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Chemist

Chemists study chemicals and materials and how they behave under different conditions.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £18,000 to £50,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a degree accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in:

  • chemistry
  • applied or analytical chemistry
  • biochemistry

Many employers will also want you to have a relevant postgraduate qualification.

Most universities now offer both BSc (Bachelor of Science) and MChem/MSci (Master of Chemistry/Science) degree programmes. The entry requirements for the MChem/MSci courses are usually a little higher.

You may also be able to get into this career through a foundation degree, HNC/HND or higher apprenticeship.

You could also start your career as a laboratory technician and study for a relevant qualification part-time.

A Future in Chemistry has information about careers in chemistry.

Future Morph has information on careers in science.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • scientific, numerical and technical skills
  • a logical approach to solving problems
  • the ability to analyse data
  • the ability to make decisions
  • excellent spoken and written communication skills

3. What you'll do

Depending on your role, you could be:

  • inventing and developing new medicines and products
  • investigating environmental issues
  • diagnosing and treating illness and disease
  • analysing forensic evidence
  • teaching, lecturing and carrying out academic research

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • designing and conducting laboratory experiments
  • making observations and noting results
  • writing reports and presenting your findings

You may also supervise the work of support staff such as laboratory technicians, and carry out other administrative work.

4. Salary

Starter: £18,000 to £24,000

Experienced: £25,000 to £40,000

Highly Experienced: Over £50,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with occasional evenings and weekends. You may need to work shifts or be on an on-call rota.

Much of your work will take place in a laboratory.

Some travelling may be involved, for fieldwork or going to meetings and conferences.

6. Career path and progression

You'll usually be able to find work with a wide range of employers including the NHS, public health laboratories, research institutes and government agencies.

As a chemist working in industry, you could be involved in research and development, patent work, health and safety or forensic science.

You could also move into teaching or a career in the media.

As an experienced chemist you could work towards chartered status like Chartered Chemist (CChem) and Chartered Scientist (CSci).

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Last updated: 21 April 2017