Analytical chemists assess the chemical structure and nature of substances. Their skills are needed for a variety of purposes including drug development, forensic analysis and toxicology.
Analytical chemists can specialise in areas as varied as toxicology, pharmaceuticals and forensics.
What does an analytical chemist do?
Analytical chemists analyse samples using a range of techniques such as electro-chromatography, high performance liquid chromatography and spectroscopy. They are employed by a variety of public and private sector organisations, and can specialise in areas such as toxicology, pharmaceuticals, quality control or forensics.
Typical responsibilities include:
- using a range of software, techniques and equipment to carry out research and analysis
- analysing and interpreting data
- making sure that data is accurately recorded 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 adhered to
- preparing product licence documentation
- liaising with customers, suppliers and research/scientific staff
- developing new analytical methods
Typical employers of analytical chemists
- Government agencies
- Publicly funded research councils
- Public health laboratories
- Environmental agencies
- Specialist research organisations
- Testing companies
- Private food, materials, polymers, biotechnology, pharmaceutical and chemical companies
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. There are also opportunities for geochemists, materials scientists, mathematicians and environmental scientists within the field of analytical chemistry. Practical research/laboratory work experience is helpful, although full training on the job is often available.
A postgraduate qualification in analytical chemistry may be beneficial for careers in research or for career advancement in the long term and may allow entry to the profession at a more senior level.
Key skills for analytical chemists
Analytical work demands patience, determination, creativity, flexibility and decisiveness. Employers increasingly look for both research and transferable skills including:
- 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
- communication and presentation skills
Recommended IBDP subjects needed to apply to university to study Chemistry
Chemistry HL. Some unis will want a second science or Maths at HL