Chemical Technicians Overview
Chemical technicians work mostly in laboratory settings. An associates degree or certificate is usually sufficient for earning an entry-level position as a chemical technician, though some require a bachelors degree. A slower than average growth is expected for this career, though job opportunities should be enjoyed by graduates of chemical technology or applied science technology programs and who have received significant training in laboratory equipment.
Nature of the Work for Chemical Technicians
Chemical technicians are a subsector of the broad field of science technicians. They help chemists in research and development, as well as conceive and improve processes and products using science standards and theories in combination with mathematics. Chemical technicians have the responsibility of making observations, calculate and record results, observe experiments, and develop conclusions. Attention to detail is necessary, as chemical technicians must keep thorough logs of each experiment. Chemical technicians who work in production observe manufacturing processes and sometimes perform quality tests to ensure the correct proportions of ingredients are included. This is an important step for making sure the product is pure, with the proper amount of strength and durability.
The duties of chemical technicians in research and development have increased since laboratory instrumentation and procedures have become more complex. Under the supervision of chemists, many chemical technicians are allowed to help develop and adapt laboratory procedures that grant the most ideal results, interpret data and create solutions to problems. In order to recognize and be able to fix a malfunctioning instrument, chemical technicians must become experts in all laboratory equipment.
Chemical technicians develop and use chemicals and related products and equipment under the direction of chemists and chemical engineers. There are two main types of chemical technicians: research technicians and process control technicians. A research technician is employed in experimental laboratory, while a process control technician works in a industrial plants, mainly those who specialize in manufacturing. The majority of chemical technicians work in research and development to carry out a wide array of laboratory procedures, such as gathering and analyzing samples of water and air to observe pollution levels, or they create compounds through complex organic synthesis. The focus of work for process technicians who work in plants includes quality assurance, monitoring production processes and creating new production techniques. In shipping, chemical technicians provide technical support and proficiency. Most chemical technicians work in laboratories and work a regular 40-hour workweek. Sometimes, overtime or irregular hours are necessary in order to complete experiments that are impossible to complete during working hours. For example, a chemical production technician works in 8-hour shifts around the clock.
The rise of sophisticated laboratory equipment due to advances in information technology and automation has required chemical technicians to be experts in such equipment. They often use electronic measuring equipment and computers in combination with traditional experimental apparatus.
It is not uncommon for chemical technicians to work with toxic chemicals or radioactive isotopes. In order to avoid being exposed to hazardous toxic chemicals, they must follow strict safety procedures.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Chemical Technicians
Most entry-level positions for chemical technicians require at least an associates degree in chemical technology or a science-related technology. In research and development positions, chemical technicians are typically required to have a bachelors degree. However, chemical process technicians usually have a 2-year associates degree in process technology.
Various types of formal education can prepare an individual for a career as a chemical technician. There are a variety of community and technical colleges that provide technician training or a more broad education in mathematics and science. Most technical institutions provide training to technicians, but do not offer the same general education as a community college. Most programs at technical institutions provide 1-year certificates and 2-year associates degrees. Cooperative-education or internship programs offered by some schools help students find work at a local company while attending classes in alternate terms. Those who participate in such programs have more job prospects upon graduation.
Regardless of what postsecondary educational path a chemical technician student follows, employers typically require hands-on training, which can be learned in school or on the job. The length of training depends on the applicants level of previous training on equipment. Those who have had extensive training, usually only have a short period of on-the-job training, while those with no college degree will have a more intensive training program where they work under the direction of a technician who has more experience.
High school students who are interested in becoming a chemical technician should take as many courses in math and science as possible. Beyond high school, associates and bachelors degree programs should focus more on laboratory skills. Chemical technicians must also have a strong background in applied chemistry, physics and math.
Chemical technicians should have solid oral and written communication skills, as well as interpersonal skills because they often report their findings to other technicians and chemists. Strong computer skills, specifically in computer monitoring, are essential as computers are used often in research and developmental laboratories. The ability to organize and interpret scientific results are also important.
Usually, chemical technicians begin working as a trainee under the direction of a chemist or a technician with more experience. Technicians take on more responsibility as they gain more experience and are no longer required to be under direct supervision. Some eventually become supervisors, while others who have a bachelors degree move to chemist positions after a few years of experience working for a technician, or after receiving a masters degree.
Top 10 Most Popular Chemical Technology/Technician Schools
1. Lee College, Baytown (Baytown, Texas)
2. San Jacinto College, Central Campus (Pasadena, Texas)
3. College of the Mainland (Texas City, Texas)
4. Lamar Institute of Technology (Beaumont, Texas)
5. Alvin Community College (Alvin, Texas)
6. Instituto Tecnologico de Puerto Rico, Manati (Manati, Puerto Rico)
7. Brazosport College, Lake Jackson (Lake Jackson, Texas)
8. Indiana University - Purdue University, Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
9. Texas State Technical College, Waco (Waco, Texas)
10. Delta College - University (University Center, Michigan)
Employment and Job Outlook for Chemical Technicians
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to little or no change (decrease or increase by 2%).
Chemical technicians hold about 64,420 jobs and are primarily employed in chemical manufacturing and scientific, technical and professional firms. Overall employment of science technicians is expected to grow by 12 percent during the 2008–18 decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The continued growth of scientific and medical research—particularly research related to biotechnology—will be the primary driver of employment growth, but the development and production of technical products should also stimulate demand for science technicians in many industries.
Overall employment growth for science technicians is projected to be 12 percent during the next decade, which is about as fast as average for all occupations. However, for chemical technicians it is expected to decline by 1 percent, which is little to no change. Besides pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, the chemical manufacturing industry anticipates an employment decline as companies continue to downsize and turn to outside contractors and overseas production. The demand for chemical technicians in pharmaceutical research, however, will not change.
Some job openings will arise from the need to replace chemical technicians who leave the labor force or retire. Graduates from applied science technology programs that have sufficient training on laboratory equipment, should expect the best employment opportunities. As production techniques become more complex, employers will hire more people with well developed technical skills.
Earnings and Salary for Chemical Technicians
The median hourly wage for chemical technicians is $20.23. The average annual salary is $42,070.
Annual Salary for Chemical Technicians
On average, Chemical Technicians earn $42,070 per year.
Hourly Wage for Chemical Technicians
On average, Chemical Technicians earn $20.23 per hour.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook