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Chemist

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

Annual Salary

£18,000 to £50,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

39 to 41 a week

You could work: evenings / weekends; occasionally

What's it all about?

Day to day tasks

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
  • supervising the work of support staff such as laboratory technicians
  • carrying out other administrative work

Working environment

You may need to wear protective clothing.

You could work at a research facility or in a laboratory.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
University

You'll usually need a degree qualification to become a chemist. Subjects include:

  • chemistry
  • applied or analytical chemistry
  • biochemistry

As well as a degree, many employers will also want you to have a relevant postgraduate qualification.

Some universities offer an extended degree which leads directly to a postgraduate qualification like an MChem or MSci. These courses have more independent research and can lead directly into professional practice or further postgraduate study.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including chemistry
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information
Apprenticeship

You may be able to get into this career through a laboratory scientist higher apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
For more information
Work

You could start your career as a laboratory technician and train as a chemist while working by doing a relevant qualification.

More information

Career tips

Laboratory experience would be useful for this career.

Further information

You can get more advice about becoming a chemist from A Future in Chemistry and the Science Council.

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 towardschartered status like Chartered Chemist (CChem) and Chartered Scientist (CSci).

A Future in Chemistry has information about careers in chemistry.

Future Morph has information on careers in science.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
  • maths knowledge
  • science skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • complex problem-solving skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • analytical thinking skills
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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