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How do I Become a Polymer Chemist?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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There are three items required to become a polymer chemist: post-secondary training, related work experience, and laboratory skills. A polymer chemist is specifically trained in chemical synthesis and focuses on the properties of polymers or macromolecules. This type of chemist can find employment opportunities in a wide range of industries, from consumer or industrial grade products to research laboratories. Polymer chemists are responsible for the tremendous growth in plastics and related synthetic materials.

A polymer is a type of molecule that has repeating structures connected with covalent chemical bonds. In the popular media, the term polymer is used to refer to plastic. However, the term polymer actually refers to a set of specific properties at the molecular level and they can be found in both organic and artificial materials. Polymer chemistry is also known as macromolecular chemistry and is one of the fastest growing sectors in the chemical industry.

People who want to become a polymer chemist are typically detail-oriented, enjoy working independently, have a high degree of mental focus, and are interested in precision. The volume of knowledge required to be successful in this career is quite significant, and requires a high level of dedication and study. As a result, many chemists find that they need additional courses in communication and presentation skills later in their careers, in order to master these skills.

The first requirement to become a polymer chemist is to complete a post-secondary education program. This is typically a university degree in chemistry, chemical engineering, or synthetic chemistry. The vast majority of employers will accept a bachelor's degree for an entry-level position as a polymer chemist. However, in order to advance your career, a master's or doctoral degree in chemistry or chemical engineering is necessary.

Related work experience includes experience gained through a job placement program or internship during your studies. It is extremely rare for anyone without formal post-secondary level training in chemistry to obtain a position in a polymer laboratory. This training is necessary to work safely in this environment, and the risk of accident is too high to allow untrained staff access to volatile chemicals.

Laboratory skills are critical for anyone who wants to become a polymer chemist. The vast majority of the day is spent in a laboratory, combining chemicals, analyzing results, testing the properties of different synthetic chemicals and documenting experiments. These skills are taught during the post-secondary training. Accuracy, precision, and focus are all essential to achieving a high quality work product.

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Discussion Comments

By strawCake — On Nov 24, 2011

I think becoming a polymer chemist is probably a smart idea if you have any interest in science. It sounds like there are a lot of chemist jobs available, and as the article said, the field is growing. I think it's always a better idea to get a degree in a field with projected growth, rather than something where there aren't a lot of jobs available.

I also think it's really interesting that polymer chemists need communication and presentation skills. I suppose I always think of scientists as just being in the lab, and maybe writing a paper to present their work. But it sounds like polymer chemists are expected to communicate their findings to their colleagues and others in person, not just on paper.

By sunnySkys — On Nov 24, 2011

@Monika - That's great that your friends employer offered to pay for her master's! Advanced degrees can get pretty expensive.

I also have a friend who is a chemist, and one thing that helped her get a polymer chemistry job was doing an internship in college. It was pretty stressful because you're basically working for free when you do an internship (it really cut into her time to work for actual money!) But she told me it was well worth it. The company she did her internship with hired her right after she graduated!

By Monika — On Nov 23, 2011

My friend is a chemist, and she didn't have any trouble getting an entry-level chemistry job when she graduated with her bachelor's degree. This article is right though-most employers will encourage chemists to get a master's degree and maybe even a doctorate after awhile.

In my friends case, her company offered to pay for her master's degree after she had worked for her company for a few years. Then, when she completes her degree she will get a raise! Of course my friend took her company up on this offer. Who wouldn't want an employer funded master's degree?

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