Chemists: Salary Overview
Chemists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and analyze the way substances interact with one another.
Their job responsibilities vary depending on the field of employment but typically include planning and carrying out complex research projects, instructing other scientists on how to properly process and test the materials, preparing solutions, analyzing substances, conducting tests, writing technical reports, and presenting their findings to other scientists.
Chemists usually work during normal business hours but they may also work overtime in order to meet a deadline.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for chemists in the United States was $77,630 as of May 2019.
Salaries vary widely based on a variety of factors and chemists can make anywhere between less than $44,460 and more than $133,690 a year.
Chemist Salary by Industry
Chemists held about 83,530 jobs in 2019, most of them being employed in chemical manufacturing, in research, in testing laboratories, or by companies that provide architectural, engineering, and related services, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The field of pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing hired around 15,320 chemists while 11,850 of them worked in research.
Around 9,370 chemists worked in the companies that offer architectural, engineering, and related services while 8,350 of them worked in the field of chemical manufacturing.
The report published by BLS shows that the federal executive branch, a field that employs around 5,570 chemists, offered the highest average annual salary.
Chemists employed in this industry earned a mean annual wage of $114,510.
The average annual salary for chemists employed in the field of oil and gas extraction was $100,800.
Chemists who worked in the health and personal care stores earned, on average, around $99,870.
However, the industries that offer the highest salaries don’t hire many chemists, and competition for jobs in this field is expected to be strong.
The biggest employer of chemists, the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry offered an average annual salary of $79,590.
Chemists who worked in scientific research and developmental services earned, on average, around $95,790 a year while those employed companies that provide engineering services were paid, on average, with $67,440 a year.
The chemical manufacturing field offered a mean annual salary to chemists of $89,270.
Chemist Salary by Level of Experience
The level of experience is an important factor in determining a chemist’s salary.
As an entry-level chemist, you can expect to earn somewhere close to the minimum for this profession, somewhere in the range of $40,000-$45,000 and, as you gain experience, your salary will increase accordingly.
According to payscale.com, chemists who have around 20 years of experience earn an average total compensation (including salary, bonuses, and other benefits) of approximately $77,000.
However, salaries also vary depending on the industry and a mid-level chemist who works in the field of oil and gas extraction may earn as much as an experienced chemist who works for an engineering company.
Chemist Salary by Compensation Structure
Chemists typically earn a fixed salary and they may also receive bonuses and profit-sharing.
Some employers also offer a compensation package that includes health insurance, life insurance, paid vacation days, and other benefits.
According to payscale.com, chemists may earn between less than $500 and more than $7,000 in bonuses and up to $9,000 in profit sharing.
Job prospects for Chemists
Employment for chemists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations, according to BLS.
They will be most needed by pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers and in the chemical manufacturing field.
Another field that may offer additional job openings for chemists is environmental research where they will be needed to help develop technology and processes that reduce pollution.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Chemists. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.