Chemists study chemicals and materials and how they behave under different conditions.

Average salary (a year)

£18,000 Starter


£50,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

39 to 41 a week

You could work

evenings / weekends occasionally

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:

  • chemistry
  • applied or analytical chemistry
  • biochemistry

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.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including maths and a science
  • at least 2 or 3 A levels, including chemistry
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More information


You may be able to get into this career through a laboratory scientist higher apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and college qualifications like A levels for a higher or a degree apprenticeship

More information


You could start your career as a laboratory technician and train as a chemist while working by doing a relevant qualification.

More information

Career tips

Laboratory experience would be useful for this career.

Further information

You can get more advice about becoming a chemist from A Future in Chemistry and the Science Council.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • 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

Day-to-day tasks

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

Working environment

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).

Training opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Laboratory Scientist Apprenticeship

  • Wage : £12,000.00 Annually
  • Location: Manchester M11 4SX

(ATA) Laboratory Scientist Degree Apprenticeship - Pfizer

  • Wage : £15,760.00 Annually
  • Location: Sandwich CT13 9ND

Courses In England

BTEC Higher National Certificate (HNC) Applied Chemistry (2 Year) (part-time)

  • Provider: Wirral Met College
  • Start date: 18 September 2019
  • Location: Birkenhead

Applied Science (Chemistry) - Higher National Certificate (HNC)

  • Start date: 09 September 2019
  • Location: LIVERPOOL

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