The Best Jobs in the Chemical Industry

Jessica Clifton

by Jessica Clifton

3rd June 2020

It’s notable that careers in science such as in chemistry and physics are always amongst children’s top ten choices, regardless of generation and gender. If you’ve followed that passion from childhood, we hope you will find your career in the chemical industry.

But if you’re thinking of becoming a scientist, a chemist or a chemical engineer, do you know what the best jobs in the chemical industry are? 

What are the best places in the UK for chemistry jobs?

Chemistry is essential in many industrial processes, from processing food to manufacturing explosives, and chemists are also responsible for designing and creating chemicals that are crucial in manufacturing various consumer products.

Most places in the UK that offer great opportunities for chemistry jobs are unsurprisingly in urban or near urban areas. Some manufacturing plants are located in special, purpose-built industrial zones intended for manufacturing plants. Here are some examples of best places in the UK for chemistry-related jobs:

  1. London – when it comes to science-related jobs, it’s hardly surprising that the UK capital offers great opportunities. It’s home to several thousands of science jobs which require academic background and training in chemistry. These include industrial, manual, governmental and academic chemistry jobs.
  2. Manchester – around 150,000 science students study in Manchester, and it’s also home to notable science institutions like the Citylabs and Manchester Science Park. 
  3. Edinburgh – this thriving Scottish city has more than 700 organisations that employ science specialists like chemists. The city is considered as an epicentre of scientific employment.
  4. Oxford – home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world and a centre of higher learning, Oxford University is packed with centuries of history and now provides a multitude of teaching and research opportunities for chemists. The Oxford Science Park is a business hub for science and technology and houses more than 90 science companies.
  5. Cambridge – the academic and scientific traditions in Cambridge are apparent in its science park, which includes more than 100 companies employing over 7,500 employees.

What are the best jobs with a chemistry degree?

Having a science degree, particularly in chemistry, offers a wide range of career opportunities in various fields. Some chemistry degree holders choose to teach, while others prefer research. Then there are those who join private industrial firms including chemical and pharmaceutical companies. A few chemists pursue entrepreneurship, establishing their own companies and product lines.

Chemistry researchers conduct many lab experiments

Here are some of the best jobs that are directly related to holding a chemistry degree:

  • Academic researcher
  • Analytical chemist
  • Biotechnologist
  • Chemical engineer
  • Clinical scientist, biochemistry
  • Forensic scientist
  • Nanotechnologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Research scientist (physical sciences)
  • Scientific laboratory technician
  • Toxicologist

Best jobs for chemistry graduates 

The chemical industry is a key industry that serves as the foundation for many others and is estimated to be worth at least £50 billion a year to the UK economy. However, there’s now a grave concern because we’ve seen a 21% decline in the enrolment of university students in chemistry over the past several years.

Chemists have crucial roles to play not only in terms of industrial productivity but also in terms of protecting the environment. In fact, many of the environmentally-friendly products, such as biodegradable plastics, are engineered by chemists.

If you’re a chemistry graduate, you probably want a career that provides a challenge and excitement, and involves the application of your knowledge and skills. These three jobs are for graduate chemists looking for just that:

  • Toxicologist – this is an excellent job for those who want to support law enforcement and the delivery of justice through forensics. Chemists can be employed as toxicologists in forensic laboratories to determine the effects of drugs and natural substances on humans. Crimes can be solved with the help of toxicological analyses.
  • Materials scientist – if you’re a chemist who is highly creative and inventive, a job as a materials scientist can be both exciting and challenging. Instead of simply following a set routine, you’ll be conducting different types of experiments through research and development. You can help invent new materials that can significantly improve humanity’s quality of living.
  • Geochemist – if you’re the adventurous type and don’t want to be stuck in a lab, this job is for you. It potentially involves a lot of travel to conduct, and you might work in drill sites, help identify and remove hazardous materials, and improve environmental safety.

A toxicologist working in a chemical lab

What are 10 careers in chemistry?

Chemists are amongst the most sought-after science specialists. Companies typically offer stable and well-paid careers for chemists. Aside from academia, many industries are dependent on chemists, including:

  • Agrochemicals
  • Metallurgical
  • Petrochemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Plastics and polymers
  • Cosmetics

Chemists can choose to work either in private companies or in government, and some choose to form their own companies. Most pursue careers that are directly related to their field of expertise while some have careers that are tangential but still relevant to their skills and knowledge.

Some the common careers for chemists that are directly related to their specialisations are the following:

  1. College professors
  2. Research scientists
  3. Chemical engineers
  4. Forensic experts
  5. Toxicologist or lab technicians

Jobs in the chemical industry include chemistry professors and lecturers

Meanwhile, other careers where a degree in chemistry is relevant may include:

  1. Environmental consultant
  2. Nuclear engineer
  3. Patent attorney
  4. Science writer
  5. Secondary school teacher

Chemists are relatively few but the demand for their skills and knowledge is high in various industries. That means they’re in high demand and there are some great job opportunities out there.

Find out more about careers in chemistry in our chemistry careers resources hub.


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