How To Become Analytical Chemist in 3 Steps (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 15 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interested in science and analytical reasoning, you may be interested in pursuing the field of analytical chemistry. An analytical chemist is a professional whose work is to study, analyse and communicate the chemical structure, nature and composition of substances. Learning more about this career path could help you determine if it's the right opportunity for you, and if so, what your next steps are. In this article, we discuss how to become an analytical chemist, list the necessary qualifications, explain the helpful skills and provide the common salary expectations for this career.

How to become an analytical chemist

This section outlines the steps for how to become an analytical chemist:

1. Gain an education

The first step into any profession is to attain a relevant academic qualification. A bachelor's degree or an advanced diploma in a chemistry-related field is mandatory for an entry-level job as an analytical chemist. You can qualify in chemistry, analytical or applied chemistry or biochemistry and may take between two and four years, depending on the study pattern and prior education. Relevant courses for these studies include but are not limited to:

  • physical environmental science

  • forensic science

  • materials science and technology

  • marine sciences, marine biology or oceanography

  • geochemistry

2. Working experience

A professional with relevant qualifications and work experience may stand out from other candidates. Consider searching for training programs and internships to get valuable lab experience. This experience can help you develop skills, and it exposes you to the actual job environment.

3. Consider pursuing further studies

Once you start working and become experienced, enrolling on further studies can improve job prospects. A master's degree or a doctorate may be an advantage, especially if you intend to pursue research work. It also allows you to be more proficient as you take on, manage and lead more technical research projects.

A master's degree in analytical chemistry can help you deepen your chemistry knowledge. Once you have a master's, you can then enrol in a doctoral degree in analytical chemistry. A doctorate can help you become an expert in your area and obtain more independence in the field.

Related: A Guide on How To Become a Chemist

Roles of an analytical chemist

Part of an analytical chemist's career involves testing substances or products in the laboratory. Using various scientific procedures, analytical chemists spend most of their time investigating how different materials behave in diverse environments. Some of the techniques used include:

  • spectroscopy

  • electro-chromatography

  • high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)

Experiments also involve using specialised equipment and advanced software to collect data and analyse it. Sometimes, they may travel to different locations to carry out tests in controlled environments. An analytical chemist can then determine the possible uses of the investigated substance. They create and present a technical report of the research process, including methods applied, chemicals used. Chemists work alongside other scientists and specialists to successfully conduct a project and achieve the intended goal.

Related: How To Become a Medical Scientist

Duties and responsibilities of an analytical chemist

The main roles and responsibilities of an analytical chemist depend on the specialisation and nature of the work. Typically, the work of analytical chemists involves, among others:

  • Writing and executing chemical testing procedures: They help formulate the methods of testing and testing these methods to be used for product production processes.

  • Analysis of samples: They do this to draw and provide information on compounds or the quantity of the compounds.

  • Development of new and more effective techniques to be used for analysis: Chemists improve testing procedures, thus increasing efficiency.

  • Interpretation: They interpret laboratory results and documentation of the data for use by other scientists and stakeholders.

  • Verifying and validating methods and equipment: This is to ensure that the data and information collected is true.

Analytical chemistry skills

Here are some of the skills required in this field:

Analytical methods

These procedures determine the relationship between variables and combine scientific methods with any formal process to prove a fact or solve a problem. It is therefore essential for analytical chemists to have skills in analytical methods. They may know how to assist in laboratory work, perform wet chemistry analysis, verify existing materials and identify contaminant sources, among others.

Procedures

These are the conventional ways to execute tasks. Knowing how to complete a particular task may help you focus on the goal. A company that uses procedures promotes positive practices and sets a good example. An analytical chemist may be aware of how to perform quality control and assurance procedures and calibration and qualification of equipment. They may also be aware of how to evaluate statistical methods and techniques to gather data to ensure validity, efficiency and accuracy.

Laboratory equipment

Since analytical chemists spend the better part of their lives in the laboratory, they may know their way around laboratory equipment. They may know the maintenance procedures for the laboratory instruments and equipment and also be able to analyse the data prepared for the client report. Additionally, they may be able to wash and sterilise laboratory equipment and glassware and also calibrate when required.

Good manufacturing practice (GMP)

This is a system that ensures all products such as beverages, foods and medicinal products comply with the quality standards. An analytical chemist may have performed stability analyses for solid oral dosage formulations in a GMP environment. They may know how to prepare GMP-compliant test samples to predetermined specifications and ensure proper maintenance of laboratory documentation.

Areas of specialisation

Analytical chemistry is broad and flexible. So many industries require the use of knowledge and skills of analytical chemists in their production and development. Like most science careers, analytical chemistry also has branches in which you can venture. Here are some different areas you may specialise in during your career:

  • Drug formulation and development: Involves combining different chemical substances to form a final medicinal product.

  • Forensic chemical analysis: Investigation of drug or controlled substances from crime scenes and sometimes people for purposes of identification and quantification.

  • Product process development: Converting analytical chemical research findings into a commercial product for manufacturing.

  • Product validation: Proving that the end product meets stakeholder expectations within the intended operational market.

  • Quality control: Involves qualitative and quantitative analysis of chemical substances of a product to ensure compliance to environmental, health and other regulations. It also involves the provision of documentation and measurements essential for standardisation.

  • Toxicology: Study of detection of poisons, their effects and nature.

The broad scope allows practitioners to get into the branch they're interested in.

What are the applications of analytical chemistry?

Here are some of the most common applications of analytical chemistry:

  • Assuring food, water and pharmaceutical safety and quality

  • Assuring compliance with environmental regulations among several other regulations

  • Complying with the legal process

  • Helping in the diagnosis of diseases

  • Providing the necessary documentation and measurements for commerce and trade

Where do analytical chemists work?

Research done by analytical chemists is applicable and helpful in providing information to many fields, including pharmaceuticals, food production industries and even pollution control agencies. Many analytical chemists work for private research and development organisations, but a significant number work for pharmaceuticals and testing companies.

An analytical chemist may work in either the public and private sectors. Employers may, among others, include:

  • Hospitals: Analytical chemists analyse body tissues and fluid to enable the medical staff to diagnose a disease and administer necessary treatment.

  • Academic institutions: Universities employ analytical chemists as lecturers and tutors so that the country continues producing professionals in the field.

  • Consultancies: They provide advice and research project management services to the public.

  • Testing companies: Many products and substances need testing before releasing them to the market. Analytical chemists may test air, food, drugs, industrial wastes and water to ensure that they are safe.

  • Environmental agencies: Analytical chemists are responsible for environmental health and safety.

Related: 16 Hospital Jobs to Consider

How much does an analytical chemist earn?

On average, the basic salary of an analytical chemist in Australia is $74,261 per year. These salary figures depend on various factors, such as location, level of education, experience and performance. Benefits also vary and are dependent on the employer, but health cover is common.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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