We're building a new service – your feedback will help us to improve it.


BETATry an improved version of this page

  1. More about how to get into this career
  2. We've included current opportunities to help you with your next steps
Try it out

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).

Related careers

You may be interested in:

Last updated: 11 September 2018