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Is Major Chemicals a Good Career Path?

Uncover the merits of a career in major chemicals. Evaluate aspects like job stability, earning potential, and environmental impact.
By Synkdup Editorial Team  |  16 February 2024
Major Chemicals Career Path

A major contributor to the global economy, the chemical industry is a truly vast industry, and it’s only growing every year. In 2021, the industry reached a record-high revenue of 4.7 trillion US dollars. Major chemicals, in particular, is an essential industry that supports all kinds of other industries, from agriculture to technology.

America is one of the largest producers of chemicals in the world and is home to several globally prominent companies like Exxon Mobil, Du Pont, and Dow. The chemical industry makes up a major portion of the country’s total exports and accounts for a fourth of the country’s total GDP.

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So, is major chemicals a good career path?

If you are looking for opportunities across diverse sectors in renowned global companies, then yes, it absolutely is.

Major chemicals are essential for a variety of production and manufacturing industries. Because of this, there are multiple streams of opportunities open to someone pursuing a career in major chemicals. These include a diverse range of fields, including pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, food and beverages, personal care, and environmental sciences.

Further, there are a number of big, multinational companies in this sector, and getting a job in one of these would be a great start for a fruitful career. In addition to great perks and pay, you can also expect to have an international career full of enriching experiences.

What are Major Chemicals

Also called industrial chemicals, major chemicals are chemicals that are produced primarily to be used in manufacturing processes. These are produced in huge quantities and sold to industrial enterprises rather than individual customers. Major chemicals are used as ingredients or intermediates in a wide range of industries, including health care, agriculture, manufacturing, and consumer goods. Sulfuric acid is the most widely manufactured industrial chemical in the world. Other examples include nitric acid, urea, acrylonitrile, ethylene, phenol, etc. Major chemicals are generally categorized into these main groups:

  • Speciality chemicals: Dyes, pigments, surfactants, flavors, fragrances, catalysts, adhesives, etc.
  • Petrochemicals: Ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, xylene, etc.
  • Fertilizers: Ammonia, urea, and phosphate fertilizers
  • Agrochemicals: Pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides
  • Pharmaceuticals: Painkillers, antivirals, antibiotics, antidepressants, etc.
  • Polymers: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, etc.
  • Inorganic chemicals: Acids, bases, salts, metal compounds, and minerals.

Best Paying Jobs in Major Chemicals

You can find well-paying jobs in all sorts of profiles in the chemical industry, from accountants to research scientists. Nevertheless, we have put together a list of 10 high-paying jobs that are commonly found in and more or less specific to the chemical industry. These do not include managerial-level roles like research and development manager and quality control manager, as you would need some experience in the associate position first to get to these positions.

So, here are 10 of the best paying jobs in major chemicals at the associate level:

1. Toxicologist

Average annual pay in the US: $128,884 - (Source: Glassdoor)

Basic Educational Requirement: A bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biology.

Toxicologists specialize in assessing substances to determine if they are toxic and hazardous to living organisms or the environment. They investigate the risks associated with exposure to substances such as pollutants, drugs, and chemicals.

Common roles and responsibilities include:

  • Assessing the impact of environmental pollutants, occupational exposure, and contaminants on human health
  • Evaluating data from studies, conducting experiments, and analyzing exposure pathways to assess the potential adverse effects of substances
  • Studying the mechanisms of toxicity of various substances to predict the effects of exposure
  • Providing information to regulatory agencies for policymaking

2. Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

Average annual salary in the US: $85,633 - (Source: Glassdoor)

Basic Educational Requirement: Four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

A pharmaceutical sales representative sells medical products to doctors, pharmacists, and medical facilities like clinics and hospitals. Pharmaceutical sales representatives are among the highest-paid of all salespeople.

Common roles and responsibilities include:

  • Developing and implementing sales strategies.
  • Telling customers about the benefits of the products you are trying to sell in a convincing manner.
  • Giving presentations and demonstrations to healthcare professionals.
  • Developing relationships with healthcare professionals and key decision-makers in clinics and hospitals.
  • Identifying and pursuing new business opportunities and generating leads.
  • Performing necessary documentation and maintaining records of sales visits and inventory.

3. Materials Scientist

Average annual salary in the US: $80,079 - (Source: Glassdoor)

Basic educational requirement: A bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

Material scientists specialize in assessing the atomic structure and chemical properties of different substances. They study chemicals and other substances to understand how they can be manipulated or enhanced for specific purposes.

