist

Scholarships that are relevant for becoming a clinical chemist are all of those that are found on our Chemistry Scholarships and Biochemistry Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

The academic field(s) listed below serve(s) as an excellent foundation for this career:


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