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What They Do:
Chemists and materials scientists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and analyze the ways in which the substances interact with one another. They use their knowledge to develop new and improved products and to test the quality of manufactured goods. Chemists and materials scientists typically do the following:
Plan and carry out complex research projects, such as the development of new products and testing methods; Instruct scientists and technicians on proper chemical processing and testing procedures, including ingredients, mixing times, and operating temperatures; Prepare solutions, compounds, and reagents used in laboratory procedures; Analyze substances to determine their composition and concentration of elements; Conduct tests on materials and other substances to ensure that safety and quality standards are met; Write technical reports that detail methods and findings; Present research findings to scientists, engineers, and other colleagues.
Some chemists and materials scientists work in basic research. Others work in applied research. In basic research, chemists investigate the properties, composition, and structure of matter. They also experiment with combinations of elements and the ways in which they interact. In applied research, chemists investigate possible new products and ways to improve existing ones. Chemistry research has led to the discovery and development of new and improved drugs, plastics, fertilizers, flavors, batteries, and cleaners, as well as thousands of other products. Materials scientists study the structures and chemical properties of various materials to develop new products or enhance existing ones. They determine ways to strengthen or combine existing materials, or develop new materials for use in a variety of products. Applications of materials science include inventing or improving ceramics, plastics/polymers, metallic alloys, and superconducting materials. Chemists and materials scientists use computers and a wide variety of sophisticated laboratory instrumentation for modeling, simulation, and experimental analysis. For example, some chemists use three-dimensional computer modeling software to study the structure and properties of complex molecules. If a chemist specializes in green chemistry, he or she will design chemical processes and products that are environmentally sustainable. Green chemistry processes minimize the creation of toxins and waste. Because chemists and materials scientists typically work on research teams, they need to be able to work well with others toward a common goal. Many serve in a leadership capacity and need to be able to motivate and direct other team members.
Work Environment:
Chemists held about 88,300 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of chemists were as follows: Chemical manufacturing 33%; Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 17%; Testing laboratories 10%; Federal government, excluding postal service 7%; Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 6%. Materials scientists held about 7,900 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of materials scientists were as follows: Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 27%; Chemical manufacturing 13%
Architectural, engineering, and related services 10%; Management of companies and enterprises 9%; Computer and electronic product manufacturing 6%. Chemists and materials scientists typically work in laboratories and offices, where they conduct experiments and analyze their results. In addition to working in laboratories, materials scientists work with engineers and processing specialists in industrial manufacturing facilities. Some chemists also work in these facilities and usually are responsible for monitoring the environmental conditions at the plant. Chemists and materials scientists who work for manufacturing companies may have to travel occasionally, especially if their company has multiple facilities. Others may work outdoors to collect samples and conduct onsite analysis of air, soil, or water. Chemists and materials scientists may be exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain chemicals, but there is little risk if they follow proper procedures, such as wearing protective clothing when handling hazardous chemicals.
Chemists and materials scientists typically work full time and keep regular hours. Occasionally, they may have to work additional hours to meet project deadlines or perform time-sensitive laboratory experiments during off-hours.

How to Become One:

A bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related field is needed for entry-level chemist or materials scientist jobs. Research jobs require a master’s degree or a Ph.D. and also may require significant levels of work experience. Chemists and materials scientists with a Ph.D. and postdoctoral experience typically lead basic- or applied-research teams. Combined programs, which offer an accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemistry, also are available. Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in chemistry that are approved by the American Chemical Society. Some colleges offer materials science as a specialization within their chemistry programs, and some engineering schools offer degrees in the joint field of materials science and engineering. High school students can prepare for college coursework by taking chemistry, math, and computer science classes. Undergraduate chemistry majors typically are required to take courses in analytical, organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry. In addition, they take classes in math, biological sciences, and physics. Computer science courses are essential because chemists and materials scientists need computer skills to perform modeling and simulation tasks, manage and manipulate databases, and operate computerized laboratory equipment. Laboratory experience through internships, fellowships, or work–study programs in industry is also useful. Some universities offer cooperative programs in which students gain work experience while pursuing a degree. Graduate students studying chemistry commonly specialize in a subfield, such as analytical chemistry or inorganic chemistry. For example, those interested in doing research in the pharmaceutical industry usually develop a strong background in medicinal or organic chemistry.

