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Careers Centre

Chemistry - using your degree


Popular career areas for Chemistry students:

A degree from Scotland's first university is an excellent start to any future career. St Andrews has a reputation for excellence and the ability to attract the brightest students world wide. With this as a starting point you are well on the way to impressing future employers.

What do chemists do?
Chemists make medicines that help in the fight against cancer and AIDS; improve the colour and taste of foods; investigate the formulations for cosmetics; measure the alcohol content of drinks; improve the way that new materials are used in, eg, roller blades and mountain bikes; and protect the environment for future generations.

Careers in industry
We live in an age of chemistry-based technology, and future demands will require chemical expertise in many areas of the chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. There are many different areas you could work in for example; Research and development, Production, Marketing and sales, Management, etc.

Careers in commerce
After the chemical industry, the commercial sector is one of the largest employers of chemistry graduates.

A chemistry degree is a good training for the world of commerce and employers recognise the key skills of numeracy, problem-solving and communication that are an integral part of all chemistry courses. Whether in accountancy or banking, a chemistry degree can open the door to a successful career in the financial world.

Teaching and lecturing
The teaching and lecturing professions have much to offer. They present you with challenges and rewards that few other jobs can offer - including variety and constant intellectual stimulation. You should have an in-depth subject knowledge and be able to use a range of suitable teaching techniques which help your students to learn in a stimulating environment.

Science Journalism
Science journalists have a role to play in acting as intermediaries between science and the public. They have a crucial role in explaining technological innovations and the complex technicalities of the latest discoveries in pure science, whether working in television, radio, newspapers or specialist science magazines.

Careers in law
Patent agents are professionals who have a grounding in science and are trained in specialist areas of law.

The majority of students that qualify as solicitors do so after having studied law at university or college. However, there are opportunities available for non-law graduates and non-graduates to enter the profession.

Review your degree skills

The profile below identifies the skills that can be developed through the study of your discipline based on subject benchmark statements developed by UK higher education academic communities. It may help you to identify the valuable skills that you can offer to potential employers.

Where do our Chemistry graduates go?

Recent Chemistry graduates
KPMG - Financial Analyst              Universal Utilities Ltd - Product Support Advisor           FTI Consulting - EFC - Research Analyst         
William Blythe Ltd - Development Chemist               Velocys - Assistant Research Chemist Cancer Research Technology - Associate Scientist
Graduates who are established in their profession

National Nuclear Laboratory - Plant Chemist

Oliver Wyman - Senior Consultant

Spires Vet Clinic - Veterinary Surgeon

Novartis - Computational Medicinal Chemist

Procter & Gamble - Associate Director Sales

Charles River Associates - Assistant Scientist

Reuben Holmes

Reuben graduated in 2011. He is a Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Technical Advisor at Sellafield Ltd.

Read Reuben's case study

Olivia Steward

Olivia graduated in 2012.  She is a Research and Development Chemist at SynOil Energy Services.

Read Olivia's case study


 Visit the Graduate Destinations page to see what graduates and postgraduates from your School are doing now.

Network with alumni

Many jobs and internships are not advertised.  One of the best ways to find out about these ‘hidden opportunities’ is by networking.  Networking can also help secure a job that is publicised or is part of a training scheme.  Your contacts can open doors, set up meetings, help prepare you for interviews, and provide you with an inside look at a company or industry. 

How to contact alumni

There are two main ways to contact alumni on-line:

  1. Saint Connect - brings together alumni and current students to facilitate networking, enable informal mentoring, provide industry discussion groups, and enable graduates and students to stay up to date with their student societies and sports teams.
  2. LinkedIn - most comprehensive resource to connect with alumni is the University of St Andrews LinkedIn – Alumni Tool. There are also many LinkedIn St Andrews Groups, mainly based on location, which you can join to network with fellow students and alumni, eg St Andrews North America Careers Link.

Postgraduate study/research

In 2014, 57.8% of Chemistry graduates went on to do further study.  
Advisers are able and willing to discuss postgraduate applications - vocational and academic. 

Popular postgraduate institutions and courses:

See also:

Summer internships/work experience

Campus Opportunities

Work experience is becoming ‘essential’ in the UK when it comes to securing graduate level employment.

During the 2015-16 academic year, more than 90% of the UK’s leading graduate employers offered paid work experience programmes for students and recent graduates. Altogether, 55% of St Andrews finalists had completed some element of work experience with a graduate employer whilst at university – much higher than the survey average. More than two-fifths had a part-time job during term-time and three-fifths had some form of casual vacation work. Source: High Fliers –The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2016.

Case studies

Key links and resources

Career related

Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines

These can often be a good source of information on internships, jobs and postgraduate study.