Analytical scientists test and analyse substances. They help to ensure the safety and quality of food and drink; protect public safety and the environment; diagnose disease; create pharmaceutical products; and increase the safety and efficiency of manufacturing processes. Analytical science is a combination of chemistry, physics, biology, maths and engineering.
Also known as
- Chemist, Analytical
- Analytical Chemist
Video: - Ruth: Analytical Chemist
As an Analytical Scientist, you will usually work on samples that have been collected and brought to the laboratory by others, for example, water samplers in the water industry. However, sometimes you might be called upon to leave the laboratory to collect samples yourself.
You will often lead teams of Technicians who collect the data and look after the day-to-day running of the laboratory.
You'll use a wide variety of methods and sophisticated technology in your analysis work. The methods and equipment you choose will depend on the complexity and size of the task.
Generally, you'll use automated technology when you have a large number of similar samples to test. This allows you to analyse hundreds of samples at once.
Other tests are more intricate and time-consuming, involving sophisticated techniques such as gas chromatography to separate compounds in a sample. You'll use specialist analytical software to to monitor, display and interpret the results.
You could work in a wide variety of settings. For example, in the food and drink industry, you'll ensure quality and safety by analysing raw materials. You will investigate samples taken during the production process and also test the finished food and drink products.
Your work might also involve analysing and working out the nutritional content of food and drink products. This information appears as nutritional labelling on the product's packaging.
Analytical Scientists also work for Fera (The Food and Environment Research Agency). Here, your work wil include testing the safety of pesticides and monitoring their residues in food, making sure food does contain the advertised ingredients ('food authenticity') and investigating the possible poisoning of wildlife by chemicals used in farming.
In the water industry, you'll monitor the safety and efficiency of processes. You will regularly monitor water samples for pesticides and other harmful compounds, and ensure that sewage has been properly treated.
A related area is environmental analysis and monitoring. This is divided into three main areas: air, water and soil. For example, you could monitor the air for pollutants such as sulphur dioxide. When a disused industrial site is developed for other uses, you will need to ensure that the soil is free from toxic substances.
Analytical Scientists play an important part in manufacturing industries, including chemicals, polymers and pharmaceuticals.
For example, in pharmaceutical research and development, your tests could help to establish the quality, effectiveness, stability and safety of new drugs and medicines. In other industries, you might play a vital role in quality control, routinely checking the standard of raw materials and making sure chemical products are being developed as they should be.
Other areas of work include forensic science, biomedical science, consultancy, university lecturing and research.
As an Analytical Scientist, you will usually have to wear protective clothing such as a laboratory coat, gloves and safety glasses, because you could be working with dangerous chemicals.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become an Analytical Scientist, you'll need:
- a logical, methodical approach to your work
- an enquiring mind, and observation skills
- strong problem-solving skills
- accuracy and attention to detail
- strong communication skills to work with other Scientists and Technicians
- the ability to explain your results clearly, including to people from a non-scientific background
- writing skills, to produce reports
- mathematical and statistical skills to analyse data
- willingness to perform routine tasks and procedures, and to work on your own for long periods
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £24,500 - £29,000
- With experience: £31,000 - £40,000
- Senior Analytical Scientists earn £42,000
Hours of work
You will usually work 35-39 hours a week, Monday to Friday.
Where could I work?
Employers include a wide range of companies, especially in the food and drink, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Analytical Scientists also work in hospitals, central and local government departments and water companies.
The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), employs Analytical Scientists to promote the safe and efficient production of food, and to protect the environment.
Opportunities for Analytical Scientists are in laboratories in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in science magazines such as New Scientist (which also posts jobs on its website).
Vacancies are also advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
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Entry Routes and Training
Usual entry is with an honours degree in analytical chemistry/analytical science or chemistry (as long as it has a significant analytical chemistry content).
There are a number of specialist BSc (Hons), MChem and MSci degrees in analytical chemistry, usually in combination with chemistry.
Some entrants are graduates in other sciences, especially biosciences and environmental sciences, where the degree included some analytical chemistry/science.
Some universities offer courses with a foundation year. This is an extra year for students who don't have the specified science A levels for entry.
A small number of universities offer integrated science degrees (ISciences), aiming to give graduates interdisciplinary skills and knowledge through a problem-based approach.
Some entrants have practical experience, for example, gained during a relevant sandwich degree course.
Entry can be possible with a relevant HND or foundation degree, although this will usually be into a technician-level post.
Some employers might prefer you to have a postgraduate qualification, such as a MSc or PhD in analytical chemistry; postgraduate qualifications can help to enhance your career development.
Entry to a research position, for example, at a university or research centre, is usually with a postgraduate research qualification such as a PhD.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article
Training is often on-the-job, for example, in new types of equipment or laboratory procedures. You might also go on short courses to develop your skills and knowledge. Some employers enable Analytical Scientists to gain relevant qualifications, such as a MSc or PhD.
Previous experience working in a laboratory environment would be really useful for this career.
You could progress into a supervisory or management-level role, perhaps with responsibility for training other Analytical Scientists and Technicians. You can work towards Chartered Chemist (CChem) or Chartered Scientist (CSci) status, which demonstrate an advanced level of professional knowledge and competence.
For entry to a degree in analytical chemistry/analytical science, the usual minimum requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels where chemistry is usually essential. You may also need another science subject or maths.
- GCSEs at grade C/4 and above in your A level subjects
- a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, including English and maths
Alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC level 3 qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma
However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites very carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some entrants have developed laboratory skills during industrial work placements.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree, foundation degree or HND course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
A foundation year before the start of a science degree or HND is available at some universities and higher education colleges for students who don't have the science A levels usually needed for entry.
Sponsorship for higher education study is sometimes available from the utilities companies, as well as food and drink manufacturing and processing companies.
Funding for postgraduate study and research can be available, through universities, from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Civil Service Jobs
Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET
Tel: 01793 444000
Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA)
Tel: 0300 100 0321
Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
Address: Thomas Graham House, Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 0WF
Tel: 01223 420066
Address: Unit 5, Mandarin Court, Centre Park, Warrington, Cheshire WA1 1GG
Tel: 01925 515200
People Exchange Cymru (PEC)
Public sector recruitment portal for Wales