California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

   Chemical Technicians in California

May also be called: Analytical Lab Technicians; Analytical Technicians; Environmental Lab Technicians; Formulation Technicians; Laboratory Analysts; Laboratory Technicians; Laboratory Testers; Research and Development Technicians; Research Technicians

What Would I Do?

Chemical Technicians* work in laboratories and assist chemists and chemical engineers with practical hands-on duties related to laboratory work or performing quality control duties at manufacturing facilities. Generally, there are two types of Chemical Technicians: Research Technicians who work in experimental laboratories and Process Control Technicians who work in manufacturing facilities.

Chemical Technicians who work in laboratories are under the supervision of chemists and chemical engineers. Their duties can vary from routine process control duties that include maintaining an inventory of laboratory equipment, and setting up and monitoring experiments. Chemical Technicians can also perform complex laboratory duties such as, recording observations in data logs or spreadsheets and developing written conclusions based on experimental outcomes. They may also produce chemical compounds through complex organic synthesis and collect and analyze samples of air and water to monitor pollution levels.

Chemical Technicians working in manufacturing or industrial plants are responsible for designing and testing product packaging and checking the integrity of the manufactured materials before their shipment to retailers and consumers. Often, Chemical Technicians who work in industrial plants focus on quality assurance, monitoring product quality or production processes and developing new production techniques. Some Chemical Technicians work in shipping in order to provide technical support and expertise.

The majority of Chemical Technicians work for private non-government companies, with large numbers of Technicians working for companies that manufacture chemicals, drugs, rubber, and steel. Technicians who work in research and development laboratories may be employed in colleges and universities assisting professors and other staff in carrying out experiments and, in limited situations, assisting instructors during class sessions.

Tools and Technology

Some specialty tools and technology used in this occupation include fume hoods or cupboards, gas or Bunsen burners, and laboratory vacuum pumps. Due to the increasing sophistication and complexity of experimental laboratories, Chemical Technicians need to be proficient with analytical computer and spreadsheet software.

Green Economy

Chemical Technicians are expected to play an important role in the emerging green economy. They will assist with the research and development of natural and sustainable manufactured products. Chemical Technicians take into consideration the health and environmental concerns that are posed by different chemicals and their potential risks to consumers. Technicians working in an educational setting will assist in teaching students proper laboratory procedures for dealing with hazardous chemicals and chemical mixtures to avoid due to their level of toxicity.

Green Chemical Technicians may need to be knowledgeable of current environmental laws regarding the proper use and disposal of various chemicals. Green Chemical Technicians may also work with electrochemical systems, such as batteries and fuel cells, and be able to follow proper safety procedures in order to avoid negative environmental impacts.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Monitor product quality to ensure compliance to standards and specifications.Monitoring
Compile and interpret results of tests and analyses.Mathematics
Conduct chemical and physical laboratory tests to assist scientists in making qualitative and quantitative analyses of solids, liquids, and gaseous materials.Chemistry
Set up and conduct chemical experiments, tests, and analyses using techniques such as chromatography, spectroscopy, physical and chemical separation techniques, and microscopy.Information Ordering
Provide technical support and assistance to chemists and engineers.Quality Control Analysis
Prepare chemical solutions for products and processes following standardized formulas, or create experimental formulas.Problem Sensitivity
Maintain, clean, and sterilize laboratory instruments and equipment.Mechanical
Write technical reports or prepare graphs and charts to document experimental results.Written Expression
Direct or monitor other workers producing chemical products.Inductive Reasoning
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Chemical Technicians generally work in laboratories or manufacturing facilities. They may perform some duties outdoors, for example, gathering water samples to test for pollution levels. Most Technicians work a 40-hour workweek. Some facilities may require a Chemical Technician to monitor experiments or manufacturing plants overnight. Chemical Technicians sometimes work with toxic chemicals or radioactive isotopes. Following proper safety procedures and wearing protective gear can prevent injury when working with hazardous materials.

