Top 10 careers in chemistry

University of Surrey students in a chemistry lab

There are few parts of our lives chemistry doesn’t touch in one way of another. Keeping us healthy and saving the environment, solving crimes and developing new products – these are just some of the fascinating career options available working with chemicals.

Here we have laid out 10 of the careers a chemistry degree can set you up for. But remember, this isn’t an exhaustive list – an essential part of being a scientist is having an inquisitive mind. Who knows where studying this essential discipline at the University of Surrey might take you?

Chemical engineer

Almost every product we use or buy today has had a chemical engineer work on it in one way or another. Petrol, detergents, paper – practical, everyday items that we take for granted.

To make these innovations, chemical engineers work with raw chemicals throughout the production process. From the design and optimisation of new production and safety procedures to troubleshooting existing processes to improve them for future scientists.

Chemical engineers take their in-depth knowledge of chemistry to problem-solve across various industries, including petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and materials.

Research Scientist

Research scientists are often the people behind the scenes, conducting experiments that advance industries’ capabilities. Another highly collaborative role, research scientists work together to explore new theories and methodologies – analysing their findings and presenting them in journals or at conferences.

In many ways the backbone of the chemical industry, their expertise helps advance chemistry as a whole. Sometimes a theory-intensive position, a key part of being a research scientist is staying up to date with the field’s developments so as to be able to adapt research accordingly.


All living things react to chemicals in different ways. Toxicologists study these affects to discover the potential risks or hazards particular substances may have to humans, animals, plants and people.

Through research, toxicologists seek to understand how toxins work, developing strategies to prevent or treat them. As experts in their field, they are trusted advisors to regulatory agencies, providing counsel and developing guidelines that keep us safe.


By analysing substances to identify their composition and properties, chemists create compounds that are used across a range of industries. These often then become the raw chemicals chemical engineers use to create new products.

Working in conjunction with other scientists, chemists also test and perform quality control for products like pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics. A highly innovative role, chemists are regularly on the frontlines of some of science’s most fascinating discoveries.

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians put their knowledge to work solving crimes. While not action-packed in the way tv shows and movies make their roles out to be, this is still an exciting and unique career path.

Forensic science technicians work with law enforcement to collect and analyse physical evidence from crime scenes. They then use scientific methods to determine the connections between the substances they find and criminal activities.

They need to have a broad knowledge and sometimes the ability to improvise, as it is impossible to know what they might come across in the field. And while forensic science technicians do sometimes present at conferences, they are more likely found giving evidence in a courtroom.

Chemistry Teacher

Whether at schools, universities or as private tutors, chemistry teachers share their knowledge with the people who may go on to commit to any of these scientific careers. To do this, they need to develop lesson plans and show how to conduct experiments that enhance understanding.

An important part of teaching chemistry is being able to communicate complex ideas in simple terms, inspiring and guiding students to develop inquisitive and critical thinking. Not only do chemistry teachers have to keep abreast of any scientific advancements, they also need to know of any developments in education and teaching methodologies.


All living beings are made up of countless types of chemical compounds. Biochemists study these compounds to understand the chemical processes and substances within living organisms. They then translate their findings into ways to help keep us all healthy.

Their methodologies include conducting research into the molecular mechanisms of new diseases and developing new drugs and therapies based on biochemical principles. Essential for the progression of all living things, biochemists also work closely with medical professionals and researchers to advance healthcare.

Environmental Scientist

Just as living organisms are made up of chemical compounds, so too is the environment around us. By monitoring air, water, and soil, environmental scientists seek to understand the effect humans have on the environment.

Using this knowledge, they develop strategies that prevent pollution and help put in place policies that promote sustainable resource management. Their knowledge is vital for society’s continued existence, and their expertise is used to guide policymakers and industries about environmental regulations.


In a nutshell, crystallographers are experts at determining atomic structures. Using X-rays and other techniques, they study the arrangements of atoms, contributing heavily to our understanding of molecular structures and their properties.

Their knowledge is necessary for a range of disciplines, and as such, crystallographers often find themselves working together with many different kinds of scientists. This collaboration means they can apply their findings to solve all manner of complex scientific problems.


From paracetamol to penicillin, and everything in between, pharmacologists study the effects drugs have on biological systems. Their knowledge is critical for the advancement and development of research into new medications and therapies.

A truly broad career path, pharmacologists collaborate with professionals across academia, industry and regulatory agencies. The work they do assessing the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products is key to the development of new, life-saving drugs.

Study Chemistry at the University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is one of the UK’s leading research universities. The Complete University Guide 2024 ranked us 16th in the UK for chemistry, and the Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 placed us 22nd.

This success can be attributed in part to our high staff-to-student ratio, allowing our students more contact time with our exception faculty. Their work is helped along by some of the country’s best science facilities – providing our students the tools they need to make the most of their degrees. Students then have the chance to take what they have learned and put it into practice on our award-winning professional training placements. This is all a formula for success, with 94% of our chemistry students in employment or further study within six months.

Start your journey towards a career in chemistry by studying on one of our pathway programmes at the University of Surrey International Study Centre. Explore our website to find out more about our programmes, entry requirements and fees. If you’re looking for a job in chemistry, the University of Surrey is the place to begin.


Is chemistry a good degree?

Chemistry is an invaluable degree choice that can provide you with a diverse range of career opportunities and transferable skills. Studying it at a leading university will help you gain the professional expertise in this essential scientific discipline required to begin the career of your choice.

What chemistry jobs pay the most?

Research scientists are among the best-paid chemistry jobs available, with salaries  (source SCI Journal)

Are chemistry degrees in demand?

There is always more to learn and new research to conduct, so chemistry degrees remain in constant demand. Their importance across almost every industry, and the need for innovative new problem-solvers, means businesses are always on the lookout for promising chemistry graduates.