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Electrochemists are scientists who specialize in studying the chemical and physical reactions between charged particles when they are introduced to conductive solutions. Their work has many important practical applications, from developing new metal coating materials to generating renewable power to creating new medications. The education and training requirements to become an electrochemist can vary depending on the type of work a future professional hopes to do. Most electrochemists in manufacturing plants and pharmaceutical companies hold master's degrees in their specialty and spend several years as assistants or junior chemists. To become an electrochemist in academia or a private lab, a person typically needs to earn a PhD and participate in a two- to three-year postdoctoral research fellowship.
The first step to become an electrochemist is enrolling in an accredited four-year university. Most prospective scientists major in chemistry, though a degree program in physics or math with a minor in chemistry can also be beneficial. As an undergraduate, a student has the chance to learn the fundamentals of chemical reactions, electricity, and magnetism. Among other important topics, a student is introduced to the types of reduction and oxidation reactions he or she will extensively work with as an electrochemist. Science lab courses can provide hands-on experience with sophisticated equipment and research techniques.
Many undergraduates apply for internships or entry-level jobs in the field while pursuing their degrees. A position at a university lab or a local chemical engineering plant can provide valuable experience that looks very good on a professional resume. Near the end of a bachelor's degree program, an individual can apply to graduate or doctoral schools that offer degrees specifically in electrochemistry. Most master's programs take about two years to complete, while a PhD program can last for three to four years.
Advanced degree students typically split their time between classroom studies, lab courses, and independent research projects. They learn about cutting-edge innovations in the fields of electrochemistry, math, and nuclear physics. Earning a degree usually involves completing a thesis or dissertation based on at least two years of original experimental research. With a degree, a person can begin applying to become an electrochemist at a variety of industrial and academic institutions.
People who go to work at manufacturing plants, chemical engineering labs, drug companies, and hospitals usually begin their careers as junior chemists. They receive on-the-job training from experienced scientists to learn more about designing new projects and conducting research. A person who decides to enter a postdoctoral fellowship after finishing school can expect to continue with the same type of independent research he or she performed as a student. A successful fellow usually enjoys ample opportunities to become an electrochemist after completing the program.