Chemical Technologists and Technicians - What They Do

Chemical technologists and technicians provide technical support and services or may work independently in chemical engineering, chemical and biochemical research and analysis, industrial chemistry, chemical quality control and environmental protection. They are employed by research and development and quality control laboratories, consulting engineering companies, in chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and a variety of other manufacturing and processing industries, and by utilities, health, educational and government establishments.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

Chemical technologists

  • Set up and conduct chemical experiments, tests and analyses using techniques such as chromatography, spectroscopy, physical and chemical separation techniques and microscopy
  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment and apparatus and prepare solutions of gas or liquid, reagents, and sample formulations
  • Compile records and interpret experimental or analytical results
  • Develop and conduct programs of sampling and analysis to maintain quality standards of raw materials, chemical intermediates and products
  • Assist in the development of chemical engineering processes, studies of chemical engineering procurement, construction, inspection and maintenance and the development of standards, procedures and health and safety measures
  • Operate experimental chemical or petrochemical pilot plants
  • Conduct or assist in air and water quality testing and assessments, environmental monitoring and protection activities, and development of and compliance with standards
  • Assist in synthesis of small molecules for the purpose of creating drug candidates
  • Assist in the design and fabrication of experimental apparatus.

Chemical technicians

  • Assist in setting up and conducting chemical experiments, tests and analyses
  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment and apparatus and prepare solutions of gas and liquid, reagents and sample formulations
  • Compile records for analytical studies
  • Assist in developing and conducting programs of sampling and analysis to maintain quality standards
  • Carry out a limited range of other technical functions in support of chemical research, tests and analyses, and environmental air and water quality monitoring and protection
  • Assist in the design and fabrication of experimental apparatus.

Job titles

  • paint technician
  • pilot plant technician
  • quality control technician - chemical processing
  • quality control technician - food processing
  • mass spectrometer technician
  • analytical technician, chemical
  • biochemistry technologist
  • chemical analyst
  • chemical engineering technician
  • chemical engineering technologist
  • chemical laboratory analyst
  • chemical research technician
  • chemical technician
  • chemical technologist
  • food technologist
  • formulation technician
  • geochemical technician
  • industrial hygiene technologist
  • master dyer - textiles
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Chemical technologists usually require completion of a two- or three-year college program in chemical, biochemical or chemical engineering technology or a closely related discipline.
  • Chemical technicians usually require completion of a one- or two-year college program in chemical, biochemical or chemical engineering technology.
  • National certification for chemical technologists and technicians is available through the Canadian Society for Chemical Technology.
  • Certification in chemical engineering technology or in a related field is available through provincial associations of engineering/applied science technologists and technicians and may be required by employers.
  • In Quebec, membership in the regulatory body is required to use the title "Professional Technologist."
  • A period of supervised work experience, usually two years, is required before certification.

Essential Skills


  • Read product use and precautionary statements on product labels and in material safety data sheets. For example, they read safe handling procedures, instructions for use and first aid treatments on the labels of chemical solutions. They may read more extensive handling and storage instructions in material safety data sheets. (2)
  • Read comments and instructions in work orders and work request forms. For example, chemical process quality control technicians may read comments in work orders to determine the reasons for analytical tests and brief instructions for conducting assays. (2)
  • Read e-mail from co-workers, clients and supervisors. For example, chemical technologists may read co-workers' comments and questions about samples submitted for processing. They may read clients' enquiries about the results of air quality tests. They read their supervisors' responses to queries about new procedures, procedure modifications, training opportunities and computer malfunctions. (2)
  • Read memos from supervisors and suppliers. For example, chemical analysis specialists read memos which outline procedures for conducting specific chemical analyses and tests and introduce changes to safety, health and environmental policies and procedures. They read memos from suppliers which describe new products' characteristics, uses and availabilities. (2)
  • Read equipment and policy and procedure manuals. For example, they read manuals to identify maintenance and repair procedures for equipment such as sterilizers, analytical balances and chromatographs. They read their organizations' policy and procedure manuals to understand and follow procedures such as those for reporting nonconformance. (3)
  • Read standard operating procedures, chemical analysis procedures and standards manuals. For example, chemical technicians read detailed procedures for setting up and cleaning equipment and preparing standard solutions. Petrochemical technologists read detailed technical guidelines which describe the scope and application for various analytic procedures, identify the equipment, reagents and standards to be used and outline methods of sample collection, preservation and handling. Quality control technicians read standards manuals to learn about the procedures for establishing quality controls, maintaining them and troubleshooting problems encountered when test samples do not meet specification standards. (4)
  • May read research and analysis reports and journal articles. For example, pulp and paper technical specialists may read analysis reports on chemical products to determine whether the chemicals could be used to improve fibre quality and performance. Municipal wastewater technicians may read articles in the American Water Works Association technical magazines and journals to learn about new techniques and equipment for treating wastewater effluents. Chemical technologists in the food processing industry may read refereed articles in the Journal of Food Microbiology to learn about new developments in food science and new analysis and testing methods for detecting salmonella in food products. (5)

