If I study chemistry, will I have to work in a lab?
There are many different careers open to you if you want to work in a laboratory but a chemistry qualification also opens up a wide range of alternative career options. In fact only about a third of chemistry graduates get a job working in a laboratory. Studying chemistry can provide you with a whole range of useful skills that are highly valued by employers in all sectors.
A chemistry qualification provides a knowledge and skills base from which to build many other careers. Let’s examine the additional skills you might gain through studying chemistry:
Scientific and technical knowledge
Obviously you will have specialised scientific and technical knowledge and this can be used in many jobs, an example being a patent attorney. In this job you need knowledge of chemistry but it is combined with a specialist area of law. Sometimes just having a technical or science background can be extremely attractive to employers, who may then wish to train you in another skill or discipline.
Essential in chemistry, this skill is valued by employers for many careers including accountancy. In fact it’s not just accountancy where numeracy is essential as it would be equally valuable in careers such as sales and marketing, retail and IT, to name just a few.
IT and technology
You will have learned to understand and use computer software/models, processing data, using spreadsheets, word-processing and internet communication. All these skills can be used effectively in many jobs, from management to finance and marketing, through to IT itself.
Your course will have enabled you to communicate in many ways through the written and spoken word and these skills are essential in most jobs. It is particularly important in jobs like publishing, and teaching where communication skills are key.
You will have developed advanced literacy skills by writing detailed reports and communication skills whilst working with fellow students and lecturers. See how these skills are used in this job profile.
Presentation skills are also important and these will have been developed as part of your course when presenting research findings. Communication is essential in a job such as policy researcher at Cancer Research UK, but it could equally be applied to many jobs in the media, in sales and marketing, and in management.
You will have developed analytical and problem solving skills through examining and interpreting results and making evaluations based on limited information. Problem solving can be useful in many jobs and in management consultancy it is an essential skill.
Time management and organisation are shown by planning and executing experiments, undertaking individual and team project work, and completing your dissertation. Through your course you will have managed your own work so self-management is another skill you will have developed. You will also display logical thinking and attention to detail through monitoring and systematically recording chemical properties, events and changes.
Project and time management
You will have planned assignments, seen them through and made conclusions. You will have managed your time through producing work to deadlines. You will also have developed data-handling skills and the ability to undertake research.
Persistence could well be another skill from when you had to try again and rethink a task or experiment.
You will have proved you are an independent thinker through conducting your own investigations and although you might not think it, you will have shown creativity and innovation in your work, as that is what chemistry is all about. Chemists have done things from founding their own skincare company to working with flavours and becoming an innovation director.
Teamwork is another valuable skill gained through undertaking group project work. Also, by working through and completing your course, you will have started to develop management skills which could be developed further in a career.
This all goes to show that a chemistry degree doesn’t teach you just chemistry; the skills you will gain whilst studying are far broader and can provide a starting point for a whole range of careers.
For more ideas on careers other than chemistry why not try something different?