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Vocational training in chemistry.

A three or four year degree course is not the only route into a career with chemistry. Why not consider some of the vocational routes and alternative courses available?

What vocational training routes are available?

Apprenticeships     © Alamy

Foundation degrees are employment-based higher education qualifications which provide professional development in a broad range of vocational areas. Chemistry foundation degrees are available in areas such as applied chemistry, analytical and forensic science, and chemical and pharmaceutical science. They take two years to complete full-time and some are available to study part-time. If you wish to progress from a foundation degree it is possible to continue with your current studies for a further year (more if part-time) to achieve a full honours degree or study further professional qualifications.

You might study for a foundation degree as part of a Higher Apprenticeship.

 Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) are vocational, work-related qualifications that train you in a particular job sector. Many are designed with industry to ensure you gain the skills and knowledge employers are looking for. Chemistry related courses include analytical science, applied science and chemical science for industry.

For more information on HNCs, HNDs and foundation degrees, visit the UCAS website. You can search for foundation degrees on the Foundation Degree Course Search.


These can be an excellent route if you want to earn while you learn and they can lead to degree level study so could be a good way of avoiding student debt. Apprenticeships involve work-based learning and completing at least one nationally recognised qualification. As an apprentice, you will earn a wage and gain valuable professional experience in your chosen industry.

There are Advanced Level Apprenticeships available which you can take after GCSEs or equivalent and these could lead to employment in areas such as polymer processing, process manufacturing or laboratory and science technician.  These are called Apprenticeships in Wales and Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland. 

Higher Apprenticeships (England and Wales) are for those with A-levels or equivalent. A Higher Apprenticeship incorporates a work-based learning programme and leads to a nationally recognised qualification at Level 4 or above. It could even go up to a Level 7 (postgraduate) qualification depending on the industry. You could find yourself working for prestigious companies such as Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline and Takeda, all of whom offer Higher Apprenticeships.

There are a number of chemistry-related areas you could study on a Higher Apprenticeship:

Chemical science and life sciences covers industries such as pharmaceuticals, medical biotechnology, clinical research and trials, environmental testing, environmental and agricultural science. Typical jobs you might enter include cell culture scientist, clinical science assistant, quality control analyst, and biomedical or animal technician.

Process development covers the industries of chemical manufacturing and engineering, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, polymers, paints and coatings, cosmetics, household, and agricultural products. Typical roles would be process development technician or plant technician.

Healthcare science involves the large number of people with scientific and technical skills needed in health services. They support the medical staff in order to prevent, diagnose and treat illness. Almost every patient’s medical investigation or treatment will depend on the work of a healthcare scientist.  

Typical roles would be clinical biochemist, biomedical scientist or clinical support worker. They may also work in research and development in laboratory roles or conducting clinical trials. These are essential “behind the scenes” jobs which rely on technically skilled people.

 Food science draws from different subjects such as biology, chemical engineering, and biochemistry. There are important roles in research and development as well as working in the production of food products. Higher apprentices in food science may go on to specialise in food science, chemistry or biomedical sciences depending on their area of expertise.

For more information go to:

Or for more region-specific information:

Current apprenticehip vacancies can be found here and don't forget to check locally too, e.g. lcoal websites and newspapers.

Routes to becoming a professional chemist

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Whichever route you take, you will be able to progress in your career with further study and training and you could end up as a registered scientist or technician. The Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) award to provide recognition if you work in a technical role and you might progress to gain recognition as a Registered Scientist or Chartered Scientist



Registered Scientist (RSci) is for those working in scientific and higher technical roles. Candidates will typically be qualified to at least Level 5 and will be applying this knowledge to their roles. It provides recognition in its own right but can also be a springboard to recognition as a Chartered Scientist.

Did you know?

Chemistry graduates of English institutions in 2011/12 work in many different industries; 5% go on to work in architecture, engineering, and testing and analysis, 3% work in public administration and defence, with the largest proportion working in the education sector (19%).

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