Chemist PhD careers: salaries, duties and requirements

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A chemistry PhD is ideal for those who feel passionate about chemistry and wish to expand their knowledge even further than previous postgraduate certifications such as a Masters. Gaining a PhD enables you to develop a range of highly transferable skills and provides you with access to a range of reputable careers. Prior to enrolling in a PhD programme, it's valuable to consider what career paths you can pursue following your PhD. In this article, we list 11 chemistry PhD careers detailing the national average salary, the primary duties involved and the requirements for each role.

Related: Why study chemistry?

11 chemistry PhD careers

Here's a list of chemistry PhD careers to pursue if you're passionate about this field, including details of their average salaries, primary duties and requirements:

1. Patent attorney

National average salary: £68,275 per year

Primary duties: Primary attorneys specialise in products and have a thorough knowledge to defend a client's legal rights regarding existing patents. Other primary duties include the legal establishment of new patents for clients and the general assistance of clients and their employers during the patent process. This assistance includes drafting the invention description and establishing vital communications to ensure the patent is successfully gained.

Requirements: To be a patent attorney, a law degree is not always required. Instead, employers look for candidates who have obtained degrees in subjects like engineering or a hard science discipline to qualify as technical and scientific knowledge. Some employers may expect you to have completed a relevant master's degree or PhD to qualify.

2. Product manager

National average salary: £52,912 per year

Primary duties: Product managers work to oversee the entire development process of a product. This includes creating and designing new ideas and testing these ideas with consumers and working to build prototypes of these products. A chemistry-based background can help a product manager to have a better understanding of the potential and feasible product schemes and designs accessible.

Requirements: Requirements for this role include a bachelor's degree in chemistry or a degree in a science-related discipline. Employers looking to hire someone in this role actively look for candidates who have acquired extensive, relevant, hands-on and practical experience in product development.

3. Technical writer

National average salary: £38,485 per year

Primary duties: The primary duties of a technical writer involves researching, outlining, drafting and editing a range of technical writing pieces. These pieces include instruction manuals, journal articles and other forms of documents that explain complex subjects in simplistic and accessible language. Technical writers, focusing on chemistry, may keep readers up to date with the latest developments within the field. It can also be a duty of a technical writer to prepare documents for professionals, for example, lab safety guides or chemical hazard information sheets.

Requirements: Requirements for this role include a bachelor's degree in a science discipline or in an English-related discipline as this guarantees that candidates have excellent communication skills needed for this role. Other skills required include attention to detail, research skills and knowledge of wide-ranging subjects.

4. Business development manager

National average salary: £37,771 per year

Primary duties: Business development managers work to find growth opportunities for their companies. The primary duties of this role include researching new markets, establishing stakeholder relationships and arranging appointments with a range of sales executives. A chemistry PhD provides them with the necessary research skills for this role, including summarising and analysing data.

Requirements: Requirements for this role include a bachelor's degree in business or related subject to the company of application. Most employers want candidates with at least three years of experience working in business or a related field and those with refined and developed soft skills like organisation and time management.

5. Pharmacologist

National average salary: £36,466 per year

Primary duties: Pharmacologists work to assess and analyse new compounds or substances in medicinal products. The primary duties of a pharmacologist include evaluating a drug's effect on the mind and body by conducting clinical trials and reporting data and findings. Some pharmacologists work to research the potentially deadly effects of harmful substances and chemicals. Other primary duties include investigating drugs and other substances to determine their biological systems and safety.

Requirements: This role requires a science-related degree to qualify. The preferred subject for this specific role is pharmacology but any science discipline is acceptable, especially microbiology, physiology and biochemistry degrees. Some employers may expect and, in some cases even require, a postgraduate degree to qualify for the role.

Related: What does a pharmacologist do? (With skills and how-to)

6. Chemical engineer

National average salary: £35,750 per year

Primary duties: Chemical engineers work in the production of medicines, food, fuel and a range of other products. Their primary duties revolve around the development of new industrial processes and designing new equipment and process plants. They also work to enhance existing equipment.

Requirements: Typically, a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering or at least chemistry is typically needed for this role. Obtaining a chemistry PhD may significantly increase a candidate's chances of securing a role as a chemical engineer as it's an extremely competitive field and a wide range of both hard and soft skills are advantageous for this role. This role requires extensive knowledge of other fields, including biology, physics and mathematics. Gaining valuable experience or certifications in these areas is extremely beneficial.

Related: What does a formulation chemist do? (With duties and skills)

7. Material scientist

National average salary: £34,015 per year

Primary duties: Material scientists conduct intense research about the different properties and structures of materials, including metals, ceramics, polymers and alloys. Other primary duties include conducting and filing reports on the findings they get, preparing manuscripts, proposals and manuals and working to enhance existing products and develop entirely new ones.

Requirements: A bachelor's degree in material science, chemistry or a related subject is often a requirement to become a material scientist. A bachelor's degree in these areas qualifies candidates for an entry-level job in this field. For a higher, more senior position as a material scientist, employers may expect a master's degree or a PhD.

Related: How to become a materials scientist: a step-by-step guide

8. Environmental scientist

National average salary: £31,009 per year

Primary duties: Environmental scientists work to study threats to the natural environment and threats to the human population. The duty of an environmental scientist is to preserve the natural resources that the earth has to offer whilst also preserving the earth as well. An environmental scientist, who has a specialist discipline in chemistry, may work to gather and analyse a range of data relating to the effects of natural chemical resources alongside the impact of man-made compositions on the environment.

Requirements: Requirements for this role include a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject, including environmental science, environmental bioscience or environmental engineering. Other scientific degrees are also relevant, including chemistry and microbiology. A chemistry PhD isn't required for this role, but it may increase a candidate's chances of securing a role.

9. Toxicologist

National average salary: £30,993 per year

Primary duties: Toxicologists develop and administer toxicology tests, design and plan experiments and trials, test and devise hypotheses and analyse ranges of data. In some cases, the duties of a toxicologist also include presenting evidence and findings in court and carrying out field studies.

Requirements: The requirement for this role is a bachelor's degree in an appropriate science subject, such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, life sciences or medicinal sciences. A master's degree and a PhD in toxicology or forensic science can also improve a candidate's chances of securing the role.

Related: How To Become a Toxicologist

10. Chemist

National average salary: £28,446 per year

Primary duties: Chemists work to evaluate the interactions between various artificial and natural materials. These materials get closely studied by chemists at a molecular or atomic level to determine what their properties and effects could be. Some chemists work to analyse these kinds of materials and the different interactions between them to develop new medicines and products.

Requirements: A bachelor's degree in chemistry, or in a related subject is one of the first steps to becoming a chemist. Dependent on the specific role, some employers may require a chemistry master's degree or even a PhD in chemistry as this is a heavily research-based role.

Related: List of highest paying chemistry jobs (plus specialisations)

11. Chemistry Teacher

National average salary: £26,593 per year

Primary duties: Chemistry teachers attend to the educational needs of their students, setting and marking homework whilst also teaching important science information that students require to pass their exams. It's a duty of a chemistry teacher to log attendance and educational development and progress on record. They design curriculums and educational resources to tailor to students' learning styles.

Requirements: Requirements for this role include a bachelor's degree in a science-related subject or an educational degree. To teach at the university level, a master's degree in chemistry or even, in some cases, a chemistry PhD is necessary.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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