Chemical Information Management Specialist
Job outlook is very strong, with a high demand for people with technical understanding and computer expertise.
- Bachelor's in chemistry required for Indexers and Document Analysts
- Master’s degree is necessary for chemical librarians
- Advanced degree needed for information specialists
- Average annual salary: $84,448 (2007)
Chemical information management specialists are responsible for finding, organizing, and disseminating information. Their primary role is to organize the overwhelming amount of chemical information found in journals, patent literature, etc. to make it easily accessible to researchers, students, industry professionals, and others.
Chemical information specialists are hired by libraries, chemical companies, market research firms, publishing units of professional societies, and management consulting firms. They are also employed by the technical and trade divisions of publishing houses and by software and chemical information database companies. Some work as independent consultants hired on a project-by-project basis. Most roles require both technical understanding and computer expertise.
Job responsibilities include balancing patrons’ needs with budget availability, balancing online and print resources, planning for disaster recovery, evaluating usage and impact of various resources, and negotiating contracts.
Computer software development is one of the fastest growing areas for chemical information specialists. Some possible job titles and areas of opportunity include:
- Science librarian
- Technical information specialist—organizing and archiving company reports, standard operating procedures, and historical data
- Data curation—enabling access to, and ensuring quality of, chemical data sets over their entire life cycle
- Market researcher
- Patent researcher
- Management consultant
- Technical publisher
- Software developer
- Abstracter—summarize technical content for a specific audience
- Indexer—create indices so users can find information easily
Many chemical information professionals specialize in patents and intellectual property.
Educational requirements vary considerably, depending on the specific area in which you want to work. Indexers and document analysts generally have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, although a master’s or doctoral degree may be required for more specialized work. Additional training and a master’s degree in library science (M.L.S.) are necessary to be a chemical librarian in an academic or industrial work environment, and information specialists in industry often have an advanced degree in their scientific discipline.
The ability to efficiently and effectively search for chemical structures and for biosequences is also a highly desirable skill. Market researchers, consultants, and individuals in sales and management positions generally combine their technical training with a business degree.
Chemical information specialists manage technical information in a variety of ways, depending on their positions. Most jobs require a good deal of reading and analyzing technical data. Chemistry training is vital to understanding the material and distilling what is most important from it. The presentation and organization of information is also a component of the job.
Chemical information specialists generally work in a business or academic environment. Most spend a good deal of the day at their desks, in front of a computer. Some may travel or work in the laboratory, depending on the nature of their positions. Because it is a service industry, there is a high level of contact with other people.
Chemical information specialists are hired by libraries, chemical companies, market research firms, and management consulting firms. They are also employed by the technical and trade divisions of publishing houses and by software developers. In many cases, the focus of these publishing or software companies is purely scientific. They also may work in government-funded positions such as the national laboratories, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Is This Career a Good Fit for You?
A greater interest in scientific literature than in scientific method is a good sign that this is a career path worth exploring for you. An eye for detail and a propensity for public service are also important. Most chemical information specialists stress the importance of being able to work with people and communicate well, both verbally and in writing. It helps to be highly organized. Information specialists combine their technical skills with good interpersonal communication skills and the ability to work in a service-oriented position.
- The ability to read, search, and understand technical information for a technical audience is crucial for many career paths in chemical information management
- A solid foundation in science and chemical reference works, including the ability to search chemical databases and conduct chemical structure and patent searches, is required
- The ability to write about or summarize (abstract or index) chemical information is also required for some positions
- With the huge shift to online information, web programming and web development skills may also be useful
Most chemical information professionals start out as researchers, with varying areas of expertise. Over time, they may start managing other researchers, sometimes taking charge of a division or an entire library or information center. They may also move into project management.
Future Employment Trends
The job outlook for chemical information specialists is steady for the foreseeable future. Since this is a fairly specialized market, obtaining a position often requires a willingness to relocate. Computer expertise is becoming a prerequisite, and patent or intellectual property work is a growing area.
Allison Dick has been with Chemical Abstracts Service for more than five years and is an associate projects analyst.
Sue Cardinal earned her B.S. in chemistry. She worked for several years for a small startup company that de-chlorinated water and soil.
- Chemical Information Retrieval, Guidelines for students who intend on a job in this area
- Data Curation Education: A Snapshot
- Dealing With Data Deluge: Chemical Informatics Professionals Help Scientists Cope with and Benefit from Information Overload
- ACS Division of Chemical Information
- American Society for Information Science and Technology
- Council on Library and information Resources
- Drug Information Association Career Center
- Special Libraries Association Chemical Division
Post-graduate and Career Resources
- Indiana University School of Library and Information Science Career Resources
- Master of Science: Specialization in Data Curation—University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Post-Masters Certificate: Data Curation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill