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Chemical Research Technician


Description

Everything in this world is made up of natural and synthetic chemicals. It would be impossible to imagine a world without gasoline, paper, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, plastics, synthetic fibers, paint, film or any other chemical products we use and demand in our daily lives. Whether it is bettering already existing products or creating new ones, we generally take these inventions of chemical engineering for granted. Yet the studies conducted by chemical research technicians have an overwhelming impact on all of our lives.

Assisting the work of chemists and chemical engineers, chemical research technicians help carry out chemical research and solve technical problems, using principles of science, engineering and mathematics. They build or set up equipment, prepare and conduct experiments, collect data, calculate or record the results and often make conclusions. They may also help engineers or scientists in other ways, such as making prototype versions of newly designed equipment. Chemical research technicians assist in design work, using computer-aided design equipment.
Their typical days can vary incredibly. For example, they might test product packaging for design, integrity of materials, and environmental acceptability; or collect and analyze samples of water to monitor pollution levels. Chemical research technicians are constantly putting their creativity to work, transforming combinations of elements of matter and developing the processes to do it all safely and efficiently. They always work under the guidance of chemical engineers or chemists, assisting them to create chemical products and processes in their particular industry.

Research technicians must keep detailed logs of all their work-related activities. As laboratory instrumentation and procedures have become more complex in recent years, the role of chemical research technicians has expanded. In addition to performing standard tasks, many technicians also develop and adapt laboratory procedures to achieve the best results, interpret data, and devise solutions to problems, under the direction of scientists. Moreover, technicians must master the laboratory equipment, so they can adjust settings when necessary, and recognize when equipment is malfunctioning.

Accordingly, chemical research technicians may also be in charge of maintaining equipment in a laboratory. It is up to them to decide if new equipment is needed, or if it would be possible to fix old equipment. During experiments, chemical research technicians often work with dangerous materials and supervise factory workers exposed to dangerous chemicals. Therefore, they must implement safety standards among workers (and themselves) and ensure that proper equipment and clothing is worn.

The increasing use of robotics to perform many routine tasks has given research technicians the opportunity to operate more sophisticated laboratory equipment. With experience, chemical research technicians may create rough engineering plans on computers using computer-aided design (CAD) systems, which simulate realistic three-dimensional models and test and predict possible errors and problems with a mechanism, generating workable solutions. Chemical research technicians are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this rapidly changing field.
 
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  Average Earnings  
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Median Salary:
$37,440
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Chemical research technicians are analytical, creative and innovative thinkers with excellent problem solving skills. They have a natural affinity and aptitude for mathematics and science and can often visualize complex processes and design on computers. They possess excellent communication skills, both written and oral, and have the ability to work well in teams with people from various disciplines and backgrounds. They also possess the ability to pay close attention to details when conducting research.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Assist in setting up and conducting chemical experiments, tests and analyses
  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment and apparatus and prepare solution and sample formulations
  • Compile records for analytical studies
  • Assist in developing and conducting programs of sampling and analysis to maintain quality standards
  • Test products and record results and write reports
  • Carry out a limited range of other technical functions in support of chemical research, tests and analyses
  • May assist in the designing and fabrication of experimental apparatus
  • Chemical research technicians usually work regular hours in offices and research laboratories. A majority of their time is spent in the research stage, on the computer, preparing layouts, statistical studies and analysens. Some work in teams with engineers and technologists. Some technicians may travel to attend conferences to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Chemical research technicians are employed by research and development laboratories, consulting engineering companies, in chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and a variety of other manufacturing and processing industries. They can also be found in the health sector, researching and teaching in the education field or working in all levels of the government as research technicians.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced chemical research technicians may gain higher levels of responsibility and begin performing more advanced experiments and research studies. They can also advance to become technologists, quality control technicians, senior technical supervisors or staff supervisory positions. Some chemical research technicians that take additional training can teach in technical institutes. Others may work as technical writers or as salespersons for chemical engineering products. With further education, they can become chemical engineering technologists and teach at the postsecondary level.
 

  Educational Paths  
Chemical research technicians usually require completion of a one- or two-year college program in chemical, biochemical or chemical engineering technology. Certification in chemical engineering technology or in a related field is available through associations of engineering technicians and may be required by some employers. Usually, a two-year period of supervised work experience is required before certification as a chemical research technician.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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