Chemists study chemicals and materials and how they behave under different conditions.
Salary range: £18,000 to £50,000
How to become a chemist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
- working towards this role
You’ll usually need a degree qualification to become a chemist. Subjects include:
- applied or analytical chemistry
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.
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
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You may be able to get into this career through a laboratory scientist higher apprenticeship.
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
You could start your career as a laboratory technician and train as a chemist while working by doing a relevant qualification.
Laboratory experience would be useful for this career.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- 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
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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
- supervising the work of support staff such as laboratory technicians
- carrying out other administrative work
You could work at a research facility or in a laboratory.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
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).