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Working as a Chemist

Job Description

Working as a Chemist you will perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Collect samples and analyze the chemical makeup of different substances
  • Test the quality of raw materials and manufactured products
  • Conduct research to develop new chemical products and processes
  • Help set policies that regulate the use of chemicals in food and drugs
  • Participate in interdisciplinary research and development projects
  • May supervise other chemists and chemical technicians and technologists.
  • Instruct students as a teacher and professor

Source: NOC, 2112

Industry Overview

Canada’s chemical sector employs 87,000 people. According to the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, the growth areas for chemist include companies involved in shale gas, biomass feed stocks and chemistry-based solutions.

Industry sources report that there is a demand for chemist in BC due to limited supply, workers seeking opportunities elsewhere and those expected to retire.

Jobs for chemists in BC continue to be strongest in the natural resources sectors.

Sources:  Canadian Chemistry.caChemistry Industry Snapshot – 2013 – Canada

Job Outlook in BC

job outlook for chemists

Chart from WorkBC

The Employment Outlook for BC provides opening projections for Chemists within BC regions:

Region 2010 Estimated Employment 2015 Estimated Employment Avg Annual % Change, 5 Years, 2010 to 2015
Vancouver Island 60 60 0.3%
Lower Mainland / Southwest 1,440 1,610 2.4%
Thompson-Okanagan 50 60 0.9%
Kootenay 10 10 1.5%
Cariboo 10 10 1.0%
North Coast & Nechako 10 10 0.1%
Northeast 10 10 0.4%

Source: Regional Employment Projections, BC Stats. Projections for development regions. [accessed October 2014]

You can learn more about working as a chemist in BC from:

Types of Employers

Chemists are employed in:

  • research, development, and quality control laboratories
  • chemical, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical industries
  • mineral, metal, and pulp and paper industries
  • manufacturing, utility, health, educational, and government establishments.

Salary

In BC, the average annual salary for chemists is between $53,000 and $66,000. However, highly trained specialists and senior-level managers can earn $135,000 a year or more.

Some large drug companies pay very high salaries to chemists who have specialized skills that are in high demand, such as those involved in cancer drug research.

Full-time chemists generally receive benefits in addition to a salary. These may include dental coverage, paid vacation and sick days, and contributions to a retirement plan.

Source: Career Cruising database (Profile for Chemist).

Job Bank Canada provides hourly wages for chemists in BC in regions:

chemist_wages

Source: Job Bank

Working Hours

Most chemists have regular work hours and work a 5-day, 40-hour week.

Longer hours may sometimes be necessary to complete important projects and research before a deadline.

Source: Career Cruising database

Skills, Education, and Experience

Skills

  • Excellent numerical ability
  • Very detail oriented
  • Strong innovative thinking and problem solving skills
  • Good spatial perception
  • Teamwork

Education and Experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biochemistry, or a related discipline is required.
  • Master’s or doctoral degree is usually required to work as a research chemist.
  • Licensing by a provincial association of chemists is voluntary in British Columbia

Qualifications

The profession of chemist is not regulated in British Columbia.

Licensing Requirements for Chemists

Although the profession of chemist is not regulated in British Columbia, only members of the Association of the Chemical Profession of British Columbia may use the title Professional Chemist (PChem).

Finding Jobs

You’ll find job advertisements in local newspapers and electronic sources, as well as through professional associations’ publications.

Local Newspapers

You can look at the Vancouver Sun & The Province at Vancouver Public Library for free. Check the job postings daily and the careers section in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesdays and Saturdays and in The Province on Sundays.

Job White Pages

  • Available online or in print at the Central Library
    NOTE: You can only access this database from the Central Library or VPL branch libraries. Access is NOT available from home or outside the Library.

Online Job Postings

  • Indeed.com
    Find jobs posted on a multitude of company career sites and job boards.

Professional Associations’ Career Resources

Identifying the Right Position

When you browse job advertisements you’ll find a range of different job titles that are relevant.

For chemists, look for these related job titles:

  • biochemist
  • clinical chemist
  • coatings chemist
  • electrochemist
  • environmental chemist
  • food chemist
  • nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopist
  • pharmacological chemist
  • quality control chemist

Source: NOC, 2112

Creating a List of Potential Employers

You can use directories to produce lists of employers who employ chemists in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.

  • Canadian Chemical Directory
    Available at the Central Library, 380 Ch5Cca
  • Reference Canada
    Click on “Start Search” beside Canadian Businesses, then select the “Advanced Search” button.
    Select both “Keyword/SIC/NAICS” under Business Type and “City” under Geography.
    In the top search box enter “chemist” and click LOOKUP.
    Select the appropriate headings.
    Lower down, select the Province, choose the cities, and click the “View Results” button.
    NOTE: You can access this database from a Library computer. If you are using a computer from outside the Library, you will need a Vancouver Public Library card to login to this database. After clicking on the database name, you will be asked to enter your library card number and PIN (usually last four digits of your telephone number).

Applying for a Job

In Canada, employers usually expect to receive a resume or curriculum vitae and a cover letter that identifies the position you are applying for and summarizes your relevant experience.

Use the library catalogue to find books on writing resumes and cover letters specific to your industry.

To learn about applying for jobs in Canada, use the following pathfinders:

Getting Help from Industry Sources

Industry Associations

Associations for chemists in BC and Canada provide assistance to individuals. Registration and fees are required for membership.

Industry Journals

Search the Vancouver Public Library catalogue for journals related to your profession.