What is analytical chemistry?
Analytical chemistry is the science of obtaining, processing, and communicating information about the composition and structure of matter. In other words, it is the art and science of determining what matter is and how much of it exists.
Analytical chemistry can be a challenging profession that makes significant contributions to many fields of science. It is one of the most popular fields of work for ACS chemists.
What do analytical chemists do?
Analytical chemists use their knowledge of chemistry, instrumentation, computers, and statistics to solve problems in almost all areas of chemistry and for all kinds of industries.
Typical Job Functions
An analytical chemist may conduct basic laboratory research, perform process and product development, design instruments used in analytical analysis, teach, or work in marketing and law. Typical job functions include:
- Performing qualitative and quantitative analysis
- Sampling, defining, isolating, concentrating, and preserving samples
- Setting error limits
- Validating and verifying results through calibration and standardization
- Performing separations based on differential chemical properties
- Creating new ways to make measurements
- Interpreting data in proper context
- Communicating results and conclusions to other scientists
Automation has decreased the demand for analytical chemists to conduct routine analysis. (Though human knowledge is irreplaceable, especially for troubleshooting.) Employers tend to recruit analytical chemists who know how to use the increasingly sophisticated instruments used in today’s laboratories. They also value experience in specific types of analysis (e.g., food, environmental, forensics).
Today’s sophisticated instrumentation devices—as well as increasing regulatory requirements—have created new opportunities for analytical chemists in a variety of areas:
- Quality assurance specialists ensure that laboratories follow documented and approved procedures.
- Quality control experts ensure the quality of the products that laboratories produce.
- Chemists with solid technical and computer skills develop and use complex analytical techniques.
- Government agencies need analytical chemists to verify compliance with regulatory requirements.
- Entrepreneurial analytical chemists may start their own businesses, specializing in particular kinds of analyses or classes of compounds.
Where is analytical chemistry used?
Applications of analytical chemistry include:
- Assuring the safety and quality of food, pharmaceuticals, and water
- Assuring compliance with environmental and other regulations
- Supporting the legal process
- Helping physicians diagnose diseases
- Providing measurements and documentation essential to trade and commerce
Analytical chemists often work in service-related jobs and are employed in industry, academia, and government.