A chemist


Chemists perform laboratory research by testing and analysing the chemical structure of substances.They translate the research results into industrial production processes which are further used in the development or improvement of products. Chemists are also testing the quality of the manufactured products and their environmental impact.

Here are some typical duties of chemists:

  • Conduct research to investigate the properties, composition, and behavior of substances, aiming to discover new materials, processes, or applications.
  • Design and carry out experiments, employing various analytical techniques and instruments to analyze and interpret experimental results.
  • Work on the development of new products, such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, or materials, by formulating and testing chemical compounds.
  • Implement quality control measures to ensure that manufactured products meet specific standards and regulatory requirements.
  • Analyze data using statistical methods and software, drawing conclusions and making recommendations based on experimental findings.
  • Utilize a variety of laboratory techniques, such as chromatography, spectroscopy, and titration, to analyze and characterize substances.
  • Adhere to safety protocols and guidelines when handling chemicals and operating laboratory equipment to ensure a safe working environment.
  • Investigate and assess the environmental impact of chemical processes or pollutants, contributing to environmental sustainability efforts.
  • Record and document experimental procedures, results, and conclusions in laboratory notebooks and reports.
  • Collaborate with other scientists, researchers, and professionals in interdisciplinary teams to achieve research or project goals.
  • In academic settings, teach and train students in chemical principles, laboratory techniques, and safety procedures.
  • Stay updated on relevant regulations and standards in the field of chemistry, ensuring compliance with legal and ethical guidelines.
  • Keep abreast of advancements in chemistry through literature reviews, attending conferences, and participating in professional development activities.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to chemist:

chemical researcher
organic chemist
inorganic chemist
chemical engineer
forensic chemist
research chemist
environmental chemist
manufacturing chemist
quality control chemist
industrial chemist
production chemist
chemistry technician
quality assurance chemist
nuclear chemist
chemical analyst

Working conditions

Chemists work in various settings, including research laboratories, manufacturing facilities, academic institutions, and government agencies. The role may involve both independent work and collaboration with multidisciplinary teams.

Minimum qualifications

A bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. in chemistry or a related field is typically required, depending on the level of responsibility and specialization. Practical experience gained through internships, research projects, or entry-level positions contributes to the development of a chemist’s skills. Proficiency in laboratory techniques, analytical instruments, and scientific software is essential. Strong problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and effective communication are crucial for success in this role. Continuous learning and staying updated on the latest advancements in chemistry contribute to ongoing professional development.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Chemist is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Chemist career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to chemist.

analytical chemist
fragrance chemist
cosmetic chemist

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of chemist.

  • Analytical chemistry: Instruments and methods used to separate, identify and quantify matter – the chemical components of natural and artificial materials and solutions.
  • Physics: The natural science involving the study of matter, motion, energy, force and related notions.
  • Laboratory techniques: Techniques applied in the different fields of natural science in order to obtain experimental data such as gravimetric analysis, gas chromatography, electronic or thermic methods.
  • Inorganic chemistry: The chemistry of substances that do not contain hydrocarbon radicals.
  • Scientific research methodology: The theoretical methodology used in scientific research involving doing background research, constructing an hypothesis, testing it, analysing data and concluding the results.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of chemist.

