Chemist Careers

How to become a chemist

So what does a chemist do?

Chemists study the properties of substances and how they interact and behave under different physical conditions. Their work is valuable in various industries including product manufacture, the disposal of industrial waste, the diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease, in forensic analysis for criminal investigations, and in education and academic research. Chemists may be involved in commercial operations in areas such as patent work, sales and marketing.

Chemists work alongside other scientists and technicians from related fields using sophisticated and sensitive equipment and procedures. They design and conduct experiments, make observations, and then write up the work in reports and scientific papers. Chemists often supervise the work of support staff and carry out other administrative work.

What's the working environment like working as a chemist?

Most chemists work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with occasional evenings and weekends. Shifts or on-call work are usual if providing a round-the-clock service to the public, as in the NHS.

Chemists work in laboratories, often under sterile conditions. Protective clothing is worn. Some travel may be involved when carrying out fieldwork or attending scientific meetings and conferences.

What does it take to become a chemist?

To be a chemist, you should:

  • have scientific skills

  • have an enquiring mind and be able to think clearly and logically

  • be good at problem solving, with a methodical, analytical approach to your work

  • be able to work with and lead a team of professionals

  • be able to make quick decisions in changing circumstances

  • have excellent spoken and written communication skills

  • understand statistics and relevant computer packages.


Chemist career opportunities

Chemists work for a wide range of employers including governmental agencies, hospitals, public health laboratories, research institutes, and in industry, patent work, health and safety and forensic science.

Some chemists use their scientific knowledge to work in other areas such as commercial work, education, the media and administration.

Relocation may be necessary for career progression.


Watch our video

Jade and Oscar explain what education is needed to become a chemist...

Further information

If you would like to know anything about being a chemist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Royal Society of Chemistry

Burlington House
Tel: 020 7440 3344

SEMTA (Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance)
14 Upton Road
WD18 0JT
Tel: 0808 100 3682

Similar careers