Chemical Technicians


Quick Facts: Chemical Technicians
2017 Median Pay $47,280 per year 
$22.73 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 67,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 2,700
 

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Chemical Technician Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Chemical Technicians Do

Chemical technicians use laboratory instruments and techniques to help chemists and chemical engineers research, develop, produce, and test chemical products and processes.

chemical technicians.jpg

chemical technicians

Duties of Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians typically do the following:

  • Monitor chemical processes and test the quality of products to make sure that they meet standards and specifications

  • Set up and maintain laboratory instruments and equipment

  • Troubleshoot production problems or malfunctioning instruments

  • Prepare chemical solutions

  • Conduct, compile, and interpret results of chemical and physical experiments, tests, and analyses for a variety of purposes, including research and development

  • Prepare technical reports, graphs, and charts, and give presentations that summarize their results

Most chemical technicians work on teams. Typically, they are led by chemists or chemical engineers who direct their work and evaluate their results. However, they may serve as mentors to chemists who are new to a lab or to a specialized area of research.

Technicians who work in laboratories may help conduct experiments that contribute to research and development. For example, some chemical technicians help chemists and other scientists develop new medicines. In this way, chemical technicians often bridge the gap in knowledge remaining when a chemist moves on to a new assignment.

Other chemical technicians work in manufacturing and assist in developing more efficient production processes.


Work Environment for Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians held about 67,300 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of chemical technicians were as follows:

Testing laboratories: 19%

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: 10%

Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: 10%

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: 5%

Wholesale trade: 3%

Chemical technicians typically work in laboratories or in industrial facilities such as chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing plants.

Injuries and Illnesses

Chemical technicians can be exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain chemicals and plant equipment, but there is little risk if proper procedures are followed.

Work Schedules

Most technicians work full time. Occasionally, they may have to work additional hours to meet project deadlines or troubleshoot problems with manufacturing processes. Some may work irregular hours to monitor laboratory experiments or plant operations.


How to Become a Chemical Technician

Chemical technicians need an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary education for most jobs. Most chemical technicians also receive on-the-job training.

Education

For most jobs, chemical technicians need an associate’s degree in applied science or chemical technology or 2 years of postsecondary education.

Many technical and community colleges offer programs in applied sciences or chemical technology. Students typically take classes in math, physics, and biology, in addition to chemistry courses. Coursework in statistics and computer science is also useful because technicians routinely do data analysis and modeling.

One of the most important aspects of any degree program is laboratory time because it provides students with hands-on practice in conducting experiments and using various instruments and techniques properly. Many schools also offer internships and cooperative-education programs that help students gain employment experience while attending school.

Important Qualities

Ability to use technology. Chemical technicians must set up, operate, troubleshoot, and repair sophisticated equipment and instruments. They also may need to adjust the equipment to ensure that experiments and processes are running properly and safely.

Analytical skills. Chemical technicians must conduct scientific experiments with accuracy and precision.

Communication skills. Chemical technicians must explain their work to scientists and engineers, and to workers who may not have a technical background. They often write reports to communicate their results.

Critical-thinking skills. Chemical technicians reach their conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment.

Interpersonal skills. Chemical technicians must work well with others as part of a team because they often work with scientists, engineers, and other technicians.

Observation skills. Chemical technicians must carefully monitor chemical experiments and processes to note any unusual or unexpected results observed during an experiment. They must keep complete records of their work, including conditions and procedures.

Time-management skills. Chemical technicians often work on multiple tasks and projects at the same time and must prioritize their assignments.

Training

Most chemical technicians receive on-the-job training. Typically, experienced technicians teach new employees proper methods and procedures for conducting experiments and operating equipment. The length of training varies with the new employee’s level of experience and education, and the industry the worker is employed in.

Advancement

Technicians who have a bachelor’s degree may advance to positions as chemical engineers or chemists.


Salaries for Chemical Technicians

The median annual wage for chemical technicians was $47,280 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,350.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for chemical technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $52,660

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: $46,670

Wholesale trade: $46,410

Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: $45,520

Testing laboratories: $38,750

Most technicians work full time. Occasionally, they may have to work additional hours to meet project deadlines or troubleshoot problems with manufacturing processes. Some may work irregular hours to monitor laboratory experiments or plant operations.


Job Outlook for Chemical Technicians

Employment of chemical technicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2016 to 2026, slower than the average for all occupations. Many chemical technicians are employed in manufacturing industries that are projected to decline.

However, chemical technicians will continue to be in demand in scientific research and development (R&D) and to monitor the quality of chemical products and processes. Greater interest in environmental issues, such as pollution control, clean energy, and sustainability, are expected to increase the demand for chemistry R&D. They will also be needed in testing laboratories to test new materials and products developed by chemists and chemical engineers.

Job Prospects

As the instrumentation and techniques used in research, development, and production become more complex, employers will seek candidates with highly developed technical skills. Job opportunities are expected to be best for graduates of applied science technology programs who are well trained in the latest technology and sophisticated equipment used in laboratories or production facilities.

Employment projections data for Chemical Technicians, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 67,300

Projected Employment, 2026: 70,000

Change, 2016-2026: +4%, +2,700


Careers Related to chemical technicians

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists by performing duties such as measuring and analyzing the quality of food and agricultural products.

Biological Technicians

Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.

Chemical Engineers

Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products. They design processes and equipment for large-scale manufacturing, plan and test production methods and byproducts treatment, and direct facility operations.

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Chemists and materials scientists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and analyze the ways in which the substances interact with one another. They use their knowledge to develop new and improved products and to test the quality of manufactured goods.

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination, including those affecting public health.

Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence. Many technicians specialize in various types of laboratory analysis.

Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources, such as minerals, oil, and natural gas.

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Medical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

Nuclear Technicians

Nuclear technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear energy production. They operate special equipment and monitor the levels of radiation that are produced.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural and Food Science TechniciansAssociate's degree$39,910
Biological TechniciansBachelor's degree$43,800
Chemical EngineersBachelor's degree$102,160
Chemists and Materials ScientistsBachelor's degree$76,280
Environmental Science and Protection TechniciansAssociate's degree$45,490
Forensic Science TechniciansBachelor's degree$57,850
Geological and Petroleum TechniciansAssociate's degree$54,190
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians$51,770
Nuclear TechniciansAssociate's degree$80,370

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Chemical Technicians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/chemical-technicians.htm