Chemical Technicians

Summary

chemical technicians image
Chemical technicians often use laboratory equipment to do their work.
Quick Facts: Chemical Technicians
2012 Median Pay $42,920 per year
$20.64 per hour
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, 2012 63,600
Job Outlook, 2012-22 9% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 6,000

What Chemical Technicians Do

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

Work Environment

Technicians typically work in laboratories, where they conduct experiments, or in manufacturing facilities, such as chemical or pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, where they monitor production processes. Most technicians work full time.

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 receive on-the-job training.

Pay

The median annual wage for chemical technicians was $42,920 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of chemical technicians is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Graduates of applied science technology programs who are trained to use equipment typically found in laboratories or production facilities should have the best opportunities.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of chemical technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about chemical technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Chemical Technicians Do About this section

Chemical technicians
Chemical technicians prepare chemical solutions used in laboratory experiments.

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

Duties

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
  • Prepare chemical solutions
  • Conduct chemical and physical experiments, tests, and analyses for a variety of purposes, including research and development
  • Compile and interpret results of tests and analyses
  • Prepare technical reports, graphs, and charts, and give presentations that summarize their results

Most chemical technicians work on teams. Typically, they are supervised by chemists or chemical engineers who direct their work and evaluate their results. For example, some chemical technicians help chemists and other scientists develop new medicines. Others help chemical engineers develop more efficient production processes.

Chemical technicians’ duties and titles often depend on where they work. The following are the two main types of chemical technicians:

Laboratory technicians typically help scientists conduct experiments and analyses. Often, they prepare chemical solutions, test products for quality and performance, and analyze compounds produced through complex chemical processes. Chemical laboratory technicians may analyze samples of air and water to monitor pollution levels. Laboratory technicians usually set up and maintain laboratory equipment and instruments.

Processing technicians monitor the quality of products and processes at chemical manufacturing facilities. For example, they adjust processing equipment to improve production efficiency and output. They collect samples from production batches, which then are tested for impurities and other defects. Processing technicians also test product packaging to make sure it is well designed, will hold up well, and will have a limited impact on the environment.

Work Environment About this section

Chemical technicians
Chemical technicians wear protective clothing when handling chemicals.

Chemical technicians held about 63,600 jobs in 2012.

The industries that employed the most chemical technicians in 2012 were as follows:

Testing laboratories22%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences13
Basic chemical manufacturing8
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing7
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private4

Chemical technicians typically work in laboratories or in industrial facilities such as chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing plants. Some chemical technicians are exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain chemicals, but there is little risk if they follow proper safety procedures.

Work Schedules

Most technicians work full time. Processing technicians often work longer and later shifts than laboratory technicians because many manufacturing facilities operate around the clock.

How to Become a Chemical Technician About this section

Chemical technicians
Laboratory coursework provides students with hands-on experience in conducting experiments and in using various instruments and techniques properly.

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 mathematics, 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. Laboratory coursework provides students with hands-on experience 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 be able to set up and operate 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 be able to conduct scientific experiments with accuracy and precision.

Communication skills. Chemical technicians must explain their work to scientists, 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 be able to 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. They must keep complete records of their work, including conditions, procedures, and results.

Time-management skills. Chemical technicians often work on multiple tasks and projects at the same time and must be able to 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. 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 chemists or chemical engineers.

Pay About this section

Chemical Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Life, physical, and social science occupations

$60,100

Chemical technicians

$42,920

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for chemical technicians was $42,920 in May 2012. 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 $26,220, and the top 10 percent earned more than $70,710.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for chemical technicians in the top five industries in which these technicians worked were as follows:

Basic chemical manufacturing$50,710
Research and development in the physical, engineering,
and life sciences
48,440
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing43,390
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state,
local, and private
41,590
Testing laboratories35,150

Most technicians work full time. Processing technicians often work longer and later shifts than laboratory technicians because many manufacturing facilities operate around the clock.

Job Outlook About this section

Chemical Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Life, physical, and social science occupations

10%

Chemical technicians

9%

 

Employment of chemical technicians is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. 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 research and development.

Declines in the employment of chemical technicians are projected in all chemical manufacturing industries, including pharmaceutical manufacturing. Many chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers are expected to outsource their scientific R&D and testing operations to professional, scientific, and technical services firms that specialize in these services. However, due to the development of cheaper energy and raw materials sources such as shale gas, some chemical manufacturing is expected to return to the United States. This should generate more demand for these workers in the next decade.

Job Prospects

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

Employment projections data for chemical technicians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Chemical technicians

19-4031 63,600 69,500 9 6,000 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of chemical technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Agricultural and food science 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.

Associate’s degree $34,070
Biological technicians

Biological Technicians

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

Bachelor’s degree $39,750
Chemical engineers

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 safe and sustainable manufacturing, plan and test methods of manufacturing products and treating byproducts, and supervise production.

Bachelor’s degree $94,350
Chemists and materials scientists

Chemists and Materials Scientists

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

Bachelor’s degree $73,060
Environmental science and protection technicians

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Environmental science and protection technicians do laboratory and field tests to monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution, including those affecting public health. Many work under the supervision of environmental scientists and specialists, who direct the technicians’ work and evaluate their results.

Associate’s degree $41,240
Forensic science technicians

Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. Many technicians specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis. Most forensic science technicians spend some time writing reports.

Bachelor’s degree $52,840
Geological and petroleum technicians

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.

Associate’s degree $52,700
Nuclear technicians

Nuclear Technicians

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

Associate’s degree $69,060
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Chemical Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/chemical-technicians.htm (visited July 31, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014