Common roles and responsibilities:

  • Conducting research to develop new materials with desired properties for specific applications.
  • Studying the manufacturing and processing techniques to optimize the fabrication and manufacturing of materials.
  • Performing tests on materials to test their performance, durability, and reliability.
  • Assisting in the selection of materials for specific requirements based on their properties.
  • Collaborating with engineers, designers, and other scientists to resolve material-related issues.

4. Chemical Engineer

Average annual salary in the US: $74,226 - (Source: Glassdoor)

Basic Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering

Chemical Engineers study, design, and manufacture products using their specialized knowledge of chemistry and other sciences. They may design the equipment and processes for the manufacturing of a variety of products, including pharmaceuticals, textiles, detergents, etc.

Common roles and responsibilities include:

  • Designing and operating chemical plants.
  • Creating the environment for chemical reactions to take place smoothly.
  • Using various techniques to convert raw materials such as fluids and solids into useful products.
  • Conducting experiments and using computer simulations to predict outcomes and optimize processes.
  • Assessing and solving problems related to chemical processes.

5. Pharmaceutical Chemist

Average annual salary in the US: $76,756 Source: Glassdoor

Basic Educational Requirement: A bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical or organic chemistry

Pharmaceutical Chemists are chemists who specialize in developing chemicals that are used in the synthesis of pharmaceutical drugs. Their work requires a lot of research and experimentation. In addition to medicinal chemistry, they need to have a deep knowledge of molecular chemistry and molecular biology as well.

Common roles and responsibilities

  • Conducting extensive research and studying disease mechanisms to identify and design new chemical compounds that could become medicinal drugs.
  • Synthesizing and modifying chemical compounds using organic chemistry techniques.
  • Working on improving the properties of drug candidates, such as potency, solubility, stability, and bioavailability.
  • Working closely with multidisciplinary teams of biologists, toxicologists, pharmacologists, and formulation scientists.

6. Analytical Chemist

Average annual salary in the US: $70,609 - (Source: Glassdoor)

Basic Educational Requirement: An undergraduate degree in chemistry, biochemistry, applied chemistry, or analytical chemistry.

Analytical chemists specialize in investigating the chemical properties of substances. They use specialized methods to determine how a substance would behave under specific conditions and work on characterizing different substances.

Common roles and responsibilities include:

  • Preparing test samples for analysis.
  • Employing a wide range of instrumentation and techniques to test samples, including spectroscopy and chromatography.
  • Performing quantitative analysis to determine the quantity of a particular compound in a substance.
  • Making useful interpretations from experimental data.
  • Recording test findings and preparing reports.

7. Organic Chemist

Average annual salary in the US: $64,599 - (Source: Glassdoor)

Basic Educational Requirement: A bachelor's degree in chemistry.

Organic chemists specialize in and work with substances based on carbon, also known as organic substances. They study and design new organic substances such as cosmetics, drugs, and plastics.

Common roles and responsibilities include:

  • Investigating and understanding the mechanisms of chemical reactions involving organic compounds.
  • Isolating natural compounds from plants, animals, and microorganisms and studying them.
  • Designing and developing polymers, nanoparticles, and other carbon-based materials used in electronics, energy storage, sensors, and coatings.
  • Working extensively with traditional lab equipment as well as modern computer systems.

8. Chemical Safety Officer

Average annual salary in the US: $64,819 - (Source: Glassdoor)

Basic Educational Requirement: Diploma in chemical safety or a degree or diploma in occupational safety.

Chemical safety officers work in a laboratory in an industrial or research setting. They make sure that hazardous materials are handled and disposed of properly. They work to maintain compliance with various safety measures and best practices within the laboratory.

Common roles and responsibilities include:

  • Creating and enforcing protocols to minimize chemical hazards, including safe handling, storage, and disposal practices.
  • Developing and implementing response protocols for chemical spills and other emergencies.
  • Identifying potential risks associated with specific chemicals, experiments, and procedures, and developing strategies to mitigate those risks.
  • Providing training programs and resources to laboratory personnel.
  • Monitoring and managing chemical inventories, performing safety audits, and keeping safety records.

9. Plant Operator

Average annual salary in the US: $58,478 - (Source: Glassdoor)

Basic Educational Requirement: High school diploma or GED

Plant operators working in the chemical industry are responsible for overseeing and operating the processes and equipment used in the manufacturing of chemicals in a manufacturing facility. As industrial plants nowadays are highly automated, plant operators are also called control room or panel operators.

