Chemical Technologist

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Chemical Technologist


It would be hard 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 chemistry, engineering and chemical technology for granted. Yet the work accomplished by chemical technologists has an overwhelming impact on all of our lives.

Assisting the work of chemists and chemical engineers or working independently, chemical technologists help develop processes, design equipment and provide technical and management services for plants and manufacturing companies that convert raw materials into a wide range of end products, like pharmaceuticals, food and fuels. They also set up and conduct chemical experiments, interpret experimental results, and assist in the design and fabrication of experimental apparatus.

Chemical technologists are constantly putting their creativity to work, synthesizing new materials, transforming combinations of elements of matter and developing the processes to do it all safely and efficiently. They help process and package many of the foods we eat, help power our cars and heat our homes and develop new materials from garbage. Did you know that burning garbage creates energy, which can be transformed into matter? Chemical technologists are like alchemists; they try to turn raw materials into valuable products. They usually work under the guidance of chemical engineers and chemists to help create mechanisms and processes required to produce products.

Chemical technologists often specialize in a particular area once they become established, such as the environment or petrochemical refining. They draft engineering drawings on the computer and help prepare operating specifications for industrial plants. They conduct scientific laboratory experiments to test data, while taking into account safety and environmental concerns. Accordingly, they also work as quality control technologists, troubleshooting for potential problems.

They may also 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. Although most work takes place on computers or in laboratories, chemical technologists sometimes travel to factories to supervise workers and assess the productivity of a factory. Chemical technologists are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Chemical technologists 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.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Set up and conduct chemical experiments, tests and analyses using techniques such as chromatography, spectroscopy, physical and chemical separation techniques and microscopy
  • Prepare standards and samples, and analyze samples using bench methods and sophisticated instrumentation
  • Prepare designs to improve operations, and maintain and upgrade laboratory instruments and equipment
  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment and apparatus and prepare solutions and sample formulations
  • Compile records and interpret experimental or analytical results
  • Develop and conduct programs of sampling and analysis to maintain quality standards of raw materials, chemical intermediates and products
  • Assist in the development of chemical engineering processes, studies of chemical engineering procurement, construction, inspection and maintenance and the development of standards, procedures and health and safety measures
  • Operate experimental chemical or petrochemical pilot plants
  • Assist in the design, quality control and fabrication of experimental apparatus
  • Chemical technologists may work either alone or in teams. They are usually employed in industrial plants or laboratories and may be required to work shifts in factories. They are often exposed to hazardous substances at the workplace, therefore they must observe and initiate appropriate safety precautions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Chemical technologists may work in engineering offices, environmental consulting firms, sales offices, production facilities, the government and educational research institutions. More specifically, they can be found at tar sand and heavy oil extraction plants, chemical, fertilizer and petrochemical production facilities, food processing companies, pulp and paper companies, technical sales organizations, and service and consulting firms.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Advancement opportunities for chemical technologists vary depending on the size and nature of the organization and the individual's qualifications. Experienced chemical technologists may move into sales or management positions, or own and operate their own laboratories. They may also advance to senior technical supervisor or staff supervisor positions. Others may decide to work as technical writers or as salespersons for chemical products. With further education, they can become chemical engineers and teach at the postsecondary level.

  Educational Paths  
Chemical technologists require the completion of a two- or three-year college program in chemical, biochemical or chemical engineering technology or a closely related discipline. Certification in chemical engineering technology or in a related field is available through associations of engineering technologists and technicians and may be required by employers. A two-year period of supervised work experience is required before certification.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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