Due to our specialisation: employment in chemicals, food & pharma, we enjoy discussions with people about career paths for professionals with a degree in (bio)chemistry; chemical engineering or alike. Besides the obvious ones such as a career in science, engineering or even management, you might be surprised to hear that the career of many chemists evolved differently as they expected when starting their studies. How different? I listed 10 of the most surprising career paths from people who have a background in (bio)chemistry, chemical engineering or alike. 


1. World leader

Did you know that some world leaders obtained a degree in chemistry?

• Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany) 

• Xi Jinping (President of the people’s republic of China)

Other examples include: 

• Elio Di Rupo (former prime minister of Belgium)

• Jerzy Buzek (former prime minister of Poland )

• Margaret Thatcher (former prime minister of the UK)

• Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo (former prime minister of Portugal)



2. Pope

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, obtained his chemical technician degree at the Escuela Técnica Industrial N° 27 Hipólito Yrigoyen and worked a couple of year as a technician at the Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory before joining the Jesuits.


3. Strategy Consultant

As chemists love to analyse & solve problems, it is no surprise that they are often employed by strategy consulting firms. As a matter of fact, one reputable firm, Arthur D. Little, was founded by 2 chemists: Roger B. Griffin & Arthur D. Little. 



4. Astronaut

Quite some chemists switched their lab coat for a spacesuit. Examples include:

• Story Musgrave (studied chemistry; as well as mathematics; operations analysis & programming; medicine; physiology, biophysics and literature)

• Catherine Coleman (Bachelor in chemistry at MIT and a PhD in polymer science and engineering UMass Amherst)

• Mae Jemison (B.S. Chemical Engineering at Stanford)

• Donald Pettit (B.S. chemical engineering Oregon State University and a doctoral degree from the University of Arizona)

• Lodewijk van den Berg (Chemical engineering degree TUDelft)

• Albert Sacco (B.S. chemical engineering from Northeastern University Boston Ph.D. from MIT)

• Helen Sharman (BSc in chemistry at the University of Sheffield and a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London).

• Robert Satcher Bachelor of Science degree and a doctorate in Chemical Engineering, MIT)

• Millie Hughes Fulford (B.S. degree in Chemistry and Biology from Tarleton State University and her Ph.D. from Texas Woman’s University)



5. Writer

Some famous novelists actually have their background in chemistry, such as:

• Jacques Bergier. Chemical engineering École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie; author of The Morning of the Magicians

•   Emmanuel Dongala, author of numerous award-winning novels such as Johnny Mad Dog & Little boys come from the stars 

• Elias Canetti; studied chemistry in Vienna; winner of the 1981 Noble Prize of Literature

• Primo Levi; author of the Il Sistema Periodico/The Periodic Table, a collection of short stories inspired by the periodic table. One of the best science books ever and a must read, also for non-chemists.



6. Fashion Model

Brain and looks can go hand in hand; Cindy Crawford studied chemical engineering prior to her model career. Also, Laura Shields holds a degree in chemical engineering.


7. Actor

 A couple of actors switched the white coat for the white screen. Famous examples include; Jennifer Garner (switched chemistry for theatre), Ashton Kutcher (did not complete), Terrence Howard (did not complete) & Dolph Lundgren.



8. Composer/Musician

Though there are some bands with a name linked to chemistry such as The Chemical Brothers; Chemistry and Elements; you may be surprised that Alex Gibson, Alexander Borodin and Milo Aukerman actually have a background in (bio)chemistry.


9. CEO

Did you know: Many chemical companies are led CEO’s with a background in chemistry. Examples include Andrew N. Liveris (DOW), Charles Koch (Koch industries), Lee Chih-tsuen (Formosa Plastics), Bhavesh B. (Bob) Patel (Lyondell Basell), Jim Ratcliffe (Ineos), Ben van Beurden (Shell), Thierry Vanlancker (AkzoNobel). Mohamed Al-Mady (Sabic)



10. Recruitment Consultant

Although scarce, there are recruiters with a background in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering. They are often dedicated to serving the chemicals, food and pharma industries by attracting top talent. You’ll find such consultants at Chemploy. Do you have a background in chemistry, chemical engineering, food or pharmaceutical technology? We look forward to discussing on how we can shape your optimal career together. Contact us via info@chemploy.nl or the contact form, and we take it from there.

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