Chemical technicians work with chemists and chemical engineers to research, develop and use chemicals and related products and processes. They conduct experiments, record data and help manage operations within a laboratory environment.
This position can be found in several different industries, including pharmaceuticals, metals, paints, fuels, industrial chemicals and agriculture. Because of the great variety of settings and roles for chemical technicians, most choose a specific industry or type of technology as a specialty.
There are two types of chemical technicians: laboratory technicians and processing technicians. Laboratory technicians work as part of a team conducting research, experiments and analysis. Configuring, maintaining and operating laboratory equipment is one of a laboratory technician’s primary responsibilities. Processing technicians focus on quality control, calibrating equipment to maximize productivity or testing products for defects or impurities.
Both types of chemical technicians support product development, testing and manufacturing by ensuring that processes are safe, efficient and meet industry standards.
What does a chemical technician do?
Chemical technicians typically perform the following tasks:
- Monitor product quality to ensure compliance with standards and specifications
- Compile and interpret results of tests and analyses
- Set up and conduct chemical experiments, tests, and analyses, using techniques such as chromatography, spectroscopy, physical or chemical separation techniques, or microscopy
- Conduct chemical or physical laboratory tests to assist scientists in making qualitative or quantitative analyses of solids, liquids, or gaseous materials
- Provide and maintain a safe work environment by participating in safety programs, committees, or teams and by conducting laboratory or plant safety audits
- Prepare chemical solutions for products or processes, following standardized formulas, or create experimental formulas
- Maintain, clean, or sterilize laboratory instruments or equipment
- Write technical reports or prepare graphs or charts to document experimental results
- Provide technical support or assistance to chemists or engineers
- Order and inventory materials to maintain supplies
Most chemical technicians are part of a team, working under the supervision of chemists or chemical engineers. They often report to more than one person in performing their various responsibilities.
What skills does a chemical technician need?
Chemical technicians require skills across three broad categories: information, process and technology.
A chemical technician needs to be capable of finding and retrieving information, documenting it, analyzing it and evaluating it relative to other data. Part of being a skilled information manager is the ability to communicate clearly with others, both verbally and in writing.
Chemical technicians require advanced process management skills. This includes process analysis, testing and improvement to find and correct flaws or weaknesses. It also includes the ability to organize, plan and prioritize one’s workload in order to manage multiple projects that may be conducted simultaneously by different cross-functional teams.
Chemistry technicians work with sophisticated equipment and are often responsible for its maintenance, optimization and repair. Strong mechanical skills and knowledge of computers are helpful in this role.
Chemical technicians are generally creative thinkers, capable of close observation and analysis, and good at detecting and solving complex problems.
Where does a chemical technician work?
Chemical technicians are highly mobile, with varied tasks that take them to different locations throughout the day. Most work indoors, in laboratories, but some may work outdoors conducting tests for quality control; they may also work in manufacturing plants.
Organizations that hire chemical technicians include medical/pharmaceutical manufacturers, government agencies and educational institutions as well as industrial manufacturers, which employ the largest number of chemical technicians.
Most chemical technicians work standard eight-hour daily shifts although some—such as those who work in manufacturing facilities—may be scheduled to work evenings or weekends.
What salary can a chemical technician expect to earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of chemical technicians was $42,040 in May 2010. Technicians employed in chemical manufacturing earned the most ($48,440) while those employed in testing laboratories earned the least ($32,930).
Salaries vary by location and are affected by other factors such as education and employer size and industry. Check Salary.com to find what chemical technicians earn in your area.
Will there be many jobs as a chemical technician available?
Job growth is expected to be slower than average for chemical technicians, growing by 7 percent from 2010 – 2020. Career prospects will be strongest in medical and biotechnology research and development, and process monitoring, and in environmental sustainability. The increasing sophistication of tools used in research, development and manufacturing will create an advantage for those with strong technical skills and training.
If you are interested in learning more about being a chemical technician, DitchCollege.com has additional articles for you to read and review below: