Read as James H. Nichols, Ph.D talks about his career as a Clinical Chemist.  Find him at www.baystatehealth.com.  He is also a member of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, www.aacc.org.

What do you do for a living?

Clinical Chemist.  A Professor of Pathology and Medical Director of the Chemistry Section of a Hospital Laboratory.

How would you describe what you do?

Supervising the quality of laboratory testing.

What does your work entail?

Consultation with physicians, managing laboratory operations, research and development, administration.

What’s a typical work week like?

Every day is different, there are always questions about patient’s lab tests from physicians, but also instrumentation to repair and troubleshoot, inspections, implementation of new tests, and managing quality concerns.

How did you get started?

I learned about the career during my doctoral work in graduate school.

What do you like about what you do?

Seeing patients benefit from their lab tests.

What do you dislike?

Doctors and nurses can sometimes be abrupt and grumpy.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

Based on a fixed salary and bonuses plus side consultations.

 How much money do Clinical Chemists make?

A hospital-based clinical chemist can make between $100,000 and $300,000 depending on size of the institution, profit-sharing plans and bonuses/benefits.

How much money did/do you make starting out as a Clinical Chemist?

As a postdoctoral student in clinical chemistry, a trainee can make between $40,000 and $65,000.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

Minimum of a Ph.D or M.D. with a focus in a chemistry related field, postdoctoral training, board certification and at least 5 years of experience directing a laboratory under the federal regulations (CLIA).

What is most challenging about what you do?

No day is the same, and many unexpected events can require attention that disrupt scheduling and advance planning.

What is most rewarding?

Ability to travel the world, promote quality standards and educate others on good laboratory practice.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Just show motivation and get as much laboratory experience in a hospital or reference laboratory business as possible.

How much time off do you get/take?

Generally 4 weeks a year plus paid holidays.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

Many people don’t know what the laboratory does in the hospital or the people who manage the testing.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

More public attention to the role of the laboratory in health care and physician decision-making.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

It is rewarding and exciting, and I enjoy coming to work each and every day.