Document use

  • Observe warning and other signs. For example, they may observe signs for eyewash stations, first aid kits and emergency exits. They may identify hazard symbols on warning signs and labels. (1)
  • Interpret assembly drawings. For example, they examine assembly drawings to locate parts and follow correct assembly and disassembly sequences when cleaning, repairing and performing maintenance work on instruments such as plasma mass spectrometers. (2)
  • Locate data in lists and tables. For example, they locate the names of chemical products and quantities in analysis procedure and inventory lists. They locate product numbers and specifications in catalogues. They locate sample identification numbers in quantitation reports and results summaries. They follow checklists when handling chemicals, cleaning instruments and preparing samples for analysis. They use specification tables to determine dilution rates, instrument control settings and values important to chemical analysis and testing. They identify retention times, solution volumes and concentration levels in standards tables. (2)
  • Locate data in forms. For example, they review sample information and submission forms for data such as project numbers, submission dates and analyses requested. Quality control technicians scan batch sample identification forms for product names, formulation dates, formulae codes, standard yields and production details. (2)
  • Enter data into tables. For example, chemical technologists who work in industrial settings record air quality test results such as temperatures, times, dry and wet weights in tables in data collection tables. Food processing technologists may record retention times, concentration levels and types of diluting solvents in summary tables for pesticide residues identified in animal and plant products. (2)
  • Enter data into a variety of forms. For example, they record product numbers and quantities required in supply order and requisition forms. They enter client names, addresses and contact details in courier waybills. Pulp and paper technical specialists enter sample identification numbers, temperatures and observations of effluent treatments into laboratory logbooks. Water quality technicians record conductivity values, analysis results and sequencing data on tracking forms and results sheets. Research technologists complete reanalysis approval forms and indicate the reasons for resubmission of samples for further testing and analysis. (3)
  • Interpret schematic drawings. For example, they study flow charts to determine how projects are scheduled and sequenced. They review decision tree schematics in standard operating procedures when trying to determine the causes of errors and suggested corrective actions. They review electrical, electronic, hydraulic and other schematics when investigating equipment malfunctions. (3)
  • Locate data and identify trends in graphs. For example, food inspection technologists may view pesticide levels present in samples in chromatograms. Research technologists identify quantities and volumes of ions at timed intervals on mass spectrum graphs when determining chemical compounds and concentrations. (4)


