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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 hazard waste, and opportunities for technicians/technologists can be very diverse depending on the industry and their education.
At a glanceImagine 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 dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a chemical technician/technologist:
- Collect air, water, and soil samples, including stack testing for emissions and pollutants.
- Operate and maintain laboratory equipment.
- Set up equipment and apparatuses for experiments and analyses.
- Perform chemical tests following laboratory procedures, including process control, quality control, and research.
- Test materials for quality, performance, and composition.
- Record, validate, and interpret results of tests and analyses.
- Record actions taken for tests and analyses.
- Present results and prepare reports.
Work environmentChemical technicians/technologists work in a variety of locations, including: In the lab:
- Preparing test solutions and processing samples
- Testing samples and conducting experiments
- Developing test methodology
- Calibrating and maintaining instruments
- 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
- Collecting samples for analysis, including quality-assurance samples of raw materials and finished products
Where to workThere 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
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a chemical technician/technologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Computer Science
- Environmental Technology
- Environmental Science
- Chemical Engineering