Industrial chemists apply chemical science to industrial processes. Research work ranges from bulk and fine chemicals to pharmaceutical and medicinal chemistry.
Industrial chemists work in a variety of roles including production and quality control. In many cases, they also work closely with chemical and control engineers.
Industrial chemists are experts in the properties and chemical structure of different materials. Some work in research and development whereas others work in production. Between them, they create new materials, devise and control production processing methods, and ensure that the quality of products is maintained.
The chemical industry makes a huge amount of products. Most of the things that we use on a daily basis have some sort of chemical in them. For example, chemicals are used to manufacture cleaning products, food packaging, dyes and pesticides.
Some industrial chemists specialise in research and development work, which is carried out mainly in the laboratory. They do experiments to produce new materials that have particular properties. Then, the materials are made on a larger scale to see whether this can be done at a reasonable cost.
Production chemists make sure that production processes run efficiently. For example, they work out how to produce large amounts of material as cheaply as possible. They are responsible for safety, quality control and staff training. They are also employed in marketing and other management functions in industry.
Industrial chemists usually work alongside chemical and control engineers, who are responsible for the design and construction of production plant. Depending on the product, they may also consult other scientists such as:
- materials scientists
- agricultural scientists
- food technologists.
Personal Qualities and Skills
- Have an interest in science, especially chemistry.
- Enjoy solving problems.
- Be a responsible person as you may have to make decisions that affect other people.
- Have good people skills and the ability to work well in a team.
- Be an accurate worker.
- Have good planning skills to cope with the varied and sometimes heavy workloads.
For some specialisms, you may also need a knowledge of engineering processes, or management and business skills.
The job might not be suitable for people who have skin conditions, such as eczema, or breathing complaints, such as asthma.
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers for industrial chemists
Employers include firms in the food and drink, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, research consultancies, government departments, educational establishments and the NHS.
Opportunities for industrial chemists occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Entry routes and training
Most new entrants are graduates. The most common way to become an industrial chemist is by studying for a degree in a subject related to chemistry or applied chemistry.
There are a number of relevant HNCs, HNDs and foundation degrees available throughout the UK.
People with foundation degrees, HNCs or HNDs are usually employed in a supporting role and may have to take further qualifications before moving into management positions.
Many people going into this career have already had relevant work experience, summer placements or sandwich years as part of their degree courses. This type of experience is highly valued by employers.
Entry requirements for degrees vary so it is important to check with individual universities.