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Posted at: May 16, 2018, 12:43 AM; last updated: May 16, 2018, 12:43 AM (IST)CHEMISTRY

Let your love for the lab blossom

With a degree in chemistry up your sleeve you can look forward to numerous exciting job roles

Usha Albuquerque

If chemistry is your favourite subject, but you are not too keen on either an engineering or medical career —  no need to despair. There are hundreds of different options for you with chemistry. 

Not only does the study of chemistry open your mind to new and unexplored vistas of knowledge, but you can also look forward to exciting careers practically in any field — from developing a cure for cancer or diabetes, to experimenting with bio-genetic plants, and food processing to space science — it is an ever-expanding field. 

Chemistry is the study of matter and energy and how these interact with each other. It is everywhere around you, it’s in the food and the water that you consume, the clothes that you wear, your daily soap, detergent, medicines, etc. There is a chemical reaction at work even in the attraction we have for one another. 

The main three categories of science are biology, chemistry and physics. While physics is an earth or physical science, biology and chemistry are life sciences, dealing with living organisms. Chemistry is often called the connecting science, or central science, as it connects physics, biology, geology, and environmental science.

If you are a science student who loves chemistry, there are a range of areas of work  — there is the chemist who studies what substances are made  up of, and how they behave when mixed together. The biochemist finds out about the chemical processes that make all living things work. The pharmacist makes drugs and medicines to treat diseases, while the physical chemist  studies the atoms and molecules that makes up all matter. An industrial chemist works in chemical, petro-chemical, food processing, paint, plastics and textile industries.  

In addition there are many other fields related to biology and chemistry such as biotechnology, environmental science, ecology, agriculture, food sciences, genetics, clinical medicine, pharmacology, climatology, toxicology and so on with many different study and career options.

Moreover, the study of chemistry helps you develop a number of skills, including analytical and logical thinking skills, a high degree of numeracy, computing skills, laboratory skills, time management skills, the ability to write technical reports and an appreciation of the need for accuracy and attention to detail which will enable you to look at a variety of jobs related to your degree, as well as those where a degree in chemistry would be useful

Work Profiles

There are a number of careers where a first degree in chemistry is essential or directly relevant. You could become an analytical chemist, a biomedical chemist, an industrial research scientist, materials technologist, or quality controller in a particular field of industry. These could be the chemical, petro-chemical, food processing, paint, plastics and textile industries.  Many of these may require a further degree. 

  • Analytical chemist performs structural, quantitative, product and formulation analyses. 
  • Biomedical scientist carries out laboratory investigations on human samples necessary for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness or disease. 
  • Industrial researcher organises and carries out systematic investigations to develop new products or improve existing products to meet consumer demands, 
  • Materials technologist conducts technical investigations related to the development and production of a wide range of materials, eg glass, metals, polymers and plastics
  • Quality assurance officer develops and applies tests to ensure raw materials, intermediates and finished products meet specified standards of composition, texture, taste, appearance and performance. 
  • You can also go into research, conduct experiments and develop theoretical knowledge in a variety of theoretical or applied areas, or even into teaching and academics.  
Job prospects

Careers in which a degree in chemistry or the chemistry graduate’s broad scientific background and analytical approach to problems would be useful, include:

  • Clinical biochemist carries out tests on samples from patients to assist with the investigation, diagnosis and treatment of disease. 
  • Environmental scientist carries out and interprets laboratory and field studies to identify pollutants and  their effect on living systems and in the environment
  • Forensic scientist analyses samples in relation to crime. Writes reports which are presented as evidence in courts
  • Scientific journalist, or technical writer researches and writes scientific news and articles for the general public or for more specialist audiences
  • Sales executive, technical negotiates sales and generates new business between producers and their clients, particularly in areas related to chemicals.
For many of these fields a further master’s degree in the specialised field, or a PG diploma or MBA may be required or useful, after graduation in chemistry. 

Other areas of further study could include: genetics, biotechnology, biochemistry, environmental sciences, and food/ dairy/ plastics technology, and even business management. 

Polymer sciences is another specialised field of chemistry which deals with  moulded materials, plastic, as well as synthetic fibres It is  an important and growing field as its applications are versatile particularly in industries related to plastics, packaging, sports, medicine, perfumes and preservatives, plastic materials etc. 

Your Study Route

For a career in chemistry you would need to start with chemistry as one of the subjects of the science stream in Class XI & XII. You can then consider a BSc in chemistry while you think about the options open to you after graduation. 

With chemistry in Class XII  you can also directly opt for a BSc in botany, micro-biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, food technology, genetics, environment science, forensic science, petrochemicals, polymer sciences, pharmacy to get into these field. 

It is also possible to study subjects unrelated to your first degree at postgraduate level.  After BSc in chemistry you can still take up a degree or diploma course in law, businessm management, mass communications, journalism, hotel management, catering, marketing and advertising, retail or event management, and so on, as well as any number of new fields in the emerging employment market. 

You can go for a post-graduate degree or diploma in any of these areas for excellent career prospects. Employers are happy to take on students with a background in science, as they will have disciplined minds and strong analytical skills.

Where to work?

A degree in chemistry can enable you to work with organisations in industry, engineering, information technology, as well as stimulating careers in research and the building of knowledge in any particular field of science. While many scientific jobs are research oriented and are located in universities or institutes, a number of jobs involve the application of science to an industrial and engineering problem. 

Chemistry students can also opt for a career in an applied field such as pharmaceuticals, food technology, agro-chemicals, plastics etc  where your knowledge of chemistry can be useful in jobs related to sales and marketing, operations and manufacturing. If you enjoy conducting lab experiments, are curious and love exploring the world around you, let your love of science lead you into any of the innumerable fascinating and successful careers in the sciences, which can be financially lucrative too.

Employment opportunities exist in

  • Chemical and allied industries such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, petrochemicals, toiletries, plastics, polymers, etc
  • Other industries such as food and drink
  • Utilities, energy - oil, gas, electricity, water, nuclear
  • Health authorities
  • Government and its agencies

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