Employment of chemists and materials scientists is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Many chemists and materials scientists are employed in manufacturing industries that are projected to decline.
Employment of chemists is projected to grow 3 percent as they continue to be needed in scientific research and development (R&D) and to monitor the quality of products and processes.
Employment of materials scientists is projected to grow 3 percent as demand increases for cheaper, safer, and better quality materials for a variety of purposes, such as electronics, energy, and transportation.
Chemists research and solve a wide range of problems and are employed in a similarly wide range of industries. About a third of all chemists are employed in chemical manufacturing industries; the remainder work at colleges and universities, in government, and for independent testing and research laboratories. Some chemical manufacturing industries, such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, increasingly may be outsourcing their R&D activities, rather than doing the research in-house. This outsourcing strategy is likely to cause faster growth in the employment of chemists in small, independent research-and-development firms than in the more traditional large manufacturers. However, as the economy improves and the expansion in domestic natural gas production lowers the cost of energy and raw inputs, manufacturers may have less of an incentive than they had in the past to outsource their R&D activities.
Environmental research will offer many new opportunities for chemists and materials scientists. For example, chemical manufacturing industries will continue to develop technologies and processes that reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency at manufacturing facilities. Chemists also will continue to be needed to monitor pollution levels at manufacturing facilities and to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal environmental regulations.
In addition to job openings resulting from employment growth, some job openings will result from the need to replace chemists and materials scientists who retire or otherwise leave the occupations.
Chemists and materials scientists with advanced degrees, particularly those with a Ph.D. and work experience, are expected to have better opportunities. Large pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms provide openings for these workers at research laboratories, and many others work in colleges and universities. Furthermore, chemists with advanced degrees will continue to fill most senior research and upper-management positions. For more information, see the profile on natural sciences managers.
Chemists and Materials Scientists
Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24
Total, all occupations
Chemists and materials scientists
Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program