analytical chemist industrial chemist research chemist synthetic chemist

Career outlook for chemist

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures.

Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would work out how to use chemicals and materials to make new medicines, create better food and protect the environment.

You would study the make-up of chemicals and materials. You’d investigate how they interact and behave under different conditions, using complex procedures and hi-tech equipment.

You’d use your findings to find better ways to do things and create new products in a wide range of industries.

For example, you could create new medicines or products to be used in food. Or you could come up with new ways to:

  • Diagnose and treat disease
  • Analyse climate change
  • Keep water supplies clean
  • Safely get rid of industrial waste
  • Analyse forensic evidence for criminal investigations
  • Make sure food is good quality
  • Invent new artificial fibres and plastics

You would:

  • Design and conduct laboratory experiments
  • Make observations and record the results
  • Write reports
  • Present your findings

You might do teaching, lecturing and academic research.

You might also supervise support staff such as laboratory technicians.

Working conditions


You would usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with occasional evenings and weekends. Depending on where you work, you may need to work shifts or be on an on-call rota.


Much of your work will take place in a laboratory in sterile conditions.


Some travelling may be involved, for example, when carrying out fieldwork or going to scientific meetings and conferences.

UK employment status





Self employed


Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Verbal communication
  • Working with technology
  • Evaluating
  • Problem solving
  • Working with numbers
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Filtering
  • Developing a plan
  • Analysing

Skills Explorer

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To understand more, have a look at What are my skills?

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


A degree (SCQF level 9/10) in a subject such as chemistry, applied or analytical chemistry, biochemistry or a related scientific subject.

Most undergraduate courses ask for at least four Highers at B or above (SCQF level 6). Some universities may require AABB (first sitting) for entry. 

You may be able to gain advanced entry to the second year of some degrees with Advanced Highers (SCQF level 7), a relevant Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7), or a Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8).

Many people who do this job also have postgraduate qualifications such as a Master of Science (MSc) (SCQF level 11) or a doctoral degree (SCQF level 12) in relevant subjects.

Some universities offer an Integrated Masters (SCFQ level 11) combining a degree and masters course over five years.

Useful subjects

  • Chemistry (required by most courses)
  • Maths (required by most courses)
  • English
  • Other science subjects

Helpful to have

Experience in a practical laboratory and science setting is useful. You can gain experience through Skills for Work Laboratory Science (SCQF level 5), Foundation Apprenticeship in Laboratory Science (SCQF level 6) or while in work through a Modern Apprenticeship in Life Sciences and the Related Science Industries (SCQF level 5/7/8). These qualifications can lead to technician jobs, but you are still likely to need a degree or postgraduate qualification (can be taken part-time while in work) as this is a very competitive industry.