The Job Market for Cosmetic Chemists: What’s In Demand?

by Jennifer (Lenahan) Cleary

Wondering how you can start, shift, or expand your career as a Cosmetic Chemist? By now, you have probably figured out what you want out of a career—maybe you are dreaming of creating the perfect scent, or developing a new cosmetics product—but do you know what employers want from you? Sure, a Chemistry degree is a good bet, but what other skills and experience are employers looking for most in the current market? Where will you have the best chance of finding a job? Which employers have been advertising for Chemists most? What can you do to set yourself up to stand out from the pack?

Using a tool called Labor Insight from Burning Glass, which lets researchers mine all of the detailed information stored in on-line job postings—from job titles to skills, education, and experience requested, I attempt to answer some of these questions. I looked for Chemist jobs posted on-line in the U.S. in cosmetics and related personal care science industries between March 1, 2015 and February 29, 2016. See the Methods section below for more information on how I conducted the analysis. Overall, I found a total of 335 unique Chemist jobs posted online in the last year. This is likely an undercount of all job openings, as not all job postings are online and no one tool can capture everything. It can also be difficult to capture all the jobs because some companies that employ Cosmetic Chemists are doing so many other things that it can be hard to separate out the Cosmetic Chemists from Chemists working on other types of products, such as pharmaceuticals. Johnson & Johnson is one such employer. I did not include them in the analysis because even though they are making a lot of personal care products, it can be difficult to separate out these jobs from the pack. So, I tried to hone in as best as I could on the Chemist jobs that are involved in developing or testing personal care products or their base ingredients.

Cosmetic Chemist Jobs are highly concentrated in the New Jersey/New York Area (Especially New Jersey!) The map and table below show the top 15 Metropolitan Statistical Areas where jobs for Cosmetic Chemists are concentrated. See that big circle on the East Coast? As you can see in the table, more than 1/3 of all Cosmetic Chemist job postings in the last year came from the New York/Northern New Jersey/ Long Island Metropolitan Statistical Area. The Trenton-Ewing area adds another 4% of job postings to the mix. As you can see, this is the only area of the country where there is a critical mass of job openings—the remaining ones are fairly spread out around the rest of the country.

distribution map (United States) of cosmetic chemist jobs

data table of number of advertised jobs in each U.S. metropolitan area

Figure 1: Top 15 Metropolitan statistical areas for online job postings for Cosmetic Chemists; March 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016 (N=335).

Four employers were responsible for posting 7 out of 10 jobs for Cosmetic Chemists online last year. As you can see in the chart below, BASF, L’Oreal, Ecolab, and Clean Harbors/Safety Kleen were the top suppliers of on-line job postings for Chemists last year. Together, they posted 237 jobs, or 71% of all Chemist jobs posted on-line last year in the industry. Of course, as noted above, not every industry employer may be captured in this analysis, but the chart gives you a sense of some of the recruiting trends among some of the big names in the industry.

bar chart of companies with cosmetic chemist job ads in the last year

Figure 2: Distribution of online job postings for Cosmetic Chemists; March 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016 (N=335).

There were many job opportunities for entry-level and early career Cosmetic Chemists. Of the 231 job postings for Cosmetic Chemists that included requirements for experience level, only about 16% were seeking applicants with 6 or more years of experience (see below). Almost half of job postings that listed experience requirements seek candidates with 3-5 years of experience, but nearly 40% require only two years or less of experience. So, there appear to be plenty of opportunities for those who are starting out or seeking to grow in their early careers.

bar chart of the amount of experiene required for cosmetic chemists job ads

Figure 3: Distribution of experience requirements for online job postings for Cosmetic Chemists in the period March 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016, by percentage of total postings with requirements listed.

Product Development, Biology, Chemical Engineering, and Packaging were the most in-demand skills for Cosmetic Chemists last year. Of the 335 job postings we found for Cosmetic Chemists, 284 specified detailed skills needed to qualify for the job. Besides Chemistry, which I left off the chart for obvious reasons, there are no individual skills that appear in a majority of job postings. However, there are a few that are in higher demand than others. Product Development is a skill listed in nearly 1 in every 4 Cosmetic Chemist job postings that had skills listed. Biology, Chemical Engineering, and Packaging skills were requested in nearly 1 out of every 5 job postings.

bar chart of experiene required for cosmetic chemist job ads

Figure 4: Top 15 skills requested in job postings for Cosmetic Chemists during the period of March 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016, by percentage of total job postings with skills listed.

When looking at skill clusters in demand, it is clear that Cosmetic Chemists need a broad mix of business and applied science skills. It is clear that Cosmetic Chemists need a lot more than just a pure chemistry background to succeed these days. Besides Chemistry Science skills, which I again left off the chart since it is a baseline skill for all Chemist jobs, 8-9 out of every 10 job postings that listed skill requirements sought people with communication, coordination, and problem solving skills. Nearly 7 in 10 jobs were looking for people with a good understanding of the business environment and approximately 4 in 10 wanted applicants with general science skills, project and process flow skills, biotechnology skills, or chemical engineering skills.

bar chart of top 15 skill clusters requested in job postings for cosmetic chemists

Figure 5: Top 15 skill clusters requested in job postings for Cosmetic Chemists during the period of March 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016, by percentage of total job postings.

To get ahead, Cosmetic Chemists need knowledge and experiences not taught in traditional academic chemistry programs. A Professional Science Master’s Degree may be the solution. The Professional Science Master’s (PSM) program is a new national model for educating scientists to work in industry. Started by a series of grants from the Sloan Foundation in 1997, Professional Science Master’s programs now exist at research universities around the nation. According to the PSM website, the degree is “designed for students who are seeking a graduate degree in science or mathematics and understand the need for developing workplace skills valued by top employers.” (See: PSM programs offer students a full Master’s of Science in a particular discipline, but also require students to complete a professional component that includes business, communications and/or regulatory affairs, completing an internship or other work experience, and attending professional education and networking events. Overall, the degree is a great fit for undergraduates seeking a seamless transition into industry relevant work. For those already working in the industry, it can help add flexibility to your career by deepening your science knowledge and allowing you to build a customizable set of business skills that fit your unique career path.

Rutgers University logo

The Rutgers University Master’s of Business and Science (MBS) Program, which offers a concentration in Personal Care Science, is a unique option for those interested in pursuing a PSM. The goal of the Rutgers MBS Personal Care Science concentration is to educate students in the essential skills and tools relevant to the Personal Care (Cosmetic), Consumer Health Products, Pharmaceutical, and Specialty Chemical industries. Students are taught the fundamentals and applications of personal care chemistry, food science, and process engineering and science, and receive training in finance and accounting, marketing, communication and leadership, management of science and technology, ethics, and entrepreneurship. In addition, you can customize your electives to fit your unique career goals. The objectives of the MBS Personal Care Science concentration are to learn the fundamentals of cosmetic chemistry including: raw materials, bioactives, emulsions, hair biology and function, skin biology and function; and to gain an appreciation of national and international regulatory guidelines, testing of raw and finished goods, and marketing aspects of personal care products, as well as business fundamentals. For more information on the Rutgers University MBS program in Personal Care Science, go to or call 848-932-5117. See the events schedule on the website for monthly information webinars for interested students.