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Careers in Chemistry

(41 Posts)
heylilbunny Fri 27-Mar-15 09:08:14

My 14 yr old DD loves chemistry and enjoys all the sciences as well as art and other subjects. She is very ambitious and I wondered if any chemists or others could give ideas of the range of careers open to chemists. She also is at native fluency in German and already has two years of French. I am aware of BASF as have many friends working for the company in Germany and the US. She has dual British/US citizenship. We are in London next week and have booked to have a tour of Imperial. We saw there is a 5 year Chemistry with Management undergrad degree there with a year in industry and a year in the business school which looks very interesting. She has been in German Gymnasium (grammar) but will start attending high school in the USA in August.

Any thoughts or experiences would be great.

MrsMarigold Fri 27-Mar-15 09:16:16

My cousin read chemistry and ended up as the CEO of an international mining company. He's retired now but still does some consultancy, he travelled the world with work and more recently did quite a lot of work in China. Imperial is very good.

wigglybeezer Fri 27-Mar-15 09:20:25

If you look up universities that are highly ranked for Chemistry they will usually list typical employment destinations for their graduates. I Have just done this for DS who is also 14 and thinking about chemistry.

I personally think it is a bit soon to think about specific courses, a bit of research to make sure appropriate exam courses are chosen and then leave it for a while.

heylilbunny Fri 27-Mar-15 09:32:22

I know it's early but we are visiting London for fun and during our visit to Harry Potter Studios yesterday she asked me if we could visit Imperial so I looked online this morning and they have one tour a week at this time of year so booked. It might be years before we are back in the UK so no harm in having a look. That's why I was asking about careers rather than courses. I have helped a number of kids apply to universities around the world including UK, Canada and USA so I also am always interested in interesting course options.

An excellent German chemistry student I advised is now in Canada on a scholarship. I just wondered what else is out there in chemistry job wise. We have a medic in the family, I am just not that aware of what else chemistry leads to.

Needmoresleep Fri 27-Mar-15 09:32:59

This will give her some indication of the top courses. I disagree with Wiggly. Courses at places like Imperial are incredibly competitive. Britain seems almost unique in offering very focussed three year Undergraduate courses at world ranked institutions. There will be plenty of applicants who apply to Imperial alongside an application to their home county.

What will be important it to gain an idea of what top Universities will be looking for in terms of grades for a candidate coming from the US system. If she needs to take various AP courses she might as well find out early. I don't know about chemistry, but Imperial often expects candidates to significantly exceed published entry requirements.

I'm sorry. I am no help on careers. Chemists I knew became top patent lawyers or very sucessful management consultants. Margaret Thatcher was a chemist...

I have a degree in Applied Chemistry from 25 years ago. I haven't kept in touch with many of my former student colleagues, but a lot went into things like materials science, environmental chemistry, teaching etc. I became an analytical chemist and have always worked in the private sector, I now work in quality assurance, still in science. My DH is also a chemist, he is a partner in a small specialist scientific business.

Have a look at this page from the Royal Society of Chemistry's website, it has a lot of good info. careers in chemistry

heylilbunny Fri 27-Mar-15 09:44:53

V. interesting Needmoresleep, yes I also agree that if you have focussed students there is no harm in making sure they know the standard and grades they will have to meet. I had a look online earlier and she would need at least 3 APs grade 5 for Imperial entry. She should be able to knock out the German pretty quickly over the next year and then can focus on math and science. Also by aiming high if you just miss you are still in a very strong position. A friend's American son missed his offer to Imperial by 1 point on his IB last year. His parents were relieved because they really had no plans (or means) to pay the International fees. The desire to attend Imperial really helped him focus on his studies and future in the last 18 months of school and he got great offers from US universities.

Now he is looking to do student exchanges and other means to spend some time abroad during his studies, so applying to the UK opened his eyes and options. He was offered places at other top UK universities but decided to go to the US.

heylilbunny Fri 27-Mar-15 09:46:13

Thanks for the link Whoknows

micah Fri 27-Mar-15 09:55:10

My chemistry friends are in drug development, cancer/medical research, medicinal chemistry.

There's always academia and research, with a chemistry degree you can do a phd in many fields and then on to research in universities or industry.