The median annual wage for chemists was $73,740 in May 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,180, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $129,670. The median annual wage for materials scientists was $99,430 in May 2016. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $157,750.

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Marlboro, VT

Established in 1946 by Walter Hendricks, Marlboro College was created to be a different kind of college nestled among the foothills in southern Vermont, where students were not just participants but active contributors to the academic and community life of the campus. Hendricks solicited support from his friend and mentor Robert Frost as the colleges first trustee. Working together, students and faculty helped construct the college by converting old farm buildings into classrooms and dormitories. The first students on campus were mostly World War II veterans on the GI Bill who wanted to join an institution centered on independent learning, community engagement and respect for the individual. 

The student/faculty ratio of 5:1 offers members of the community a voice to be heard, respected, valued and challenged. Students learn through spirited discourse with their teachers and peers instead of lectures. Faculty members dedicated to teaching come to Marlboro from all over the world. They bring extraordinary commitment to their subjects, encouraging lively discussions and intellectual candor. Marlboro College provides independent thinkers with exceptional opportunities to broaden their intellectual horizons, benefit from a small and close-knit learning community, establish a strong foundation for personal and career fulfillment and make a positive difference in the world. At our undergraduate campus in the town of Marlboro and our Graduate Center in Brattleboro, students engage in deep exploration of their interests and discover new avenues for using their skills to improve their lives and benefit others in an atmosphere that emphasizes critical and creative thinking, independence, an egalitarian spirit and community. Marlboro offers Semester at Marlboro programs open to students from other college campuses which typically cover areas of filmmaking, environmental studies and public policy. Through a collaboration with our Graduate Center, students can earn certificates in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Nonprofit Management.Rather than follow a prescribed academic program, Marlboro students work with faculty advisors to map out an individualized course of study. This approach allows students to study broadly and creatively across disciplines before embarking on a self-designed Plan of Concentration, an in-depth examination of a focused academic area that culminates in a major work of scholarship. By taking ownership of and responsibility for the scope and topography of their intellectual exploration, Marlboro students learn how to define a set of goals, develop a comprehensive plan to meet them and work through obstacles that inevitably arise along the way.

Website: www.marlboro.edu

Quick Facts:

196 total undergrads
55 degree-seeking freshmen

$39,972 average financial aid package
77% of financial need met (average)

Tuition and fees: 
$40,425 in-state
$40,425 out-of-state


ACT or SAT: Optional
SAT Subject: Optional

Acceptance Rate: 
Less selective
96% of applicants admitted

Test Score Average:
ACT: 28
GPA: 3.3



What it's about: 
Civil engineering majors learn to apply the principles of science and math to the planning, construction, and maintenance of facilities, both public and private, that are essential to industrialized society. Civil engineers work on buildings; on such large scale projects as bridges, dams, highways, environmental control systems, and water purification systems; and on other structures in both the urban and rural environments.

Is this for you: 
You might like this major if you also like: learning how things work (building things, taking things apart); thinking big; brain teaser puzzles; math and science; achieving practical results; outdoor activities; watching construction sites. If you like to solve problems by dividing them up into logical parts (divide and conquer), then civil engineering might be a good choice. Projects tend to be large in scope, and you should have the patience for complexity and long-term commitments. Consider this major if you are good at: attention to detail; math; organizing; quantitative analysis; research; spacial thinking/analysis; teamwork or have initiative; interpersonal skills; mechanical facility; verbal skills. 

Career options and trends: 
Consulting engineer; city engineer or official at a state or federal agency (e.g., EPA, Department of Transportation); construction engineer; researcher in a government laboratory, forensic engineering firm, or university. Civil Engineers often need a professional engineer's (PE) license to practice. In some states, structural engineering (SE) has a separate licensure. Increasingly, a master's degree is required for entry-level positions or advancement. Since many civil engineering projects are large in scope, they create numerous jobs that last a long time. As a result, employment may remain strong for some time after an economic downturn. This, hiring trends in civil engineering may lag behind national trends.