Do you know why some fabrics are stain resistant, keep us warm or help athletes to feel cool during competitions? Well, it is all because of textile chemistry.
Textile chemists use the principles of chemistry to help design textile products that are not only attractive to the eye, but also meet the functional requirements of users. If the sight of a laboratory excites you, this could be the job for you.
What Do Textile Chemists Do?
The primary duties of textile chemists include:
- Conducting research to understand the properties of various fabrics
- Collaborating with material scientists to select the materials for making textile products
- Conducting laboratory tests to determine how chemical react to various chemicals under different conditions
- Working with textile designers to develop new textile products or redesign the existing ones
- Developing cost efficient and environment-friendly process for manufacturing textile products
- Educating production workers with a view of helping them understand the chemical reactions that take place during the manufacturing process.
Like most chemists, textile chemists work full-time, from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. They can be based in laboratories conducting experiments or production floors monitoring the manufacturing process.
While at work, they often wear lab coats, gloves and other personal protective gear.
The average annual wage for textile chemists is $62,900. The following table highlights the salaries for starting and experienced chemists.
Level of Seniority
Beginning textile chemists
Experienced textile chemists
To be a textile chemist, you need a solid foundation in chemistry. If you are in high school, you have to score high grades in chemistry, as well as math and other sciences.
After high school, you must join college and pursue a bachelor’s degree in one of the following fields:
- Chemical engineering
- Polymer science
- Textile chemistry – Very few universities offer this program. Clemson University in South Carolina is one of them.
A bachelor’s degree will typically enable you to find entry-level jobs, such as textile technician or laboratory scientist. So learning must not stop at the undergraduate level. Pursuing a master’s degree in textile chemistry makes you irresistible to potential employers.
Apart from the knowledge, what other competencies do you need to thrive in the job? You need:
- Superb research skills
- Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
- Computer proficiency
- Strong practical skills
- A good understanding of the textile industry
- Good teamwork skills
- The ability to pay close attention to details
- A good level of creativity to come up with unique product development ideas
- A knowledge of workplace health and safety precautions
In textile chemistry, the key to getting ahead lies in gaining more knowledge and work experience. Some of the options available to you include:
- Pursuing a doctorate in textile chemistry
- Joining professional organizations, such as the American Chemical Society and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists. These organization provide training workshops and other educational resources that are essential to your professional development.
If you are in research and development, you can also publish your research findings in scholarly journals to improve your professional reputation.
The employers of textile chemists include:
- Textile manufacturers
- Chemical manufacturers
- Scientific research centers
- Chemistry laboratories
- Dyeing houses
With vast experience, you could progress to become a process development manager in manufacturing plants. A doctorate will enable you to find work as a higher education lecturer in colleges and universities.
According to the AMC, there will be minimal employment opportunities for textile chemists, primarily because textile chemistry is a small niche market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects a slow-than-average (6 percent) job growth for chemists.
To succeed in this field, go for a PhD. Good luck.
Image source: Boston University