I would look at the eventual career as much as the degree

addictedtosugar Fri 27-Mar-15 09:58:27

I have a degree which includes Chemistry (along with physics)
I am currently working for an international manafacturing company, running the labs for novel research purposes. Next week I'm off to Europe to one of our factories to make 1000t of the material.
People that I have kept in touch with from my Uni days (15 yrs ago) are working in the pharmcetuical industry, designing new drugs, University researcher, SAHM, Accountant and management consultant. 4 of the 6 of us have PhD's (and ideally work would like me to have a PhD, but I got in with a Masters and experience). As part of my previous job, I got to visit Europe, Asia and Africa.

We did a sandwich year (so a year working in industry as yr 3 of a 4 yr course), and one bloke went to work in Germany.

Let me know if you woul;d like more info, or is your daughter has any questions for me.

I would say that the sandwich year was the single biggest factor in getting me into the career I ended up in. As someone who has recruited many chemistry graduates in the private sector over the years I would say that relevant work experience is very high on the list of things we look for on a CV. Post-grad qualifications are important in many careers, it wasn't so much the case 25 years ago when I graduated, but for careers in pure chemistry, or very competitive fields such as pharmaceutical research a PhD is likely to be necessary.

alteredimage Fri 27-Mar-15 10:10:24

If she is interested you should double check what the typical successful student is offering. Inter alia it is very common for top British Universities NOT to offer against qualifications gained in a mother tongue language. Eg if she were in England many universities would not offer against an A level in German.

TheWordFactory Fri 27-Mar-15 10:41:27

I have two mates who are chemists.

One was an oil analyst and earned enough cash to pack in work at 45 grin.

The other works for an investment bank, advising on pharma deals.

wigglybeezer Fri 27-Mar-15 11:00:38

St Andrews Chemistry dept has a good reputation ( not quite up there with Imperial but top in Scotland), it's a four year course so opportunity for breadth and they are very used to applicants from the American school system.

I need more sleep, just my personal point of view ( I am a bit guilty of over researching options for DS2 and so my advice for the OP is perhaps advice to myself ) I am assuming the OP's DD is the kind of child who is very motivated and will do their very best work regardless of aiming for a particular course or not , I wasn't implying they should aim low or slack off until 16. All the good courses seem to need top marks for Chemistry.

My neighbour has a son at Imperial but he hasn't graduated yet, he is super bright so I am assuming he will do a PHD.

I have found Student Room forums very interesting for answering questions about subjects, application processes and the like, from past and present students.

Bonsoir Fri 27-Mar-15 16:40:43

An uncle of mine recently retired from a long and lucrative career as parent attorney. He brought a degree in chemistry and fluent German with him at the start of his career.

A cousin of mine also read chemistry and is nearing retirement in the pharmaceutical research industry. Less lucrative but not bad nonetheless.

cdtaylornats Fri 27-Mar-15 20:00:23

A friend of mine studied chemistry at Heriot-Watt, joined Dow Corning in Wales, then transferred to their plant in Belgium and then to a plant in the US finally returning to Wales for a few years before becoming an illustrator of children's books.

She enjoyed the chemistry and it gave her a career and travel for 20 years.

fonclette Wed 01-Apr-15 17:09:42

My oldest daughter is studying a chemistry masters at St Andrews and loves it but has kept a maths element in case she wants to change her direction latre. She is off to Lille for the summer at the grande Ecole de Chimie to do a research internship as she speaks French. I am from an engineering background and I think the work potential for chemists is huge and would encourage it. My youngest daughter is off to do a Pharmacology degree this year so another one in similar field, any encouragement into the sciences has to be a good thing, especially for girls :-)

thatsn0tmyname Wed 01-Apr-15 17:12:02

If she enjoys chemistry and the arts, try looking for careers in fabric development. My friend worked for Speedo, developing new textiles for sports.

MagratGarlik Fri 03-Apr-15 17:47:36

Chemistry graduate (and Imperial alumnus) here too.

I've worked in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, food/nutrition research medical research and academia (before my current role).

Most roles within the sciences, even outside academia, do require a PhD these days, so think about study for the long haul.

