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Working as a Chemist

Job Description


  • carry out research and analysis in support of industrial operations, product and process development; quality control; environmental control; medical diagnosis and treatment; biotechnology; and other applications
  • theoretical, experimental and applied research into basic chemical and biochemical processes to create new products and processes

Chemists perform some or all of the following duties:

  • analyze, synthesize, purify, modify and characterize chemical or biochemical compounds
  • create and carry out programs of analysis to ensure quality control of raw materials, chemical intermediates or final products
  • carry out programs of sample collection, data collection and analysis to identify and measure environmental toxicants
  • carry out research to develop new chemical formulations and processes, and devise new technical applications of industrial chemicals and compounds
  • carry out research to discover, develop, refine and evaluate new products
  • undertake fundamental and applied research into the synthesis and properties of chemical compounds and the mechanisms of chemical reactions
  • investigate chemical aspects of the mechanisms of drug action; the diagnosis and treatment of disease; organ function; and the assessment of health

Source:  Work BC Career Profiles for Chemists

Industry Overview

Chemistry fuels the Canadian economy. Canada’s $53-billion chemistry industry transforms raw materials into the building blocks needed to manufacture the 70,000 products that ensure our quality of life.  From wind turbines and solar panels, to vehicles and electronics, to textiles, building materials, paper and pharmaceuticals, chemistry is vital to the Canadian economy.

Chemistry is directly responsible for 87,300 jobs and is the 4th largest manufacturing sector in Canada.
Source: Chemistry Association of Canada CIAC

the chemistry industry fuels the economy infographic

Job Outlook in BC

forecasted average employment growth rate and job openings for 2018 to 2028; composition of job openings

The Employment Outlook for BC provides the following regional figures:

Mainland / Southwest 

  • Employment in 2018: 1,000
  • Average annual employment growth: 1.4%
  • Expected number of job openings: 420

Vancouver Island / Coast

  • Employment in 2018: 180
  • Average annual employment growth: 0.7%
  • Expected number of job openings: 60

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.


In BC, the median annual salary for chemists is $63,173. However, the provincial hourly rate can range from $17.00 to $64.90 for highly trained specialists.

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:

Hourly wages for chemists

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


  • 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


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 (ACPBC) 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 in print at the Central Library or online at
NOTE:  Online access at VPL locations only

Online Job Postings

    Find jobs posted on a multitude of company career sites and job boards.
  • BC JobConnect **must have permanent resident number**
    newcomers can post their skills, education and work experience to BC employers looking for workers

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

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.

  • 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 “chemical” and click SEARCH.
    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.