Common roles and responsibilities:

  • Operating distillation units, pumps, compressors, and control panels.
  • They monitor and control different aspects of chemical processes, such as temperature, pressure, and flow rates.
  • Performing routine maintenance tasks such as equipment inspection, cleaning, and minor repairs.
  • Working closely with quality control teams.
  • Adhering to safety protocols and following standard operating processes.

10. Quality Control Chemist

Average annual salary in the US: $58,931 - (Source: Glassdoor)

Basic Educational Requirement: A bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related scientific field, including hands-on experience in quality control procedures.

Quality Control Chemists specialize in assessing and maintaining quality standards in a lab or similar environment. They also play a critical role in ensuring chemical reactions and processes are carried out safely.

Usual roles and responsibilities:

  • Performing tests on raw materials, intermediates, and finished products to ensure they meet specifications in terms of purity, quantity, etc.
  • Developing methods to accurately quantify chemical properties, contaminants, or impurities in products.
  • Ensuring the proper maintenance of laboratory materials like ph meters, titrators, spectrometers, and chromatographs.
  • Documenting test results, observations, and procedures in accordance with standard operating procedures (SOPs).
  • Evaluating test data and interpreting results, and preparing comprehensive reports.

What Do You Need for a Career in Major Chemicals?

For most jobs in the industry, you will need a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related field, like chemical engineering, from an accredited institution. Some jobs also require a master’s or doctorate degree, especially in the research and development field. You will probably also need some kind of work experience if the job is of a critical nature or offers a high-level position.

Chemical compounds of different kinds find application in all kinds of industries, which is why majoring in chemistry exposes you to a world of job opportunities across different sectors. As there is a perpetual demand for chemical engineers in a wide range of sectors, chemical engineering is one of the most popular courses among science students. However, there are many other options besides chemical engineering for people looking to make a career in the industry.

Check out these resources for improving your career prospects in the industry:

People who have a deep interest in chemical substances and reactions are particularly well-suited to work in the industry, for obvious reasons. When it comes to skills, adaptability, analytical aptitude, critical thinking, and quick problem-solving capability are great to have for a career in the industry.

Since most jobs involve working and collaborating with others, having good interpersonal skills goes a long way as well. If you can communicate efficiently with others and work well as part of a team, you will find no shortage of career advancement opportunities.

Prominent Companies in Chemical Manufacturing

The company you work for plays a major part in determining if a career path turns out to be a good one for you or not. Getting into the right company is as important as choosing the right career option for a satisfying career. Luckily, there are numerous multinational companies in chemicals that provide a great work culture with great pay and perks. Here is a list of 10 of them:


Headquarters Location: Ludwigshafen, Germany

Revenue: $87.562B

Number of Employees: 111,047

Glassdoor Ratings: 3.8

2. Sinopec

Headquarters Location: Beijing, China

Revenue: $482.68B

Number of Employees: 374, 791

Glassdoor Ratings: 3.9

3. Dow

Headquarters Location: Midland, Michigan, U.S.A.

Revenue: $56.9B

Number of Employees: 37,800

Glassdoor Ratings: 4.0

4. DuPont

Headquarters Location: Wilmington, DE, U.S.A

Revenue: $16.65B

Number of Employees: 23,000

Glassdoor Ratings: 3.9

5. EcoLab

Headquarters Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.

Revenue: $14.9B

Number of Employees: 47,000

Glassdoor Ratings: 3.7

6. Exxon Mobil

Headquarters Location: Irving, TX, U.S.A.

Revenue: $409.477B

Number of Employees: 62,300

Glassdoor Ratings: 3.7

7. Lyondell Basell

Headquarters Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands

Revenue: $50.45B

Number of Employees: 19,300

Glassdoor Ratings: 4.0

8. Eastman Chemical Company

Headquarters Location: Kingsport, TN, U.S.A

Revenue: $10.6B

Number of Employees: 14,500 employees

Glassdoor Ratings: 3.7

9. Chevron Philips Chemical

Headquarters Location: The Woodlands, TX, U.S.A.

Revenue: $14.18B

Number of Employees: 5,000

Glassdoor Ratings: 4.0

10. Evonik Industries

Headquarters Location: Essen, Germany

Revenue: $19.44B

Number of Employees: 33,106

Glassdoor Ratings: 3.8

How Many Jobs are in Major Chemicals

Major chemicals are produced primarily for industrial use rather than for individual customers. These chemicals are produced and used in large quantities, typically as raw materials or intermediates for various industries. Due to large-scale production, there is always a huge demand for workers in this sector. Hence, one usually finds ample employment opportunities in basic chemicals.