Ime though, chemistry is the most versatile of all the sciences and an excellent choice. A course with a placement year is a good option. Ensure the courses you are looking at will allow membership of the Royal Society of Chemistry, not associate membership.

Fugacity Fri 03-Apr-15 17:55:07

For chemistry degrees, expect to have to do a research MSc or PhD in order to get recruited into a blue chip company, so 5 - 8 years of HE.

If she has an altitude for Physics and Mathematics, the consider the best degree ever - Chemical Engineering.

OublietteBravo Fri 03-Apr-15 18:01:09

I read chemistry at Oxford, and then did a PhD in biochemistry at Imperial. Following my PhD I spent 7 years working as a research scientist (3 years in academia, and 4 years in industry). I then changed career and re-trained as a patent attorney (this was fully funded by my employer). So I'm now an in-house patent attorney. Which is a well-paid and interesting job with regular hours (I work CET - so 07:30-16:00, 5 days per week).

My contemporaries from Oxford have a variety of careers: lecturer, accountant, industrial scientist, investment banker, management consultant, monk(!).

I think chemistry is a really good science degree - there are loads of potential careers at the end of it.

OnceMoreAgainWithFeeling Fri 03-Apr-15 18:24:31

I did a chemistry degree, in Manchester, (Londoner, i avoided Imperial and all London unis)

It's a bloody brilliant degree grin I loved it all. I am also pretty artsy - i paint and draw, and did philosophy, art, physics and chemistry at a level. i think an arty lean is an advantage for a science.

In terms of post degree - I work in advertising - i looked into PHDs at Imperial actually, but the ones i was interested in lost funding. Most of my friends from uni work in either finance or software/programming. A few have gone into actual science, not most though. It is very versatile. A sandwich year is great but only if you know, or think you know what you want to DO imo.

I think my degree gives me a real edge at work - i can deal with huge reams of data, analyse outputs quickly, write clearly, concisely and fast, and i don't panic if there is a fire - there is not a job going in which these are not advantageous!

It teaches you analytics, problem solving, writing, a healthy scepticism of your own results and a total lack of fear of numbers, and is great fun.

AuntieDee Fri 03-Apr-15 19:22:48

One thing to make sure is that the degree she doesn't isn't too generic or she could find herself having to do another year at uni to top up her credits to make the degree relevant to the job she wants to do.

Also ensure she does her year in industry. As an employer, I would always choose someone who has done the year, over someone who hasn't as they have that crucial experience and have proven they can hack the job. Many students skip the year in favour of finishing early and end up working as a low paid assistant role until they have enough experience. Also in that year, the employer is obliged to give study time to allow completion of and state registration portfolios. If this is done after uni it can take much longer as the employer is no longer obliged and it has to be done more in your own time.

Another thing to ensure is that the degree is accredited. Not all of the 'good' unis are. Take Manchester for example where I did mine - the Manchester University which is supposed to be the 'better' uni doesn't offer an accredited degree so any students in my area of work would have to do an additional year qualift. Manchester Meteropolitan University who the students at Manchester Uni refer to as Mickey Mouse University actually does run an accredited course despite being viewed as a lesser university.

I work as a Biomedical Scientist and one of the areas of work is Biochemistry. It's medical diagnostic work in hospital labs and some hospitals offer day release to uni whilst working full time. I did it this way and was paid 80% of the basic level pay until my degree was finished - currently this works out about £16k. There are also apprenticeships available for those who may not have got the grades (or done the right subjects) to get into uni. It's basically an advanced Btec to get into uni then you get the trainee rate.

TinklyLittleLaugh Mon 06-Apr-15 13:35:36

My DH is a chemist, worked in technical sales and now we have our own company.

Actually many of the chemists I know have very well paid careers, easily as lucrative as law or accountancy.

By the way, we have dealings with lots of Unis and I agree Man Met seems to be better in terms of teaching. But Manchester Uni is much more prestigous and world renowned for it's research. You'd be bonkers to go to Man Met if you could get in Man Uni.

AuntieDee Mon 06-Apr-15 19:29:16

What's the point in going to man uni if you can't do anything with the degree. A lot of the degrees aren't acrreditied that they do - fine if you want to remain in acedamia, not so much if you actually want a job...

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