Chemical technicians have a high mechanical aptitude and excellent observation skills. Described as problem solvers and self-starters, technicians are highly analytical and don’t mind working independently.
Typical Job Functions
Chemical technicians work with chemists and chemical engineers to develop, test, and manufacture chemical products. They conduct much of the hands-on work that is required. Some technicians assist senior researchers in the laboratory, but many work independently.
Typical job functions for chemical technicians include:
- Setting up apparatus for chemical reactions
- Helping to devise and troubleshoot syntheses and analytical procedures
- Managing databases
- Ensuring that packaging of hazardous materials complies with regulations
- Working in pilot plants, assisting engineers with running experiments in a miniature version of a manufacturing process
Chemical technicians often monitor experiments and procedures in more than one laboratory; therefore, they must have good time management skills and be able to manage multiple projects simultaneously. Other important qualities include a desire to learn new skills, a willingness to accept responsibility, and a commitment to finish a project.
Chemical technicians work in every aspect of the chemical process industry—from basic research to hazardous waste management. They typically fall into on the following categories:
Laboratory Technician - Operates standard laboratory equipment and conducts laboratory procedures ranging from routine process control to complex research projects.
Process Technician - Performs chemical tests and experiments for quality, performance, or composition.
Some companies have well-defined career ladders for technicians, but dedication and hard work are generally the main criteria for advancement. When looking at advancement potential for a chemical technician, employers evaluate other abilities, including adaptability, organizational skills, personal motivation, customer focus, and teamwork.
As a result of the hands-on knowledge they accumulate, many technicians decide to continue their formal education to obtain higher degrees. Skills are often transferable, and technicians today are more able to move between companies than they have been in the past.
Industry typically demands that chemical technicians have a solid foundation in applied basic chemistry and math, plus experience using various kinds of standard labware. Computer knowledge and oral and written communication skills are also required.
The best preparation for a job as a chemical technician is a two-year associate degree in an applied science (A.A.S.) program designed to prepare people for a career in chemical technology. Some companies hire chemists with a B.S. degree as technicians, but this is not always required.