Our specialisation is specialist & executive search in the chemicals, food & pharmaceutical industries. I therefore enjoy interacting 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, I found that the career of someone with a background in chemistry can develop in unexciting ways. You might be surprised to hear that the career of many chemists evolved in a different way 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 peoples 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)
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 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. (See: http://www.adlittle.com/history.html)
Quite some chemists switched their lab coat for a space suit. 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 Jemisson (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)
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.
Brains and looks can go hand in hand.
- Cindy Crawford studied chemical engineering prior to her modelling career.
- Laura Shields holds a degree in chemical engineering obtained at the University of Leeds
A couple of chemists switched the white coat for the white screen. Famous examples include;
- Jennifer Garner (switched chemistry for theater), photo credits: https://www.famemoose.com/jennifer-garner
- Ashton Kushter (did not complete)
- Terrence Howard (did not complete)
- Dolph Lundgren.
Although there are some bands with a name linked to chemistry such as The Chemical Brothers, Chemistry and Elements; you may be surprised that, although scarce, there are some musicians and composers that hold a background in chemistry. Take for instance Alex Gibson, Alexander Borodin and Milo Aukerman ( see picture) who actually have a background in (bio)chemistry.
As many chemical companies promote career growth and personal development, it is no surprise that many chemistry graduates make it to the top of the organisation. It would be undoable to mention them all so I restricted myself to a small selection of CEO’s and/or company owners.
- Andrew N. Liveris (DOW)
- Charles Koch (Koch industries)
- Jim Ratcliffe (Ineos)
- Mohamed Al-Mady (Sabic)
- Ben van Beurden (Shell),
- Thierry Vanlancker (AkzoNobel)
- Lee Chih-tsuen (Formosa Plastics)
- Bhavesh B. (Bob) Patel (Lyondell Basell)
No. 10) Recruitment Consultant
They exist. Recruitment consultants with a background in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering and extensive recruitment experience. Much chemical companies offer the possibility to work as a corporate recruiter as part of their management development program and with good reason. It is my experience that such background is extremely beneficial in understanding the needs of clients and candidates and helps to create chemistry between people and organisations.
You’ll find these consultants at Chemploy. Are you looking for a specialist or executive to strengthen your organisation or looking for a challenging and rewarding next step in your career? We can help and we love to help!
We look forward to discuss on how we can help you to grow and obtain your goals and we will not hesitate to look beyond the extraordinary. Interested to hear more? Visit www.chemploy.eu or contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or the contact form. We are happy to take it from there!