Imagine you are standing in your bright white lab coat and safety glasses carefully monitoring the output of the complex and highly sensitive instrument in front of you. You are an analytical chemist and today you are testing used oil for trace metals.
The oil was collected from several large diesel engines at a nearby industrial plant during their last routine oil change. These diesel engines are critical to the plant because they power its fire response system. Without them, the system would lose the pumps that send water to the fire hydrants.
If there were a fire at the plant and these engines failed, firefighters would not be able to put the fire out. An uncontrolled fire on the plant site could cause huge explosions, noxious gas releases, and chemical spills.
As a precaution, the plant has hired you to test the used oil from its diesel engines to look for signs of potential failure. As an analytical chemist, you test the used oil for trace metals, which would be indicators of potential problems with the diesel engines.
When the plant's mechanics change the oil in these engines, they bring samples of the old oil to you. After prepping the samples, you run them through an instrument called an ICPS, an Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrophotometer. The ICPS will tell you if there are any metals present in the oil and, if there are, what metals they are and in what quantities. You can then compare these results to established limits and control values.
Once you have the results, you can look for indicators.
Silver is used to make the bearings in these engines, so if silver is present, it means the bearings are wearing and must be replaced.
Iron is also an indicator of metal wear, so if there are traces of iron in the oil, you know that another piece of the engine is wearing and needs replacement.
Your oil analysis will tell the mechanics which engine parts are going to break before they do.
Being able to anticipate failures and replace worn parts greatly reduces the risk of an engine breaking down in the middle of a fire or other emergency and possibly averts catastrophe.
Job duties vary significantly from one position to the next, but in general, analytical chemists are involved in the following activities:
Analytical chemists work in a variety of locations, including:
There are a number of places analytical chemists can find employment. They include:
Search for jobs on the ECO Canada job board.
If you are considering a career as an analytical chemist you should have a keen interest in:
In most cases, the minimum education requirement is a university undergraduate degree.
If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an analytical chemist, the following programs are most applicable:
Analytical Chemists do not necessarily need to be certified but most practitioners prefer to belong to professional associations such as the Canadian Society of Chemistry (CSC) as well as some province-specific associations such as the Association of the Chemical Profession of Alberta (ACPA).
You may also find our Certified Environmental Professional (EP) designation useful.
Hard/ Technical Skills (skills obtained through formal education and training programs)
Soft Skills (personal attributes and characteristics)
Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.
Throughout high school, Amandeep Nagra’s strongest marks were in chemistry. "I wanted to pursue a career in this science, but I wasn’t quite sure how.” After a conversation with his brother, a recent university graduate, he decided to go to college instead of university. "I was more interested in the work side, rather than spending a lot of time in school.” Two years after finishing high school, Aman had completed a diploma in chemical science from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.
Today, Aman is a technical services representative with Cantest Ltd., a commercial analytical laboratory in Burnaby, BC. Before that, he was an analytical chemist with Cantest for three years. As an analytical chemist, Aman spent much of his time in the lab. There he tested effluent (waste) samples for oil and grease levels, anions, ammonia, and cyanide, to name a few. These samples came from a variety of businesses, including chicken slaughterhouses, car washes, and sawmills.
Aman ensured that these levels were below the allowed limits according to the environmental regulations of the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Aman was also responsible for other duties in the lab, including titrating chemicals, preparing solutions, and operating different instruments. "There are so many different analyses you can do in the lab—there was nothing dull about that job.”
Another positive aspect of Aman’s job was that he regularly got to use his problem-solving skills. "We were always trying to design different ways to improve our testing and sampling methods. By doing so, we were making our job easier and more efficient.” One of Aman’s clients’ biggest misconceptions about his work was that sample testing could be completed in an hour. But effluent testing involves a number of stages and steps that can take several hours. Despite this, Aman was pleased to provide the service not only for his clients but also for the sake of the environment. "Just by notifying our clients that their commercial effluent is a problem, we are changing the quantity of pollution being dumped into our environment.”
As an analytical chemist, you perform controlled experiments to understand the exact chemical components of a substance. Using advanced software to collect data, you analyze samples and substances, and then write up technical reports detailing your findings.
Your work spans various industries. You may be providing measurements to assure the safety and quality of food, and pharmaceuticals, or assuring compliance with environmental regulations.
Analytical chemists often work with research teams and collaborate with peers in their field to achieve their goals.
Individuals employed as Analytical Chemists may be classified in one or more of the following occupational groupings:
NOC Code: 2112 – Chemists
The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data, describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.
The NOC is developed and updated in partnership with Statistics Canada to coincide with the 5- year census cycles. It is based on in-depth occupational research and consultations conducted across Canada, to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market.
Nous travaillons actuellement sur la version française du site que nous espérons lancer très bientôt!
Merci pour votre patience et compréhension pendant que nous finalisons la version améliorée du site.
We are working to launch the French site very soon!
Thank you for your patience while we finalize the new and improved version of our website.