Physical Science Professionals – Chemists

At Work

These professionals work in government; universities; manufacturing and telecommunications companies; utilities; laboratories; hospitals; the chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and pulp and paper industries; petroleum and mining companies; private consulting companies and other organizations. They may specialize within their fields.

Physicists conduct basic research of natural phenomena and develop new processes and devices in areas such as electronics, aerodynamics, communications, power utilities, optics and lasers. Astronomers research the universe and develop instrumentation and software for astronomical observation and analysis. Chemists conduct research and are involved in process control, product development, industrial operations, environmental control, biotechnology and other areas. Geologists, geochemists and geophysicists conduct research and exploration to extend knowledge of the earth's surface and subsurface; locate mineral, hydrocarbon and water resources; plan and implement extraction programs; and conduct environmental assessments. Meteorologists forecast weather; conduct research into weather, climate and atmosphere; and provide consultation on atmospheric phenomena. Metallurgists study the properties and production of metals and alloys; materials scientists research ceramics, composite and other materials; and soil scientists research the composition and evolution of soils.

Education, Training and Experience

Most of these professionals require a bachelor's degree in their science or a related discipline. Those conducting research or teaching in a post-secondary establishment usually require a master's or doctoral degree. Most recent entrants have an undergraduate university degree. Physicists and astronomers require a master's or doctoral degree. Geologists and geophysicists may require registration by a provincial or territorial association.

In These Occupations ...

25,000 people were employed in 1998, a decrease of 15.7% from 1988. Most of the decline occurred from 1993 to 1998, when employment decreased 10.1%. In comparison, employment in all occupations grew 12.3% over the same ten years, and 8.2% over the last five. 48% are chemists and 30% are geologists, geochemists and geophysicists. 6% work part-time, well below the average of 19% for all occupations. 14% are self-employed, compared to an average of 17% for all occupations.The proportion of self-employed workers in these occupations has increased significantly over the last ten years. 23% are women, well below the average of 45% for all occupations. the unemployment rate averaged 4.8% from 1996 to 1998, compared to the national average of 6.0%. This rate is among the highest for professional occupations and for occupations in the natural and applied sciences sectors. the average earnings are comparable to those for other professional occupations and for other occupations in the natural and applied sciences sectors.

National Outlook to 2004

Currently, chances of finding work in these occupations are rated "Limited" as a result of large long-term employment losses. Over the next five years, the outlook is expected to improve to "Fair". The number of job openings for physical science professionals is expected to increase more rapidly than the number of qualified job seekers, mostly due to a high retirement rate in these occupations. The employment of these professionals is closely related to investment in research and development. The pace of advances in knowledge is very rapid in these fields; consequently, these professionals require continual skill upgrading. There is a recent tendency toward increasing collaboration with specialists in other fields, such as engineering. Most of the increase in employment requirements through 2004 for these occupations is expected to occur in the professional services industry.

Where They Work

Professional Services 20.2%
Federal Administration 12.8%
Education 9.8%
Chemicals Manufacturing 9.0%
Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas 4.2%
Provincial and Territorial Administration 3.6%
Hospitals 2.8%

Type of Employment

This Occupation All Occupations
Full-time 94.1% 81.1%
Part-time 5.9% 18.9%

Distribution by Age

This Occupation All Occupations
15 – 29 17.4% 26.5%
30 - 39 34.9% 28.5%
40 - 54 36.9% 35.2%
55 & over 10.9% 9.8%

Work Prospects

Current 2004
Limited Fair


Age Groups 20 - 29 30 - 39 40 – 49
Highest 20% 41,300 55,600 59,800
Average 32,300 45,400 47,500
Lowest 20% 24,200 31,200 31,100

Unemployment Rate

This Occupation All Occupations
1998 4.0% 5.5%
1997 3.4% 5.9%
1996 6.9% 6.5%
1995 4.8% 6.5%
1994 3.6% 7.0%
1993 3.6% 7.9%
1992 4.6% 8.5%
1991 5.5% 8.3%
1990 3.7% 6.7%
1989 3.7% 6.1%
1988 4.2% 6.2%
1987 4.6% 6.9%
1986 6.6% 7.4%
1985 3.5% 7.9%
1984 3.6% 8.4%

Related Occupation(s)

N/A Part 2 Field of Study Cross-Index Chemistry (U710) Geology (U730) Geology (M730) Engineering - Other (U370) Chemistry (M710) Chemical Engineering Technologies (C340) Physics (U750) Engineering - Other (M370) Basic Medical Sciences (M510) Physics (M750) Agriculture - Other (U613)