Job descriptions and industry overviews

Analytical chemist: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:37

Analytical chemists assess the chemical structure and nature of substances. Their work ensures that foods, chemicals and drugs are safe, and can also help solve crime.

Laboratory test samples

What does an analytical chemist do? Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Analytical chemists analyse samples of different materials using a range of techniques to explore their composition and structure. Their findings can inform decisions that could affect a large number of people, such as whether a new drug is safe or whether an area is contaminated.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • using a range of techniques (including such as spectroscopy and electro-chromatography), software and equipment to carry out analyses
  • analysing and interpreting data
  • making sure that data is accurately recorded and in accordance with guidelines
  • reporting and presenting results
  • writing research papers, reports, reviews and summaries
  • keeping up to date with scientific and technical developments
  • ensuring that health and safety standards are met
  • preparing product licence documentation
  • liaising with customers, suppliers and research/scientific staff
  • developing new analytical methods.

You’re likely to work standard ‘office’ hours (9.00am–5.00pm), although you’ll mainly be based in a lab.

Graduate salaries

Starting salaries for analytical chemists are around £19,000, according to Glassdoor, a job comparison site, although they vary depending on whether you are employed in the private or public sector. Earnings increase with experience; you could earn up to £35,000 as an experienced analytical chemist.

Typical employers of analytical chemists

  • Government agencies
  • Publicly funded research councils
  • Hospitals
  • Specialist research organisations
  • Testing companies
  • Food, materials, polymers, biotechnology, pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturers.

Opportunities for analytical chemists tend to be focused in large cities because many employers are also large. Roles in research and development (R&D) are more common in the south of England.

Opportunities are advertised by careers services and university departments. You’ll also find vacancies on specialist jobs boards such as and .

The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.

Qualifications and training required

You can only become an analytical chemist if you have a good honours degree (typically a 2.1 or above) in a relevant subject such as chemistry, applied/analytical chemistry or biochemistry. However, there are also opportunities for geochemists, materials scientists, mathematicians and environmental scientists.

Competition for jobs can be tough, and practical research/laboratory work experience will boost your application. It’ll also give you an insight into the role is right for you. If your degree doesn’t involve a placement year, look for work experience that will help you demonstrate the skills that recruiters look for.

A postgraduate qualification in analytical chemistry isn’t essential but may be beneficial for careers in research or for career advancement in the long term. It may also allow entry to the profession at a more senior level.

Consider joining the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) as a student member or, if you’ve graduated, an associate. Membership will help you network, keep up to date with industry news and provide opportunities for professional development.

Key skills for analytical chemists

Recruiters will be looking for:

  • a logical and independent mind
  • the motivation and ability to solve complex problems
  • a systematic approach to tasks
  • theoretical knowledge of analytical techniques
  • the ability to develop and validate new methods
  • excellent IT skills
  • numerical and analytical ability
  • teamworking skills
  • communication and presentation skills

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