Production chemists use their knowledge of chemicals and their composition to assist with the production of various products such as drugs, cosmetics, paint and adhesives. They are employed in factories and work with production staff to ensure that production meets all deadlines as well as quality standards. Production chemists must have a specialised education background in chemistry, but the minimum degree requirements vary based on the position and employer. Candidates for a career in this field must be extremely detail-oriented and able to work independently.
Production chemists prepare directions for factory workers that include the proper ingredients, temperatures and mixing times for each step in the production process. They are also responsible for overseeing automated production methods to make sure that the desired product yield is achieved. Production chemists also analyse raw material samples and finished products to verify that they meet government and industry regulations. They must also record test results and provide feedback to the production staff so that production methods may be improved. Production chemists also work to develop new testing methods, which allow them to more work in a more efficient manner.
Entry-level production chemist jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related field with a concentration in chemistry. Advanced jobs in production chemistry usually require a master’s or doctoral degree in chemistry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Chemical Society accredited approximately 650 bachelor's, 310 master's and 200 doctoral degree programs in chemistry in 2009. Students in undergraduate chemistry programs usually take classes in organic, inorganic, physical and analytical chemistry. They also take courses in biology, physics, math and computer science. Some study statistics as well. Students in graduate programs typically choose an area of specialisation, like analytical chemistry or physical chemistry. Production chemists usually receive additional training from their employers as well.
Production chemists usually work in manufacturing plants, where they split time between offices and labs. They usually work standard 40 hour weeks, though they are sometimes required to work overtime. Depending on the type of project that they are working on, production chemists may also be required to work irregular hours, such as nights and weekends.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages for chemists, including production chemists, were £43,049 as of May 2008. The highest 10 per cent were paid more than £73,502, while the lowest 10 per cent were paid less than £24,596. The middle 50 per cent were paid between £31,609 and £58,279.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for chemists, including productions chemists, will increase by 2 per cent between 2008 and 2018, which is a slower rate than the average for all occupations. Many chemical manufacturing companies have begun to outsource production; research and development; and testing duties to specialised firms. As a result, entry-level production chemists should see competition for employment. Candidates with an advanced degree and experience in the field should enjoy the best prospects.