Careers in chemistry can be demanding, with a degree almost always mandatory in order to land a job in the sector. However, working in chemistry brings with it a variety of job roles, career stability and the chance to be at the forefront of new and exciting scientific developments.
Take a look at the benefits of a career in chemistry, the types of chemistry jobs available, as well as the skills and qualifications needed for a job in chemistry.
- Why work in chemistry?
- What careers are available in chemistry?
- What skills are needed to work in chemistry?
- What degrees help with a career in chemistry?
Why work in chemistry?
A variety of career options
A career in chemistry could see you work in lots of different industries for a range of employers. For example, you could work in food and drink, the health and medical sector, engineering, or go into academic research or teaching.
The chance to help people
There are plenty of opportunities to help people in chemistry. As well as using your knowledge to produce medicines and create healthier food, a chemistry career could involve protecting the environment or supporting with the forensic side of criminal investigations.
Stability and earning potential
People who work in chemistry provide essential services or manufacture new products and technologies. This means qualifications in chemistry are highly sought after, increasing your earning potential and job stability.
What careers are available in chemistry?
There are a variety of jobs in chemistry:
Researcher or scientist
There are a few research or scientist roles in the chemistry sector:
- Clinical scientists – prevent, diagnose and treat medical conditions.
- Research scientists – employed within a certain area of chemistry, they conduct experiments to further our understanding and contribute to scientific theories.
- Material scientists – study a range of materials (for example, metal or glass) and develop new materials.
- Academic researchers – to find out more about careers in academic research, take a look at our article.
As a chemical engineer, you would work with chemicals to manufacture new products, such as medicine or food. Take a look at more careers in engineering.
Forensic scientist or crime scene investigator
Forensic scientists examine evidence from crimes (for example, hair or bodily fluids) and prepare legal statements to be used in a court of law. A crime scene investigator gathers the evidence for the forensic scientist to analyse. Forensic scientists don’t visit crime scenes.
Nanotechnologists manipulate nanoscale (small-scale) matter to create new materials.
As a chemist, you could go into the following areas:
- Medicinal chemists – help to create new and more effective medicines.
- Analytical chemists – research the chemical make-up of substances in order to identify it and examine how it behaves in different environments.
- Geochemists – study the physical components of the earth by examining the chemical elements in rocks and minerals.
A pharmacologist studies how drugs interact with biological systems, for example in humans, animals and the environment.
If you go into toxicology, you will study chemicals and other substances to determine how harmful they are to other living organisms, such as plants, animals and humans.
Teacher or lecturer
If the educational side of chemistry interests you, then consider becoming a chemistry teacher at GCSE or A Level. Or you could teach chemistry at a higher level as a university lecturer. You will find more information about careers in education in our article.
What skills are needed to work in chemistry?
The specialist nature of chemistry means that the different jobs in chemistry require specific knowledge, but there are some skills that would benefit you in any chemistry role:
- Analytical and problem-solving – you will need these for researching and studying chemicals and generating new findings.
- Creativity and curiosity – chemistry is about discovering new solutions and manufacturing new products.
- Perseverance and resilience – scientific experiments don’t always come back with the results you are expecting, so being able to persevere is important for these scenarios.
- Attention to detail – as we’ve already mentioned, a job in chemistry might involve analysing data or working with matter on a nano-scale.
- Communication – if you go down the scientist or research route of a chemistry career, you will be expected to contribute to research papers, network with colleagues, present your findings at events and maybe even teach classes.
- Collaborative – working within a team, sharing your findings and being a supportive colleague is a big part of any career in science.
If you are interested in a specific field within chemistry, we would suggest finding adverts for those roles and reading through the job description and person specification. Here you can identify the skills and experience you already have and where you need to improve in order to meet the essential criteria for the role.
Take a look at the graduate skills that employers are looking for.
What degrees help with a career in chemistry?
In order to secure a job in chemistry, you will most likely need at least an undergraduate degree in chemistry or a chemistry-related subject (such as biochemistry). Some graduates go on to study a masters or PhD in the following subjects:
- Applied chemistry
- Organic chemistry
- Physical and theoretical chemistry
- Biological science (or molecular biology)
- Chemical science
If university isn’t the right path for you, there are some apprenticeships that could help you with landing a job in chemistry:
- Level 5 Technician Scientist – equivalent to a foundation degree or a Higher National Diploma (NHD)
- Level 6 Laboratory Scientist – equivalent to an undergraduate degree
- Level 7 Research Scientist – equivalent to a master’s degree
When it comes to qualifications, check the job descriptions of the kind of job you are hoping to do. Here you can see what level of education recruiters are looking for and make a decision about whether to go on to further study.
Discover opportunities available in other industries and find and apply for roles on the Unitemps website.
Last updated on 21 February 2023Share this article