And professionals like chemists and chemical engineers are also in great demand in various sectors outside the chemical industry. This is because chemicals like polymers, solvents, petrochemicals, acids, and bases find applications in a myriad of manufacturing industries.

This industry creates employment opportunities in various fields, including production, research and development, marketing and sales, quality control, environmental conservation, etc. In the US alone, there were more than 919.5 people employed in different occupations in the industry in June 2023.

  • As per a BLS report, the employment of chemical engineers is estimated to grow 14 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is a lot faster than the average for all occupations. Further, there are estimated to be about 2,000 openings for chemical engineers each year over the next decade.
  • As per a BLS report, the employment of chemists and materials scientists is predicted to grow by 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is about the same rate as most other occupations. There are expected to be nearly 8,200 openings for chemists and materials scientists each year over the next decade.

There are a wide variety of career options for people seeking to work in chemicals, from research and development to marketing and sales. For the year 2022, the BLS reported:

  • 104,060 people employed in chemical equipment operators and tenders roles in chemical manufacturing.
  • 17090 people employed as chemical technicians in chemical manufacturing.
  • 24,810 people working as chemists in chemical manufacturing.
  • 33870 people employed as mixing and blending machine setters, operators, and tenders in chemical manufacturing.
  • 61,030 people working as packaging and filling machine operators and tenders in chemical manufacturing.

How to Go About Getting a Job in Major Chemicals

Chemicals is a competitive field, but the good news is that the industry is growing quite fast, generating more and more employment opportunities every day. With the right approach and some patience, anyone qualified should be able to get a job at one of the numerous companies in the industry. Here are some general tips to follow to find the job of your choice quickly.

  • Work on your credentials: Look for online courses in your specific field that can enhance your resume. On platforms like Udemy and Coursera, you can find short-duration, yet enriching, programs that can be of great help in getting a job.
  • Work on your job application documents: Write a well-framed resume and tailor your cover letter to the specific job you are applying to. Don’t forget to include any of your relevant experience or achievements.
  • Explore multiple job boards: Don’t restrict your job search to a few popular job boards. Apply to jobs on the less-known job portals, especially the industry-specific job portals, to increase your chances of getting an interview.
  • Try the careers page: Companies often post new job openings on the careers page of their website. Keep checking the career pages of the companies you are interested in for job openings in your domain.
  • Network: Connect with professionals in your field of interest on LinkedIn for guidance on different aspects of getting a job. Also, reach out to your friends and family in case they have some useful information.

So, Is Major Chemicals a Good Career Path (Pros and Cons)

In the final analysis, whether major chemicals is a good career path or not depends on the individual situation. However, here are some general upsides and downsides of working in the sector.

Pros of working in basic chemicals

  • Creative work: You get to do innovative work where you apply the principles of chemistry and other sciences to develop new substances.
  • Job Satisfaction: Fulfilling work that involves solving important issues related to things such as water treatment, energy consumption control, pharmaceutical advancements, environmental degradation, and agricultural challenges.
  • Job security: The market for major chemicals doesn’t rely heavily on any one industry as it caters to a wide variety of industries like agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. The industry is not significantly affected when demand in any one particular sector it serves goes down. Therefore, people working in chemicals have relatively more stable jobs.
  • Pay and Perks: Chemists and chemical engineers are very well paid in most companies.
  • Extensive Innovation: Research and development is a significant field in the chemicals industry, and the industry sees continual innovation on all fronts. This allows people working in the industry ample opportunities to learn and grow their professional skill set.

Cons of working in basic chemicals

  • High Competition: You are not the only one who thinks it is a great career path, there are countless other candidates who want to get into the industry. So, you may find yourself facing stiff competition even if you are really good.
  • Health Hazards: Working in basic industries may involve getting exposed to hazardous chemicals, gases, or other substances. This is a big negative for most people. However, a lot of emphasis is put on safety compliance these days, and most workplaces provide adequate protective gear.
  • Environmental degradation: The manufacturing of chemicals often involves releasing toxins and other pollutants into the environment, leading to soil and water degradation. So, the industry may not be the best choice for the environmentally conscious.

Ultimately, you need to consider your own preferences and priorities and weigh the pros and cons. Some of the pros and cons mentioned above may not even apply to you at all.

Generally, however, major chemicals is a great career path with ever-growing opportunities. If you are interested in pursuing higher studies in chemistry, you can rest assured about the career options in this field.

We hope this post has given you some clarity on the question is major chemicals a good career path for you or not, and best of luck for your future.


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