Chemical Technician/Technologist

Chemical technicians/technologists perform chemical sampling and analysis and are involved in a variety of projects, for example, analytical testing, quality control protocols, and product research and development. They often work as members of multidisciplinary teams with chemists, chemical engineers, and other related professions. Chemical technicians/technologists can specialize in a number of disciplines, including environmental testing, mining and exploration, pharmaceuticals, and hazardous waste, and opportunities for technicians/technologists can be very diverse depending on the industry and their education.

At a Glance

Imagine you are sitting at your lab bench pipetting a clear solution into a small Erlenmeyer flask. You are a chemical technician/technologist, and you are preparing to analyze this solution to determine if there are potentially toxic compounds present at concentrations high enough to make people sick. This sample has been taken from the drinking fountain of one of the country's largest gold mines, where several workers have fallen ill and been hospitalized over the last week. Occupational hygienists at the mine have taken air and water samples and sent them to your lab for analysis. Now your lab is busy trying to determine if the employees' air or water is the cause of their illnesses. As a chemical technician/technologist, you work as part of a team with other technicians, technologists, and supervising chemists.

Your team has been assigned to analyze the water sample, so you have been busy prepping equipment, solutions, and reagents for the battery of tests your team will run. You start by testing the water for the presence of cyanide, the highly toxic chemical the mine uses as part of the process of extracting gold from ore. Despite all safety precautions, there is always a chance this poison could have contaminated the drinking water. Following the cyanide test, your team will also test for high levels of chlorine, iron, and manganese as possible culprits, along with bacterial agents such as E. coli or coliform contamination. The mine's employees and owners are hoping your lab can isolate the cause of the illnesses so it can be cleaned up and dealt with and the mine can return to operation.

Job Duties

Job duties can vary from one position to the next, but in general, chemical technicians/technologists are involved in the following activities:

  • Carry out chemical reactions
  • Obtain samples
  • Prepare standards and samples
  • Analyze samples using bench methods and sophisticated instruments
  • Prepare reports and other documents
  • Calibrate, maintain, troubleshoot, and upgrade lab instruments and equipment
  • Manage projects and present results
  • Monitor product quality to ensure compliance with standards and specifications
  • Set up and conduct chemical experiments, tests, and analyses, using techniques such as chromatography, spectroscopy, physical or chemical separation techniques, or microscopy

Work Environment

Chemical technicians/technologists work in a variety of locations, including:

The lab:

  • Preparing test solutions and processing samples
  • Testing samples and conducting experiments
  • Developing test methodology
  • Calibrating and maintaining instruments

The office:

  • Recording analytical results
  • Doing paperwork and analyzing data for reporting
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and other scientists
  • Maintaining inventory and ordering new stock

The field:

  • Collecting samples for analysis, including quality-assurance samples of raw materials and finished products

Where to Work

There are a number of places chemical technicians/technologists can find employment. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Colleges, universities, and research institutes
  • Biotechnology firms
  • Waste management firms
  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Chemical processing plants
  • Forensic labs
  • Firms in other industries, for example, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, food production, and health care


Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills

Education

If you are considering a career as a chemical technician/technologist, you should have a strong interest in:

  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Natural resources (environmental stewardship, primary resources)
  • Science, especially chemistry

In most cases, the minimum education requirement is a two-year chemical technology diploma. This field is provincially regulated, so requirements may vary across the country.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.

Skills

Technical Skills

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemical engineering
  • Sample preparation
  • Good manufacturing practices
  • Manual dexterity
  • Assist in developing and conducting sampling and analysis

 

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Problem-solving
  • Attention to detail

Education and Skills

Taina Reidl

"It’s a funny story,” says Taina Redl. She was working at a pharmacy in Saskatoon when she got a call about a job opening with the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC). The chemical technology graduate had let a former teacher know she was looking for work in the field. "This former instructor called the SRC and said ‘I’ve got somebody who’s got a lot of education’…and they hired me within a day.” Since then, Taina has been enjoying the challenges of her job as a Chemical Technologist in the inorganic chemistry department. "I like doing technical work…and my job is very much hands-on.”

As a "floater” in the lab, Taina is not assigned to a specific "bench” or job duty. Instead, she must be fluent in all the tests the lab conducts. She is also able to operate any of the lab’s sophisticated equipment. Adding to her responsibilities are the test deadlines, which are usually two weeks but in some cases 48 hours. "I like the fast-paced environment…because your day just flies by…you come into work and next thing you know, your day is done.”

Despite all the positive aspects of her job, Taina says that one drawback within the industry is the professional glass ceiling. "If you want to make the leap from technologist to manager in this industry, you really need to get more education. You need a degree.” She believes this is the result of a gross misconception within the industry—that technologists with a diploma have less experience and knowledge than their counterparts with a degree. "Chemical technologists [with a diploma] leave school with a good combination of education and hands-on training.” Taina believes this combination is overlooked by many within the chemical technology industry when it comes to hiring and promoting employees. She credits her own professional success in the chemical technology industry to this combination of learning.

Your Impact

Chemical technicians often perform environmental monitoring to assess air, water, and soil quality. By analyzing samples and collecting data, they help identify pollutants and assess the impact of industrial activities on the environment. This information is valuable for implementing corrective measures and ensuring compliance with environmental regulations.

Chemical technicians analyze data related to environmental impact assessments, helping organizations understand the potential effects of their activities on the environment. This information is crucial for decision-making and implementing measures to mitigate negative impacts.

Chemical technologists contribute to the development of safer chemicals and products. This includes researching and implementing alternatives to hazardous substances, reducing the environmental impact throughout the life cycle of products, and ensuring that chemicals are designed to be less harmful to ecosystems and human health.

Occupational Classification

Chemical technicians/technologists are classified in the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 22100 - Chemical technologists and technicians

What is an NOC Code?

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 and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

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