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Article: Chemistry Careers


This article covers the following jobs:

  • Analytical Scientist
  • Biochemist
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Chemistry Laboratory Technician
  • Colour Technologist
  • Industrial Chemist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Toxicologist.

The job descriptions are only a brief summary. You should do further research on the jobs that interest you.

Video: - Various: Chemistry


Chemistry is the study of what things are made of and how they work, including how they change or react when they come into contact with other things.

It includes everything from elements, the basic building blocks of life, to the role chemicals play in the oceans and atmosphere.

People with knowledge of chemistry work in a very wide range of areas. They develop our knowledge of the world, solve problems, improve safety and create new products and processes.

This article covers only some of the many careers in this area.

Some of the careers in this area

Analytical Scientist

Analytical scientists investigate substances to see which chemicals they contain. Apart from chemistry, analytical science can involve physics, biology, maths and engineering.

Their findings help to:

  • ensure the safety and quality of food and drink
  • monitor and protect public safety and the environment
  • diagnose disease
  • increase the efficiency and safety of manufacturing processes.

Analytical scientists use a wide variety of methods and technologies in their analyses. For some tests, they can use automated testing machines to analyse hundreds of samples at once. Other tests are more time-consuming, such as using gas chromatography to separate compounds in a sample.

Usual entry is with a relevant degree; specialist degrees in analytical chemistry/analytical science are available.


Biochemists study the chemistry of life. They investigate how life works at all levels, from molecules to cells and then plants and animals.

Biochemists often use their knowledge to solve problems, for example, in health care, farming, and the development of medicines and food products.

They work in a very large number of places and have lots of different tasks. For example:

  • Developing a drug to treat disease. Testing it on cells, first in a test tube and then animals and human volunteers, to make sure it's safe and to find the right dose.
  • Studying genetics, for example, how our genes might make us more likely to get a particular disease.
  • Testing blood samples to help doctors work out what's wrong with a patient.
  • Finding out how to control and change plant genes to improve the way plants grow and their ability to survive heat, cold and disease.

To become a biochemist, you'll usually need a degree in biochemistry or another subject that covers a lot of biochemistry.

Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers understand how to change the chemical, biochemical or physical state of a substance to create a huge range of products that we find essential, useful or desirable, including food and drink, oil and gas, drugs and medicines, artificial fibres and plastics.

Chemical engineers design and operate the processes by which these products are developed, taking into account factors such as cost, safety and the need to protect the environment.

The usual requirement for this career is a relevant degree or HND, such as chemical engineering.

Chemistry Laboratory Technician

Chemistry laboratory technicians are responsible for the day-to-day running of the laboratory. This involves a variety of duties, including:

  • Managing equipment stocks, ordering replacements when necessary.
  • Disposing of laboratory waste.
  • Preparing and maintaining equipment.
  • Taking and testing samples.
  • Recording and analysing experiment results.

Technicians carry out routine experiments, often using computers and automated systems, and report their findings to the scientist.

To become a chemistry laboratory technician, you usually need four/five GCSEs at grade C or above. Entrants often have higher qualifications, such as A levels or equivalent. Training is usually on-the-job, sometimes with day-release to college.

Industrial Chemist

Industrial chemists use their knowledge of the properties of chemicals, and how they react together, to develop and manufacture new chemical compounds. They might, for example, develop a chemical that can be used as a dye to colour a new type of synthetic fabric.

Some industrial chemists specialise in research and development work, which is carried out mainly in the laboratory. They do experiments to produce chemicals that have particular properties. Development involves making the chemicals on a larger scale to see whether this can be done at a reasonable cost.

To become an industrial chemist, you need to complete a degree or HND in a relevant subject.


Pharmacologists study the effects of drugs and medicines on humans and other animals. They research new medicines to treat or prevent disease, and then develop them through a process of experiments and analyses.

On average, it takes about 12 years to develop a new medicine, from the filing of a patent to the medicine's launch and full availability.

Pharmacologists may be involved at any stage of the process, from research through to testing, and then producing the medical information needed to guide users of the new drug.

You'll need a relevant degree to become a pharmacologist.


Toxicologists study and analyse the harmful effects some chemicals have on living things and the environment. They test and develop ways to avoid or reduce these effects.

For example, toxicologists help to ensure that food and drink products are free from contaminants, and that drugs and medicines are as safe as possible. They protect the environment and public health, for example, by monitoring air pollution.

To become a toxicologist, you can take a degree in toxicology or one that combines toxicology with a related subject. However, most people enter with a degree in a relevant subject, such as biology, chemistry or pharmacology, followed by a postgraduate qualification in toxicology.

Colour Technologist

Colour technologists research, develop and manage the production and use of dyes and pigments (colorants).

Some technologists research and develop the colorants themselves; others work on the coloration of a wide range of materials, including textiles, paints, printing inks and food. In large retail clothing companies, colour technologists often work with textile suppliers based in other countries, overseeing production and solving technical problems.

Recent areas of research and development include colour liquid crystal displays, the use of dyes in hospitals to diagnose illnesses, and colour use in the prevention of fraud.

Development work can involve repeated testing over a long period of time. In quality control, for example, colour technologists ensure that dyes and pigments are colour-fast.

To become a colour technologist, you usually need to complete a relevant degree, or an HND or foundation degree.

Further Information

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Address: 1 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7JN

Tel: 0845 2572570



Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Address: Holyrood Park House, 106 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AS

Tel: 0131 5564386



Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)

Address: Thomas Graham House, Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 0WF

Tel: 01223 420066


Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC)

Tel: 01274 725138



Coloration Technology

Publisher: Society of Dyers and Colourists


British Pharmacological Society (BPS)

Address: 16 Angel Gate, City Road, London EC1V 2PT

Tel: 020 7239 0171



Institute of Science & Technology (IST)

Address: Kingfisher House, 90 Rockingham Road, Sheffield S1 4EB

Tel: 0114 2763197



Biochemical Society

Address: Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, London WC1N 2JU

Tel: 020 7685 2400



Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)

Address: Davis Building, Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 3HQ

Tel: 01788 578214




Publisher: Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)



British Toxicology Society (BTS)

Address: Administrative Office, PO Box 10371, Colchester CO1 9GL

Tel: 01206 226059



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