I have a bachelor's degree in chemistry, and feel like I have definitely learned enough to deserve it. However, I have only done laboratory chemistry outside of my courses for a few months my junior year. I have not had any internships or professional chemistry positions. Next year I will be entering pharmacy school, so it might never be employed as a "chemist".

When discussing science online, is it misleading to tell people I am a chemist? Is there a difference between someone trained in chemistry, and a chemist? I.e., is being a chemist more than an occupation, but a lifestyle or state of mind?

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    Context matters. Depending on context, the word "chemist" could be understood as a description of your education, your interests, your accomplishments, your profession, your job title, etc. Some of these descriptions would be accurate and others would not. If it isn't clear from context, then different readers might interpret the word in different ways. – Nate Eldredge Jan 4 '17 at 22:10
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    I feel that the statement "I studied chemistry in college" is flatly unambiguous. Saying you're a chemist potentially implies you are employed as a chemist, which can be damaging in situations where you are taken at face value. – Compass Jan 4 '17 at 22:15
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    My background is in chemistry or I was trained as a chemist might be more comfortable if you are ever in any doubt about possibly sounding presumptuous. – aparente001 Jan 5 '17 at 4:27

If it makes you feel better, if you become a pharmacist and go to the UK you might be best known as a chemist:

1 British - A shop where medicinal drugs are dispensed and sold, and in which toiletries and other medical goods can be purchased: ‘antihistamine tablets are freely available in chemists’

1.1 A person authorized to dispense medicinal drugs.

2 A person engaged in chemical research or experiments: ‘chemists have developed catalysts that can turn low-grade fuels into petrol’

As it is, I'd be a bit concerned that simply saying you are a chemist would be misrepresenting yourself, in that being part of a profession generally means you are employed (or have been employed and continue to keep up your affiliation). It is more an in-context, implied matter of what is assumed in natural conversation, rather than a hard and fast rule.

One problem is that in a natural environment if you say you are a chemist, a person would commonly ask something like "where do you work" or "how long have you been a chemist" - to which you would need to back-peddle and explain that your undergraduate degree is in chemistry, but you are not and have not been employed as a chemist.

Such a situation would make it look like you are mostly "blowing smoke" and trying to make yourself to be something you are not. If you simply said, "my undergraduate degree is in chemistry", and optionally, "and I'm studying to be a pharmacist", that makes the situation clear and there can be no mistake about it.

As a comparison, if someone said they were a philosopher and it turns out they just have an undergrad degree in philosophy, I'd squint disapprovingly at them for being full of it. In some professions this would be much worse - for example, I will have a degree in psychology, but in very few situations would it ever be permissible to say that I'm a psychologist, as that happens to be a special title reserved for licensed clinicians.

It's all about clarity - and honesty - in your communication. Saying something that is technically true, but gives a false impression, should be left to slimeball-salesman types and politicians.


A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Based on this definition, it is perfectly fine to address yourself as a chemist since you have been trained in the study of chemistry. It does not matter if it was a long time before or finished yesterday.

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    But if someone asks 'what do you do', I'm not sure saying 'I'm a chemist' is accurate if you aren't currently practicing. – HEITZ Jan 4 '17 at 22:11
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    The OP is trained in the study of chemistry, but it's not clear that the OP is or was a scientist (the other part of your definition). So the definition you have brought does not necessarily support your argument. (Here's a definition you may prefer.) Regardless, the question is not about definitions, but about what is socially acceptable (which doesn't always match definitions). – ff524 Jan 4 '17 at 22:15
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    @HEITZ Actually, "I'm a chemist" is not an answer to "what you do?" But if you purpousefully state your discipline rather than your current occupation, I still think it is perfectly fine to say "I'm a chemist." When peope ask me my major, I answer "software engineer" even though I have very limited knowledge of software engineering. It is harder to say "I conduct research on graph algorithms in the scope of computational geometry." – padawan Jan 4 '17 at 22:17
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    @HEITZ I'm not sure it's accurate to say you're not sure that something is accurate when what you really mean is that you're sure it's not accurate. – Dan Romik Jan 4 '17 at 22:19
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    @Dan Romik - What if I'm sure I'm not sure? Surely that counts. – HEITZ Jan 4 '17 at 22:33

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