How to Become an Organic Chemist


How to Become an Organic Chemist: Career Path Guide

If you want to become an organic chemist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as an organic chemist:


Those who become organic chemist have a desire to work with their hands as well as their mind; they also have the ability to do so because of they posses manual dexterity, as well as a natural aptitude in science and mathematics.


Those who become organic chemists have a keen interest and expertise in organic compounds, and are interested in applying that interest and expertise in the improvement of products, such as detergents, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, plastics and others. They understand that improving these products can have positive effects such as protecting the environment, increasing our longevity, or enhancing our lives.


Those who become organic chemists must be able to work both independently, and as a member of a team; having a flexible personality to work in either environment is a prerequisite for a career as an organic chemist. They must also be comfortable working in a laboratory setting, and communicating their findings and opinions to others.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an organic 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 an Organic Chemist

To become an organic chemist, you typically need to begin by completing a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in chemistry with a focus in organic chemistry. You can become an organic chemist by pursuing a related degree, such as one in biochemistry, biology or microbiology, provided you pursue coursework in organic chemistry.


A bachelor’s degree in an area related to organic chemistry not only serves as an excellent way to prepare for an advanced degree in organic chemistry; it also opens the door to entry-level careers in organic chemistry, such as Research Assistant.


If you want to become an organic chemist that works as a consultant in sectors such as environmental, pharmaceutical, legal, agriculture and others, you will need a master’s degree in organic chemistry.


To become an organic chemist that works in research and development, or university teaching positions, a Ph.D. in organic chemistry is needed. Many organic chemists also choose to continue training as post-doctoral fellows after receiving their Ph.Ds.


Aspiring organic chemists that wish to move into executive management positions later in their careers may find that courses in economics and management can be beneficial to take.




Organic Chemist Job Description

Organic chemists are responsible for designing, synthesizing and characterizing carbon-containing compounds to develop and improve upon common products; work that plays a central to economic growth in the rubber, plastics, fuel, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, detergent, coatings, and agrichemicals industries.


Organic chemists may focus their work on projects ranging from those in fundamental discovery to highly applied product development.



Organic Chemist Job Duties

• Perform synthesis and isolation experiments

• Analyze the results of experimentation

• Take detailed notes of work activities

• May apply knowledge of organic chemistry to the synthesis of drugs that act against medical conditions

• Work to find a process or product that works in the midst of numerous ideas that don’t work

• Prepare reports based on the discoveries and processes of research

• Confer with other experts in the field

• Peer review research manuscripts

• Provide technical advice for other professionals 



Who Hires Organic Chemists?

Organic chemists are hired by organizations that are involved in conducting projects in organic chemistry ranging from fundamental discovery to highly applied product development; the vast majority of jobs being in the research and development sector.


Organic chemists may also be hired by colleges and universities to teach future organic chemists, and may be hired by organizations involved in regulating the work of organic chemists, or the products they produce.


Organizations that hire Organic Chemists include:


• Small and large corporations in industries such as pharmaceutical, biotech, chemical, consumer product, petroleum, and others

• Colleges and universities

• Government laboratories

• Conservation and other non-profit organization



Organic Chemist Salary

The salary level of organic 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.


Organic Chemist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Chemists occupational group earn an average of between $28.03 and $45.00 per hour.


Organic Chemist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of workers in the Chemists occupational group is $63,190 per year.


Organic Chemist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Chemists and Materials Scientists occupational group is $69,790 per year.




Skills and Traits Needed to Become an Organic Chemist

In order to become effective in a career as an organic chemist, you need to posses certain personality traits and skills. These traits and skills will allow you to perform your job with competence, and will help you endure the ups and downs of the career, such as when your research efforts don’t yield the desired or anticipated results.


• A natural aptitude for, and academic excellence in, organic chemistry

• Able to adhere strictly to protocol without taking shortcuts

• Able to listen effectively and communicate ideas and findings to others

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

• Able to use computer programs for collecting, organizing and analyzing data

• Able to use specialized scientific equipment

• A methodical approach to work activities

• Initiative and the ability to follow through

• An ability to work with professionals form other disciplines, such as marketing

• Leadership and motivational abilities



Getting Organic Chemist Work Experience as a Student

As many jobs in organic chemistry are highly competitive, it is extremely important to acquire practical experience during your undergraduate and graduate years.


Most university departments offer a number of summer job opportunities for research assistants. There may also be similar openings for summer students in government agencies and private industry. Be sure to ask your school’s career resources counselor to give you information about any such opportunities.


These opportunities not only provide you with valuable work experience, they allow you to network and get your foot in the door with an employer. This will be extremely useful when you apply for graduate school or a permanent job.



Work Environment for Organic Chemists

The work settings, conditions and duties of organic chemists can vary greatly from one job or employer to the next. Below are examples of the primary types of settings for organic chemistry careers:


Laboratory: According to the American Chemical Society the primary sector of work for organic chemists is in research and development, which means that many organic chemists work in a laboratory setting. These organic chemists 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. These organic chemists usually work during normal weekday hours.


Industrial/Field: Organic chemists that develop commercial or medicinal products in an industrial or field setting must adhere to health and safety precautions when working with contaminants such as chemicals, viruses or other biohazards. Thee organic chemists typically work normal weekday working hours. Those that work in the field may be required to commute long distances to and from work, or may be required to be away from home for days, weeks or months at a time.


Classroom: Organic chemists working in classrooms 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 organic chemists teaching in universities and colleges may teach classes exclusively, or they may be involved in research as well.



Careers Similar to Organic Chemist

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




Forensic Chemist

Medical Scientist

Pharmaceutical Chemist



References: How to Become an Organic Chemist

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an organic chemist.



Occupations in Alberta:Chemist.” (March 5, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Chemists and Materials Scientists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

College to Career:What Is Organic Chemistry?.” (n.d.). American Chemical Society website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.



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Scholarships for Becoming an Organic Chemist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming an Organic Chemist can be found on our Biochemistry Scholarships and Chemistry 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!



Becoming an Organic Chemist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming an Organic Chemist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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