  • Write reminder notes about matters such as tasks to be completed and new test procedures. (1)
  • Write short text entries for logbooks and entry forms. For example, they record their observations of samples, unusual analysis results, stages of extraction, task completion times, notes on malfunctioning equipment and items requiring follow up in personal logbooks. They write comments in laboratory logbooks indicating the status of tests, instruments and sample preparations. They enter brief notes on analysis and test summary forms to explain unusual results and report their observations. (2)
  • Write e-mail to co-workers and clients. For example, they write messages with their supervisors to ask about new chemical testing and analysis procedures, explain problems, inform them of nonconforming data results and provide updates on progress. They may write e-mail to respond to clients' inquiries about chemical analyses. (2)
  • May write and revise procedures. For example, they may write procedures for operating, cleaning and maintaining new equipment. They may revise procedures for conducting chemical analyses and preparing samples by modifying existing procedures. (3)
  • Write activity summaries, literature reviews and reports. For example, research technologists may summarize reviews of literature and make recommendations for new equipment and software purchases. Water quality technicians write nonconformance reports when test and analysis results fail to meet specifications and standards. They describe the nonconformance encountered and outline corrective actions. They may justify the acceptance of test results and outline the reasons for variations. Environmental laboratory technicians write validation reports to describe deviations from protocol methods, changes to procedures and details of difficulties encountered during the analysis of samples. (4)


Money Math

  • May total and confirm charges on expense forms. For example, chemical process technologists may calculate reimbursement claims for travel to training sessions. They calculate charges for the use of personal vehicles using per kilometre rates and add amounts for meals and hotel rooms. (2)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • Schedule time, equipment and resources to complete tests and analyses of samples. For example, they schedule time for preparation and fortification of samples, stabilization of solutions and the use of various instruments and equipment required for conducting analysis and testing of samples. They may adjust these schedules to incorporate emergency requests and to clear up backlogs caused by faulty equipment. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • Take measurements using common measuring tools. For example, they use graduated cylinders and weigh scales to measure specified volumes and weights of chemicals when preparing samples for analysis. Water quality control technicians measure temperatures and weights when analyzing wastewater samples. (1)
  • Calculate quantities for solutions, compounds and mixtures. For example, environmental laboratory technicians use ratios to calculate quantities of solvents required to dilute toxic chemical compounds from ten percent to one percent concentration. They calculate quantities of solvents required when conducting multiple tests and analyses on samples for validation purposes. (2)
  • Take precise measurements using specialized equipment. For example, they use pipettes, digital syringes and four decimal place balances to accurately measure and transfer solutions. They use gas chromatographs to measure composition of compounds. They measure relative concentrations of sample components using inductivity coupled plasma mass spectrometers. Manufacturing quality control technicians measure the thicknesses of plastic film samples using micrometers. (3)

Data Analysis Math

  • Compare test and analysis results, equipment readings and inventory amounts to specifications. For example, they compare laboratory results to specifications provided by suppliers. They examine calibration curves to ensure spectrometers are operating correctly. They compare equipment readings such as rotations per minute, flow rates and temperatures to specifications. They monitor material and equipment inventory levels and place orders when quantities drop below acceptable levels. (1)
  • Collect and analyze data such as test results and product measurements. For example, research technologists in pulp and paper manufacturing calculate averages, standard deviations and coefficients of variation for variables such as feed pressures and total suspended solids in effluents. Environmental laboratory technologists may conduct regression analyses to determine the accuracy of test results. They consider bias levels which can indicate systemic errors in procedures, contamination and faulty sample preparation. (4)

Numerical Estimation

  • May estimate times, quantities, temperatures and speeds when greater accuracy is not required. For example, they estimate time required to prepare standards and samples and complete analysis and testing procedures. Water quality technicians estimate drying times of wastewater and raw materials samples. (2)

