Chemical Laboratory Chief  What They Do

Just the Facts

Natural Sciences Managers Career Video

Insider Info

dotChemical laboratory chiefs oversee the activities of laboratories. Those labs might be in industry, government or other organizations.

In general, a lab chief plans the activities of the lab and ensures the overall quality of the work.

Chemical laboratory chiefs are also called laboratory directors, chief chemists, managers or group leaders.

dotLab chiefs might do any or all of the following:

  • Plan and direct product development
  • Supervise the analysis of substances in criminal investigations -- the analysis might be to find toxins or figure out the composition of certain products
  • Make sure that the lab meets government standards for quality control
  • Interpret lab results

Joseph Guth is a former lab director and university instructor. He is now an expert witness and consultant. "In our laboratories, the director was responsible for decision making regarding most activities that the lab undertook," he says.

Some of those activities included deciding which tests would be done, figuring out what equipment was needed, training the staff and calculating the final pricing of tests.

"The director also was in direct charge of laboratory health and safety programs in our laboratories," says Guth.

dotBarbara Pralle works with an online career service for chemists. It's run by the American Chemical Society (ACS). Pralle has noticed a lot of companies seeking chemists and chemical engineers.

"We have had a strong showing of high-level positions which have been posted on the site," Pralle says. "Most of the hiring right now is primarily in biotech and the pharmaceutical industry. There's a lot of opportunity there. Those are industries that want people to come in at an early career level and build their career right from the start in their industry."

dotGale Thirlwall-Wilbee agrees that the demand is strong. She's the manager of outreach and career services for a chemical institute.

"Anything to do with the environment has been really big lately," says Thirlwall-Wilbee.

At a Glance

Oversee the chemists

  • Lab chiefs are in charge of the overall lab
  • They work in both the public and private sectors
  • You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in chemistry or chemical engineering