California Occupational Guides

Summary Guide  (Printer Friendly)
Detailed Guide   (Printer Friendly)
   Summary Report-Jump to: 
         Top of Page
         What Would I Do?
         Wages and Benefits
         Job Outlook
         How Do I Qualify?
         What Employers Say...
Job Search Tips

I want to: 
   Search by Topic
   Search by Keyword


Change Your Area:

Select your county from the list:

Change Occupation:

1. Enter a keyword and click the "GO!" button:

2. Select an occupation from the results listed
below and click the "Get Information" button.

Summary Guide for

Chemists in California

May also be called: Research Chemists; and Research and Development Chemists

Specialties within this occupation include: Analytical Chemists; Environmental Chemists; Inorganic Chemists; Materials Chemists; Organic Chemists; and Physical Chemists

What Would I Do?

Everything in the environment, whether naturally occurring or of human design, is composed of chemicals. Most Chemists are involved in research and development, production, or chemical analysis. In research and development, Chemists study the composition, structure, and properties of substances and the interactions between them. Chemists also work in production and quality control in manufacturing plants. They prepare instructions for plant workers that specify ingredients, mixing times, and temperatures for each stage in the manufacturing process.

Chemists usually work in well-lit, well-equipped laboratories, offices, or classrooms. They normally work a 40-hour workweek, but may work additional or irregular hours when completing special research projects. Some Chemists may perform some of their research in a chemical plant or outdoors; for example, gathering water samples to test for pollutants.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Chemist will appeal to those who enjoy working with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking and problem solving.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The median wage in 2017 for Chemists in California was $80,393 annually, or $38.65 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2017Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2017 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Most employers provide health and life insurance, vacation, and retirement plans. Those in private industry may receive bonuses.

What is the Job Outlook?

Within the chemical industry, job opportunities are expected to be most plentiful in pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. The remaining chemical manufacturers are expected to employ fewer in-house Chemists as work is increasingly contracted out to scientific research and development services firms.

During economic downturns, layoffs of Chemists may occur—especially in the industrial chemical industry.

How Do I Qualify?

A bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related science usually is the minimum educational requirement for entry-level Chemist jobs. However, many research jobs require a master’s degree or, more frequently, a Ph.D.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. College placement offices and on-campus recruitment provide job leads for students. Professional journals, classified ads, and the Internet provide current job listings. Professional associations provide career services to their members. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Chemists