Oral communication

  • Discuss ongoing work with co-workers and suppliers. For example, they discuss tasks such as the preparation of samples for analysis and the use of shared equipment with co-workers. At safety meetings, they review and discuss chemical hazards and safety procedures for working with new chemicals. They confirm work assignments and task completions with their supervisors. They place product orders with suppliers and discuss product deficiencies. They may request assistance from suppliers when troubleshooting equipment malfunctions. (2)
  • Discuss technical and scientific matters with co-workers, colleagues and clients. For example, technologists discuss procedures for calibrating flow meters with technicians and verify that analysis and validation procedures were followed and analyses were conducted according to standard operating procedures. They discuss methods and protocols for new analysis procedures, test anomalies and next steps with their supervisors. They may discuss potential causes of nonconforming laboratory results with colleagues. They may review analysis results and validation procedures with clients and explain deficiencies and the solutions required to address them. (3)
  • Discuss job assignments and other matters with supervisors and managers. For example, they receive information on their roles for upcoming projects from their supervisors. They offer suggestions for improvements to current work processes and provide input and feedback on work flow, procedural changes and modifications to testing and analysis methods. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Are unable to complete scheduled chemical analyses due to incomplete samples and lack of laboratory supplies. For example, when petrochemical technologists receive incomplete samples for analysis they send account managers instructions to collect full samples in order to proceed with analyses. When pulp and paper research technologists cannot find a particular type of polymer needed for chemical analysis, they call distributors of the product, search the Internet and contact colleagues in similar research institutes to seek assistance in locating the product. (1)
  • Are unable to meet deadlines due to test instrument and equipment malfunctions. For example, when the inductivity coupled plasma mass spectrometer equipment malfunctions, municipal water quality technicians review the equipment manual and call manufacturers' help lines for troubleshooting assistance. They inform their supervisors of laboratory results which may be delayed because of equipment malfunctions. (2)
  • Receive analysis results that do not meet specifications. For example, when environmental laboratory technicians encounter deficiencies, they review production processes to ensure that standard operating procedures have been followed. They inform their supervisors of the deficiencies and repeat the analyses after calibrating instruments. (2)

Decision Making

  • Decide to clean, maintain and calibrate equipment. They consider preventative maintenance schedules, calibration abnormalities and equipment availabilities. (1)

Critical Thinking

  • Evaluate validity and accuracy of test and analysis results. They may compare results across two or more sets of tests. They may compare analysis results to specifications. They review quality control documentation, consider adherence to procedures and perform statistical analyses for verification purposes. They compare percentage differences between duplicate samples. (3)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Chemical technicians and technologists plan their days to complete tasks assigned by their supervisors. When determining priorities and sequences, they consider projects' timelines, protocols and procedures for preparing samples, times required for testing and analysis, equipment availability and the ages and numbers of samples waiting for analysis. Chemical technicians and technologists may need to adjust their work plans because of delays caused by malfunctioning equipment and the arrival of more urgent work. (2)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember procedures and protocols for common tests and analyses and the routine maintenance of testing equipment and instruments.

Finding Information

  • Find information about chemical testing and analysis methods and protocols by reviewing procedure manuals and textbooks, conducting Internet searches and speaking with co-workers and colleagues. (3)
  • Find information about chemical compounds by studying the periodic table of elements, conducting research on the Internet and speaking with co-workers and colleagues. (3)

Digital technology

  • Use word processing. For example, they use basic text formatting, page layout and editing features to write procedures and reports. (2)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, they create spreadsheets to organize and analyze measurement and test data for chemical analyses. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, they exchange e-mail messages and attachments with co-workers and suppliers. They may use calendar functions to manage analysis schedules. (2)
  • Use Internet. For example, they search for products, suppliers and equipment. They access bookmarked sites to locate material safety data sheets and equipment manuals and to arrange courier service. (2)
  • Use other computer and software applications. For example, they enter control settings for various pieces of computer-controlled equipment such as autosamplers, inductivity coupled plasma mass spectrometers and liquid chromatography instruments. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, they enter clients' identification numbers, analysis specifications and results into their organizations' databases. They run queries to obtain clients' codes, to source sample listings and to retrieve data such as the physical properties of samples. They may build analysis schedules by creating a sequence of samples with multiple identifiers and adding keyword strings. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Chemical technologists and technicians work independently to complete the preparation and analysis of samples assigned to them. They may help co-workers prepare samples for analysis and coordinate job tasks with them to maximize the use of shared equipment. (2)

Continuous Learning

Chemical technologists and technicians must maintain current knowledge of analysis procedures and protocols and the properties of different chemicals and substances. They learn through their interactions with co-workers and supervisors and by reading textbooks, journals and trade publications. Their employers offer training when new equipment and procedures are introduced. They are required to maintain certification in first aid and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. (2)