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Comment: The importance of the chemical technical professional

by Erin Dotlich, chair, ACS Committee on Technician Affairs
June 25, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 20


Photo of Erin Dotlich.

Credit: Paul D’Andrea
Erin Dotlich

The definition of a chemical technical professional (CTP) is not black and white. Unlike many scientific jobs, it isn’t tied to an education level; a CTP can have a high school diploma, a PhD, or any qualification in between. The Committee on Technician Affairs (CTA) identifies CTPs by the scope of their work. Job titles a CTP may hold include chemical technician or technologist, associate-level chemist, chemistry associate, or chemical specialist.

CTPs often carry out routine or assigned work and are on a different career path than research scientists at the same organization. Some with a science education perceive the CTP role as unappealing, but it is operationally essential. The job can also be a great early-career stepping stone to more-senior research opportunities or to management.

CTPs are in high demand. More than 8,000 chemical technician and 10,000 associate-level chemist positions based in the US are currently listed on LinkedIn. And demand for CTPs is set to rise further: the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that between 2021 and 2031, the number of chemical technicians will grow by 25.2%. These data tell us it is critical that CTP talent is developed and retained.

What we have been up to

The mission statement for the CTA is to “support, advance, and recognize the CTP,” and these are its strategic goals:

Create, identify, and disseminate tools for the professional development of CTPs.

Highlight accomplishments of CTPs through awards and recognition.

Work with stakeholders inside and outside the American Chemical Society.

CTA is working to update the criteria and rules for the National Chemical Technician Award to make it clearer that this honor recognizes the contribution of bench chemists rather than research scientists. The committee is also launching an enhanced website, loaded with informational and career development resources, contacts, and updated materials for each of its awards. In addition to the CTP-focused symposium the committee hosts at each ACS spring and fall meeting, it is organizing its first-ever technical award symposium for ACS Spring 2024. This symposium will have a theme based on the work of the 2024 National Chemical Technician Award winner. The CTA is analyzing CTP demographic data from various sources to find ways to better serve its stakeholders.

Help us achieve our mission

CTA members would like ACS local sections to do more to support CTPs. We would love to have more nominations from them for the CTA-sponsored ChemLuminary Award for Best Event or Activity Organized By, or Benefiting, the Applied Chemical Technology Professional. We are also asking local sections to offer more CTP-centric events and opportunities. As an example of an excellent event, the Mid-Michigan Technician Group recently invited students interested in CTP roles to a networking lunch and tour of Dow’s research and development center in Auburn. It featured CTP-targeted presentations, outreach activities, networking events, and demonstrations.

CTA members would like ACS local sections to do more to support CTPs.

If you are a CTP, a CTP mentor, a CTP manager, or an interested stakeholder, please consider attending the CTA open meetings, held the Sunday of ACS spring and fall meetings. You will hear what others are doing to support CTPs and meet like-minded people—and perhaps identify opportunities to collaborate across committees or sections. The next meeting will be held Aug. 13 at ACS Fall 2023. Consider presenting at the CTP-focused symposia at future ACS spring or fall meetings—we are always looking for engaging speakers who can highlight the important work that CTPs do.

Finally, the committee is recruiting. It is looking for highly motivated ACS members who are passionate about the careers of CTPs to join us. If you are interested in advancing the recognition and development of CTPs, please fill out the online committee preference form by July 3 and select CTA as one of your top choices. For more information about CTA or to inquire about working with or serving on the committee, visit our website at or contact us at

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


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