Chemical technicians are assistants to chemists and chemical engineers. They usually work in the laboratory and help in the routine tests and analyses of chemicals and other products. If you want to become a chemical technician, a strong background in chemistry is necessary. Continue reading to learn about the different roles of a chemical technician, how you can become one, and what qualifications you’ll need.
What Are the Different Types of Chemical Technician Roles?
- Quality control
As lab assistants in industrial settings, chemical technicians are the ones responsible for the quality control of products. They test these products based on set regulatory standards and the specifications set by their company. Chemists and chemical engineers, on the other hand, are the ones who design the tests and the products themselves, though once these products are mass-produced, some minor or major errors may occur.
Products must pass through certain thresholds of acceptable quality before they can be distributed. For instance, if a company is processing water to laboratory or reagent grade, a chemical technician can check the purity based on the ISO standards, as shown in the table below:
- Safety and hygiene assurance
Part of the job description of chemical technicians is safety assurance, especially when it comes to lab protocols and factory floor safety rules. Some chemical technicians are assigned to regularly check the chemicals, equipment, and machinery for potential mechanical or chemical hazards.
For instance, the storage temperature of flammable liquids such as alcohols, ketones, esters, and ethers must be kept below the flashpoint of the liquid, i.e. the point at which it ignites in air. Many flammable liquids have flashpoints below 37.8° C, so proper storage is crucial.
In some cases, the temperature must be maintained relatively high, but below the boiling point of the substance, such as in the case of milk pasteurisation. A pasteurisation temperature of around 63°C should be maintained for 30 minutes, otherwise the milk might become dangerous to drink because of possible bacterial growth.
Hygiene is very important in the food processing industry. Chemical technicians may be assigned to do regular disinfection of the factory area. They’re also responsible for mixing and applying the right chemical disinfectants.
- Analytical tasks
The main task of a chemical technician in any setting or industry is to conduct chemical analysis, both qualitative and quantitative. They’re also responsible for collecting data and organising it for the interpretation of chemists. Chemical technicians must have sufficient knowledge and skills to carry out the instructions and specifications of chemists, engineers, and other scientists.
- Selecting and testing laboratory equipment
The accuracy, precision, and reliability of chemical tests are only as good as the laboratory equipment and skills or knowledge of the chemists and technicians handling them. As a chemical technician, it’s your job to select the best laboratory equipment for certain tasks. You might also be assigned to purchase other supplies and test them. Similarly, some equipment needs calibration based on standards of measurement, so you must have the ability to calibrate instruments.
- Preparing chemical solutions
In large laboratories, chemists may need tens or even hundreds of various solutions and reagents for analytical purposes. Chemistry technicians are usually called on to assist in the preparation of various solutions and reagents. Some of these solutions are complex and may take several steps to prepare. Therefore, it’s crucial that a chemical technician knows the standard solutions and reagents that are commonly used in the laboratory.
- Keeping an inventory of supplies
Aside from keeping an inventory of the laboratory equipment and instruments, chemical technicians must also have a detailed inventory of the chemical supplies. This is because some chemicals have expiration dates and need to be replenished on a regular basis, or disposed of correctly if they have expired. These chemicals must also be properly stored and labelled to avoid accidents and contaminations.
- Training and monitoring other workers
Senior and experienced chemical technicians can train new technicians and other employees who are involved in chemical processing. They can provide on-the-job supervision and guidance for new technicians.
- Helping to improve the work environment
Chemical technicians work alongside chemists and chemical engineers to improve the work environment. Their tasks here include developing production processes and making the processes more efficient.
- Interpreting data and test results
Although the final interpretation of data is the task of chemists, chemical technicians can also help in compiling and interpreting data. This is helpful because the interpretation of chemical technicians can provide insights to chemists. If you’re a chemical technician, you might also be tasked with preparing technical reports based on initial findings.
How to Become a Chemical Technician
To become a chemical technician, you must first pass GCSE Chemistry or Double Science as well as A level chemistry, and earn an associate degree in chemistry or a similar discipline. You also need to undergo on-the-job training.
You must also have the aptitude for science and mathematics, as well as a highly logical mind. Skills in computer science are also necessary because statistical knowledge will come in handy when summarising and interpreting data.
The two major industries where you can find employment as a chemical technician are in the testing laboratories and the pharmaceutical or medical products manufacturing sector. You may also be employed in medical facilities, such as clinics and hospitals. You can even find chemical technician careers in the mining and petroleum industries!
What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Chemical Technician?
A chemical technician is a rank lower than a chemist in terms of academic qualifications. Most companies only require a two-year associate degree in chemistry for chemical technicians. Nonetheless, a chemistry apprenticeship or on-the-job training may be required.
Chemical technology is an applied science course that you can take in college or university. To do this, you need to study maths, physics, and biology, in addition to chemistry. You’ll also study computer science and statistics, which are necessary for routine data analysis and data modelling.
In the UK, a chemical technician has an average salary of around £33,173 per year (correct as of May 2021). However, it could go as high as £52,000 per year for senior and experienced technicians employed in major companies. Meanwhile, the entry level salary is around £21,000 per year – so if you’re looking for a high paid career in chemistry, this could be for you!
All content published on the ReAgent.ie blog is for information only. The blog, its authors, and affiliates cannot be held responsible for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from using the information provided. Additionally, we do not recommend using any chemical without reading the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which can be obtained from the manufacturer. You should also follow any safety advice and precautions listed on the product label. If you have health and safety related questions, visit HSE.gov.uk.