Chemical Technicians who work for private companies typically do not belong to unions. Chemical Technicians who work in public institutions may be union members.

Will This Job Fit Me?

Those who want to become Chemical Technicians should enjoy working with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking while working independently and supervised. The ability to communicate both orally and in writing is highly valued. Patience and perseverance also are necessary when monitoring and carrying out experiments or performing product quality control duties.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Chemical Technicians in California is $44,668 annually, or $21.48 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 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$33,681$44,668$60,859
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

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

What is the Job Outlook?

Job opportunities are expected to be highest in pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, which would be less affected by economic downturns. Stronger competition among drug companies and an aging population are contributing to the need for drugs discovered through scientific research. Environmental research and the search for alternative sources of energy should offer many new opportunities for Chemical Technicians. The remaining chemical manufacturing businesses are expected to employ fewer Chemical Technicians as companies shift from in-house research and development operations to use of scientific research and development firms. In addition, some companies are expected to move manufacturing and research to foreign countries for economic reasons.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Chemical Technicians is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Chemical Technicians are expected to increase by 13.3 percent, or 800 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Chemical Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2014-2024)
6,0006,80080013.31,800
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 80 new job openings per year is expected for Chemical Technicians, plus an additional 180 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 260 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Chemical Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2014-2024)
80180260
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

An associate degree in chemistry or a related science is generally the minimum education requirement for entry-level Chemical Technician jobs. Individuals looking to increase their knowledge in chemistry should complete course work in science and engineering topics, such as environmental science, environmental regulations, biotechnology, and microbiology. However, it is possible for job seekers with a high school diploma to enter the field as trainees and work under the direct supervision of an experienced Technician and gradually gain more responsibilities while working toward a two-year degree in chemistry or a related scientific discipline.

Early Career Planning

High school students planning to become Chemical Technicians should take courses in chemistry, biology, physics, environmental science, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics, and computer technology.

Continuing Education

While continuing education is usually not required, it is important for Chemical Technicians to keep up with current findings and technology. Professional associations, like the American Chemical Society, offer educational seminars and workshops on green and sustainable chemistry. Online courses provided through colleges and universities can provide current Chemical Technicians with information regarding current environmental laws and regulations. Certificate holders may need to obtain continuing education credits to maintain their certification. In addition, many companies require employees to complete employer mandated training programs in order to perform job duties that meet current company standards.

Certification

Chemical Technicians can receive voluntary certification, such as Environmental Analytical Technician Certification, from multiple professional organizations. Certification is granted to individuals who meet the minimum education and work experience requirements and who are able to pass an examination. Certification from any of the professional organizations can be useful for promotional reasons. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Chemical Technicians are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Architectural and Engineering Services 27.4%
Scientific Research and Development Svc 16.6%
Management & Technical Consulting Svc 5.7%
Petroleum & Coal Products Manufacturing 4.4%
Colleges and Universities 4.2%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers is one of the most common and effective job search methods. Jobs may also be found through classified advertisements in newspapers, online job boards, and professional engineering organizations. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

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

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Chemical Technicians.

  • Chemical
  • Cleaning Compound
  • Laboratories Research & Development

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

As Chemical Technicians become experienced, they may take on more responsibility, carry out assignments with limited supervision, and eventually supervise less experienced Technicians. Technicians with a bachelor’s degree have increased opportunities to advance to scientist positions after gaining work experience. Training in environmental sciences may qualify applicants for occupations as environmental technicians. Although the transition from Chemical to environmental technician may not increase earnings, the ability to move into different areas of the science field would expand employment options.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Chemical Technicians with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Agricultural and Food Science TechniciansProfile
Chemical Equipment Operators and TendersProfile
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, Including HealthProfile
Soil and Plant ScientistsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification19-4031
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Chemical Technicians19-4031.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)IRC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Chemical Technology/Technician 410301
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Chemical Technology095400
   Laboratory Science Technology095500