Analytical chemists identify and analyse materials to find their chemical composition and how they react. Industrial chemists research and produce chemicals. Chemists may also specialise in medicinal or process development areas.
carry out tests on a wide range of materials – from foodstuffs, cosmetics, paints and dyes, to fertilisers, medicines and plastics – and analyse the results
create new products, develop existing products and design systems for testing them
design systems for manufacturing chemicals, often in very large quantities
supervise production processes in industry making sure they are efficient and safe
test products to make sure they do their job properly and are safe to use
monitor waste materials, or air, water or soil pollution and recommend ways to make improvements
using analytical techniques and instruments, such as chromatography
investigate the use of organic and biological compounds in medicine
keep records, complete forms and write reports.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting salaries for chemistry graduates in industry tend to be in the range of £18,000 to £24,000 a year. Post-doctoral research staff tend to start at around £26,500, rising to around £40,000. Senior chemists in industry can earn up to £45,000 a year or more.
Registered clinical scientists in the NHS are generally on Agenda for Change Band 7, £46,244 to £53,789 a year. Principal clinical chemists are on Band 8a, £56,992 to £61,522 a year and Band 8b, £67,285 to £71,978 a year. Pre-registration trainees are on Band 6, £37,831 to £46,100 a year.
The current pay scales are from April 2023.
Starting salaries for scientific officers in government departments will depend on skills, experience and qualifications. Check individual departments for details of current vacancies.
You usually work in a laboratory but perhaps also in a factory or office.
You may travel to meetings or conferences – a driving licence is useful.
You will probably work regular hours but in some industries you might have to work shifts including weekends and evenings.
You have to wear a lab coat and sometimes other protective clothing such as a face mask or gloves.
You may have contact with dangerous or unpleasant substances.
You usually need a degree in chemistry. This may be a BSc (SCQF Level 10), MChem (SCQF Level 11) or MSci (SCQF Level 11). For entry you need 4 or 5 Highers, normally including Chemistry and another science subject and usually English, Maths and Chemistry at National 5. Some courses may require certain other subjects.
Some entrants have a specialist postgraduate qualification in chemistry. Those with a PhD (SCQF Level 12) are likely to enter at a more senior level.
You could work in a wide variety of jobs, including:
pharmaceuticals, cosmetics or foodstuffs
manufacturing textiles, dyestuffs, paints, cleaning materials, fertilisers, plastics, nuclear or oil industries, or for water boards