The career choices a grad student with a chemistry degree can pursue are as diverse as the subject itself. From healthcare to research scientist, a Ph.D. in chemistry swings open doors in dynamic industries around the globe.

A master’s degree can allow a student to explore a wider range of career opportunities than a bachelor’s degree can. However, a Ph.D. in chemistry can propel a grad student into more lucrative and challenging careers.

Benefits of a Ph.D. in Chemistry

A professor in the United States can’t teach college-level courses unless they have completed 18 graduate hours in their field of study. A doctoral degree in chemistry can allow a grad student to begin teaching at the university level immediately after graduation.

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Students who have completed the Ph.D. program in chemistry are considered experts in their field. They gain the respect of their peers through their years of hard work as well as a salary to match.

Chemists with a Ph.D. carry credibility along with the letters behind their name. This makes it easier to create and find funding for a start-up company or open their own pharmacy or other related business.

Careers in Chemistry

It is a wide field that has positions in many industries across the world. Chemists with a Ph.D. can enter a number of fields based on the interests they studied during their Ph.D. program.

Careers in chemistry include:

  • Forensic Scientists
  • Nanotechnologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Research Scientist
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Analytical Chemist
  • Healthcare Scientist
  • Biotechnologist

What Does a Chemistry Ph.D. Grad Earn?

After completing all those years of schooling, a chemistry grad can earn in the low six figures if they have a Ph.D. Compare that to around $80,000 for master’s degree holders and 12 percent less than that for those who have completed a Bachelor of Science degree.

Years of Schooling for Ph.D. in Chemistry

Each school will more than likely have different requirements for a Ph.D. in chemistry. A chemist's education requirements include years of independent study, research and project-based learning.

A Ph.D. program’s coursework typically takes about two years to complete with a fixed amount of credits needed in basic courses. These rudimentary courses can include organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, advanced math subjects and physics, depending on the focus of the student’s degree.

The degree can usually be completed within five to six years. The time frame for completion is based on the student’s area of study and research expectations. Lab work, experiments and research into untested theories can lengthen the amount of time that a student spends working toward completing their doctorate in chemistry.

Dissertation in Chemistry

A chemistry student will spend much of their Ph.D. program time completing a dissertation. This complex work is required to obtain the doctoral degree. It typically concentrates on practice or theory or any new knowledge that the student may have learned during their time in the extensive program.

A dissertation is made up of:

  1. Introduction 
  2. Abstract model of what the student is attempting to prove.
  3. Validation of the model and proof of theorems
  4. Measurements and significant data
  5. Additional results that have been collected that point to the central thesis
  6. Conclusions and future work, limitations or special cases that a student foresees

Top Ph.D. Programs in Chemistry

If you decide to pursue a lucrative chemistry-related career, then graduating from a top-rated chemistry graduate program will propel your future career endeavors. A quality chemistry Ph.D. program allows students to have access to the latest in research, technology and scientists.

The following schools have consistently rated in the top 10 for their advanced chemistry doctoral programs:

  • California Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • University of California – Berkeley
  • The Scripps Research Institute
  • University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign
  • Stanford University 
  • Northwestern University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.