Chemical Technicians

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Chemical Technicians Do[About this section] [To Top]

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

Duties of Chemical Technicians

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
  • Troubleshoot production problems or malfunctioning instruments
  • 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 led 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 also collect samples from production batches, which then are tested for impurities and other defects. In addition, processing technicians test product packaging to make sure that it is well designed, will hold up well, and will have a limited impact on the environment.

Work Environment for Chemical Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Chemical technicians hold about 66,500 jobs. The industries that employ the most chemical technicians are as follows:

Testing laboratories 21%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 10
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 9
Basic chemical manufacturing 8
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5

Chemical technicians typically work in laboratories or in industrial facilities such as chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing plants.

Injuries and Illnesses

Chemical technicians can be exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain chemicals and plant equipment, but there is little risk if proper procedures are followed.

Chemical Technician Work Schedules

Most technicians work full time. Occasionally, they may have to work additional hours to meet project deadlines or troubleshoot problems with manufacturing processes. Some may work irregular hours to monitor laboratory experiments or plant operations.

How to Become a Chemical Technician[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Chemical Technicians near you!

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.

Chemical Technician 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 for Chemical Technicians

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 and 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.

Chemical Technician 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. The length of training varies with the new employee’s level of experience and education and the industry the worker is employed in.

Advancement for Chemical Technicians

Technicians who have a bachelor’s degree may advance to positions as chemical engineers or chemists. For more information, see the profiles on chemical engineers and chemists and materials scientists.

Chemical Technician Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for chemical technicians is $44,660. 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 $27,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $75,230.

The median annual wages for chemical technicians in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences $51,000
Basic chemical manufacturing 49,940
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 44,820
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 42,470
Testing laboratories 37,350

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 for Chemical Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of chemical technicians is projected to grow 2 percent through 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Declines in the employment of chemical technicians are projected in all chemical manufacturing industries, including pharmaceutical manufacturing. However, the development of cheaper energy and sources of raw materials, such as shale gas, is expected to spur some chemical manufacturing activity to return to the United States. Their return should generate demand for these workers in the next decade.

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 R&D. 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.

Chemical Technicians 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 in the latest technology and sophisticated equipment used in laboratories or production facilities.

Employment projections data for Chemical Technicians, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Chemical technicians 66,500 67,700 2 1,200

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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