Careers In Chemistry: Analytical chemist

Do you have a strong science-based degree along with good technical skills? this could be the job for you

Analytical chemists use a diverse range of methods to investigate the chemical nature of substances. The aim is to identify and understand the substance and how it behaves in different conditions.

In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, you would be involved throughout the drug development process. 

This would include studying the physical or chemical properties of drug substances and formulations, with a view to determining the quality and stability of drug products.

Types of analytical chemist

Work may be carried out in areas as diverse as:
  • drug formulation and development;
  • chemical or forensic analysis;
  • process development;
  • product validation;
  • quality control;
  • toxicology.

Techniques or activities vary depending on the employer or specialist area, but may include:
  • analysing samples from various sources to provide information on compounds or quantities of compounds present;
  • using analytical techniques and instrumentation, such as gas and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), ion chromatography, electrochromatography and spectroscopy (infrared and ultraviolet, amongst others);
  • interpreting data and meeting strict guidelines on documentation when recording data;
  • reporting scientific results;
  • developing techniques for the analysis of drug products and chemicals;
  • working collaboratively in cross-functional teams;
  • liaising with customers, staff and suppliers;
  • being aware of, and keeping up to date with, health and safety issues;
  • validating methods and equipment.
At a more senior level, it's likely you'll be involved in preparing documentations for product licence applications and setting specifications for finished products.
  • Typical graduate starting salaries for analytical chemist jobs are in the region of 22,281.73 to 32,767.25 Dollars. Those with a PhD may start on higher salaries.
  • With experience or at a more senior level, salaries range from 32,767.25 to 49,806.22 Dollars.
  • Senior analytical chemists with management responsibilities could earn over 65,534.50 dollars with extensive experience.
Salaries vary depending on the employer and location. Benefits also differ according to the employer, but free or subsidised medical insurance is common.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours
The working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, possibly with some extra hours required depending upon the workload and sample schedule. Part-time work and career breaks may be possible.
Self-employment is very unlikely due to the significant financial investment in equipment and staffing, plus the need for accreditation. There are opportunities for freelance consultancy work, although large companies tend to have their own experts.

What to expect

  • Working in multidisciplinary teams is common, as is communicating with scientists and customers from both within and outside the company.
  • At the start of your career, it's likely you'll be predominantly lab-based but as you reach more senior levels you'll work more in an office.
  • Jobs are widely available throughout the country and tend to be in large, localised centres. Research and development (R&D) work can be more commonly found in south England.
  • You may find the work occasionally stressful due to tight deadlines and pressure to solve problems as quickly as possible. Routine analysis can involve doing the same job for long periods of time, although this is less likely at more senior levels.
  • Typically, travel within a working day and absence from home overnight are not that common. Overseas travel is rare, although secondments abroad may be possible as you reach higher grades.

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