  • Translate formulae into processes: Translate, by means of computer models and simulations, the specific laboratory formulae and findings into production processes.
  • Use a computer: Utilise computer equipment or digital devices to facilitate quality control, data management, and communication. Follow instructions given by a computer programme, create computer files or documents.
  • Use chromatography software: Use the chromatography data system software which collects and analyses the chromatography detectors results.
  • Analyse chemical substances: Study and test chemical substances to analyse their composition and characteristics.
  • Develop chemical products: Research and create new chemicals and plastics used in the production of a variety of goods such as pharmaceuticals, textile, building materials and household products.
  • Think analytically: Produce thoughts using logic and reasoning in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Use personal protection equipment: Make use of protection equipment according to training, instruction and manuals. Inspect the equipment and use it consistently.
  • Run laboratory simulations: Run simulations on prototypes, systems or newly developed chemical products using laboratory equipment.
  • Apply safety procedures in laboratory: Make sure that laboratory equipment is used in a safe manner and the handling of samples and specimens is correct. Work to ensure the validity of results obtained in research.
  • Document analysis results: Document on paper or on electronic devices the process and the results of the samples analysis performed.
  • Apply scientific methods: Apply scientific methods and techniques to investigate phenomena, by acquiring new knowledge or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.
  • Calibrate laboratory equipment: Calibrate laboratory equipment by comparing between measurements: one of known magnitude or correctness, made with a trusted device and a second measurement from another piece of laboratory equipment. Make the measurements in as similar a way as possible.
  • Write technical reports: Compose technical customer reports understandable for people without technical background.
  • Test chemical samples: Perform the testing procedures on the already prepared chemical samples, by using the necessary equipment and materials. Chemical sample testing involves operations such as pipetting or diluting schemes.
  • Manage chemical testing procedures: Manage the procedures to be used in chemical testing by designing them and conducting tests accordingly.
  • Apply liquid chromatography: Apply the knowledge of polymer characterization and liquid chromatography in the development of new products.
  • Use chemical analysis equipment: Use laboratory equipment such as Atomic Absorption equimpent, PH and conductivity meters or salt spray chambre.
  • Prepare chemical samples: Prepare the specific samples such as gas, liquid or solid samples in order for them to be ready for analysis, labeling and storing samples according to specifications.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of chemist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Radiation effects on human body: The way specific body parts are more specifically affected by exposure to different types of radiation sources.
  • Good manufacturing practices: Regulatory requirements and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) applied in the relevant manufacturing sector.
  • Solid-state chemistry: Field of science, also called materials chemistry, studying the properties, synthesis and structure of materials, mostly inorganic, in the solid phase.
  • Biological chemistry: Biological chemistry is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Analytical methods in biomedical sciences: The various research, mathematical or analytical methods used in biomedical sciences.
  • Nuclear medicine: Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Types of fuels: Types of fuel available on the market such as petrol, diesel, bio-fuel, etc.
  • Pharmaceutical drug development: Drug manufacturing phases: pre-clinical phase (research and tests on animals), clinical phase (clinical trials on humans) and the sub-phases required to obtain as an end product a pharmaceutical drug.
  • Organic chemistry: The chemistry of compounds and substances containing carbon.
  • Pharmacology: Pharmacology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Nuclear energy: The generation of electrical energy through the use of nuclear reactors, by converting the energy released from nuclei of atoms in reactors which generate heat. This heat subsequently generates steam which can power a steam turbine to generate electricity.
  • CAE software: The software to perform computer-aided engineering (CAE) analysis tasks such as Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics.
  • Polymer chemistry: Subfield of chemistry studying the synthesis, properties and modification of natural and artificial polymers, chemical materials composed of macromolecules.
  • Types of plastic: Types of plastic materials and their chemical composition, physical properties, possible issues and usage cases.
  • Pharmaceutical chemistry: The chemical aspects of identification and synthetic alteration of chemical entities as they relate to therapeutic use. The way various chemicals affect biological systems and how they can be integrated in drug development.
  • Toxicology: The negative effects of chemicals on living organisms, their dose and exposure.
  • Cosmetics industry: Suppliers, products and brands in the cosmetic industry.
  • Customer relationship management: The customer-oriented management approach and basic principles of successful customer relations that focus on interactions with customers such as technical support, customer services, after-sales support and direct communication with the customer.
  • Nuclear physics: Field of physics in which protons and neutrons and their interactions inside atoms are analysed.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of chemist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Follow control of substances hazardous to health procedures: Adhere to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) procedures for activities that involve hazardous substances, such as bacteria, allergens, waste oil, paint or brake fluids that result in illness or injury.
  • Develop new food products: Conduct experiments, produce sample products, and perform research as part of new food product development (NPD).
  • Dispose of hazardous waste: Dispose of dangerous materials such as chemical or radioactive substances according to environmental and to health and safety regulations.
  • Conduct quality control analysis: Conduct inspections and tests of services, processes, or products to evaluate quality.
  • Formulate cosmetic products: Formulate and design complex cosmetic products from concept to finish.
  • Communicate with external laboratories: Communicate with the external analytical laboratories in order to manage the required external testing process.
  • Collect samples for analysis: Collect samples of materials or products for laboratory analysis.
  • Oversee quality control: Monitor and assure the quality of the provided goods or services by overseeing that all the factors of the production meet quality requirements. Supervise product inspection and testing.
  • Follow nuclear plant safety precautions: Comply with nuclear power plant safety procedures, policies and legislation to ensure a safe working environment for all employees, and to ensure the safety of the public.
  • Develop scientific theories: Formulate scientific theories based on empirical observations, gathered data and theories of other scientists.
  • Perform physico-chemical analysis to food materials: Performs a range of physical and chemical analysis to food materials in order to assess their quality.
  • Develop scientific research protocols: Develop and record the procedural method used for a specific scientific experiment in order to enable its replication.
  • Archive scientific documentation: Store documents such as protocols, analysis results and scientific data using archiving systems to enable scientists and engineers to take methods and results from previous studies into account for their research.
  • Write scientific papers: Present the hypothesis, findings, and conclusions of your scientific research in your field of expertise in a professional publication.
  • Provide technical expertise: Provide expert knowledge in a particular field, especially concerning mechanical or scientific subjects, to decision-makers, engineers, technical staff or journalists.
  • Assist scientific research: Assist engineers or scientists with conducting experiments, performing analysis, developing new products or processes, constructing theory, and quality control.
  • Use it tools: Application of computers, computer networks and other information technologies and equipment to storing, retrieving, transmitting and manipulating data, in the context of a business or enterprise.

ISCO group and title

2113 – Chemists

  1. Chemist – ESCO
  2. Chemist Job Description –
  3. Chemists and Materials Scientists : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  4. Featured image: Photo by Chokniti Khongchum
Last updated on February 29, 2024