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Would you like to know more about what it’s like to have a career in chemistry? Watch this video with Dr Sarah Barry, a lecturer in chemistry, to discover what it’s like to work in this area.

What is chemistry?

Chemistry is the science of how molecules interact and react with each other. Chemists study the structure of molecules to understand and predict their chemical behaviour including the forces that bond them together.

Many chemists use their understanding of the properties of molecules to develop new drug molecules, for example, or to design new materials using nanoparticles and biopolymers. Chemists also create new detection methods for use in medical diagnostics to identify disease markers or in environmental sciences to quantify atmospheric pollutants.

For example, Dr Sarah Barry and her team use their understanding of chemistry to investigate how bacteria synthesise complex molecules. Many of these naturally-produced molecules are in fact clinically-used antibiotics.  Understanding how these molecules are made by bacteria will enable the development of new antibiotics to treat antibiotic resistant infections.

The same laws that govern the reaction of molecules in a test tube govern how all of the processes that keep you alive work. That’s what fascinates me about chemistry.'

Dr Sarah Barry, chemistry researcher



If you’re interested in a career in chemistry, the first thing you need is an interest in the subject! You will need to study chemistry as well as mathematics at school and usually another science subject.

You can then go on to study an undergraduate programme in Chemistry or a related subject such as Natural Sciences. You can continue your studies beyond this to gain a master’s degree and PhD in Chemistry or a related subject.

A degree in chemistry will of course prepare you for a scientific career but will also help you develop skills that will appeal to any employer, such as critical thinking, problem solving, presentation skills, independent learning and collaborative working.

Career opportunities

A degree in chemistry opens up many career possibilities for graduates. Some students continue their studies and obtain Master’s degrees and PhDs, becoming scientific researchers in academia and a variety of industries, such as pharmaceutical, renewable energy and biotechnology.

There are also opportunities for chemistry graduates to move into science-related careers outside of the lab, including:

  • public policy and government
  • science communications and publishing
  • forensics
  • patent law
  • teaching. 

Even in unrelated areas such as the financial sector the analytical thinking and numeracy skills shown by chemistry graduates is greatly valued.

Top tip

If you’re interested in studying chemistry, we recommend you to do lots of research on the course you’re interested in. Go to open days and ask academics lots of questions - that’s why they are there!

This will help you understand the differences between the scientific disciplines and courses, such as the differences between chemistry and biochemistry, or chemistry and pharmacy. After that you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about which course is right for you.

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