This page gives career information of relevance to Imperial Chemistry students.
You can find out how the Careers Service supports Imperial students on our services for students page, explore our what's on section to see career events, attend one to one appointments and sign up for our weekly newsletter, sent every Thursday (sign up by checking the relevant box on your personal profile on JobsLive). Whatever stage you are at with your studies, we’re here to help from first year undergraduates right through to PhD studies – you don’t even have to know what you want to do to make use of our services!
What can you do with Chemistry?
Chemistry graduates have a wide range of career options. Some choose to continue using their chemistry knowledge in their career, and others choose to change direction after graduation. Around 46% of Imperial chemistry graduates choose to do further study and 44% go into employment at the end of their first degree. Use the resources below to help you start to explore and understand your options and to begin to develop your career plans.
Develop your skills
Wherever your career leads you employers will want to see evidence of the skills you have developed in your studies. These may include technical skills and academic knowledge if you’re seeking a job related to chemistry and ‘transferable skills’ like problem solving, resilience and intellectual curiosity that fit a broad range of roles within and outside of chemistry related roles.
The typical skills developed by Imperial chemistry students during their degree are highly valued by employers and include:
- Being able to plan and think ahead
- Ability to learn fast
- Working under pressure
- Teamwork and communication skills
It’s good to reflect on your abilities and consider what skills you can evidence and which skills you may need to enhance. Use our self reflection webpages to help you understand and document your abilities.
During your degree you will have many opportunities to develop and learn new skills. Employers will want to see what you have been doing to develop your skills and knowledge outside your course while you have been a student. Experiences such as student societies, part-time work, volunteering and sports can develop your skills and will be valuable additions to your CV. Work experience can also help develop skills and help you decide what career direction you want to go in and become more competitive in future job or further study applications.
As an Imperial student you can participate, or take a leadership role, in a wide variety of Students’ Union activities where you’ll develop many skills. You also have free access to LinkedIn Learning and can use this to develop or improve your knowledge and abilities with software tools and skills through instructional videos taught by industry experts skills.
You can learn and develop the skills required to be successful in the job or internship market. For example, you will need to know how to create a strong CV, write a good cover letter and perform well in interviews. We can help you to learn these skills. Start with the applications and interviews section of our website, and by attending our skills training and workshops.
Explore career areas
When you understand your skills through self reflection it’s a good idea to then learn about the range of career areas that might be of interest. You could research new vaccines, optimise photovoltaics cells, or apply analytical and computational skills to answer critical global issues. Our what do Imperial Graduates Do? contains our Graduate Outcomes data which gives examples of employers and further study options of previous graduates. You can search the data to find what Chemistry graduates went on to do immediately after graduation and you may also find it useful to explore Imperial College LinkedIn – “Chemistry” where you can explore the career paths of our chemistry alumni as their careers develop over time. However, don't feel limited by what others have done, but instead, follow your own interests.
For chemistry students it is helpful to consider whether you want to use your chemistry knowledge in a job. If so, would you like to be in the lab or working outside the lab? To help you begin we have listed some of the career areas that Imperial chemistry students often go into which is taken from our what do Imperial Graduates Do? Graduate Outcomes data. Our how to research job sectors and occupations resources can help you to learn more about these sectors including desirable skills, responsibilities, professional development and salary expectations across different roles and industries. You can also meet employers from many of these areas through Careers Service events and fairs which are advertised on JobsLive and in our weekly newsletter.
If you are interested in continuing to use your chemistry knowledge you could consider some of these industries, all of which employ chemists:
- Chemicals industry
- Pharmaceutical and biotechnology
- Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG)
- Food and drink
- Oil and gas
- Water companies
- Academic research
If you are interested in continuing to use your scientific knowledge but not in industry, you might like to explore some of these career areas:
- NHS scientist training programme (STP)
- Science teaching in schools
- Science policy
- Patent attorney
- Science communications/science publishing
Here are some of the typical careers outside science that chemists often go into:
- Graduate management roles
- Civil service/government
- Data science
- Financial services e.g. accountancy, actuarial, audit, tax
- Graduate medicine
Through your research you’ll see that there’s a very wide range of options open to Chemistry graduates. Some of these are directly accessible from a first degree while others may require additional further study. This can create many questions that you’ll want to answer and speaking to a Careers Consultant through one of our one to one appointments may help after your initial research.
In addition to our resources you may also find the national resource Prospects - Chemistry to have a similar but alternative commentary to the resources we’ve specifically curated here for you.
A professional body, association or society seeks to further a particular profession and the interests of individuals engaged in that profession. The body maintains an oversight of the knowledge, skills, conduct and practice of that profession and can offer accreditation or chartership. You can often use professional bodies to access training or networking events and explore related career options.
Below are some links to professional bodies that deal with various areas related to Chemistry. Many offer student membership which can give you access to job listings and careers information while offering great networking opportunities. Some memberships may even allow you to register your CV to vacancy matching services or to be viewed by other members of the community.
There are many well-known Multinational Companies (MNCs) offering graduate level jobs but Small or Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), defined as organisations with fewer than 250 employees, also offer a wide range of interesting and unique graduate level roles. Due to a smaller marketing budget SMEs can be harder to find and they often rely on you approaching them speculatively to show motivation and interest. They will sometimes engage with universities through incubation hubs to help them grow skills and expertise. The Imperial Enterprise Lab often run events to help students understand and network with SME and start-up communities.
Below are useful websites to find SMEs relevant to chemistry:
- Chemical Industries Association allows you to view its full members and associate members.
- Exhibitors at ChemUK2021 is a good starting point and links on to further interesting resources like Cosmetics Cluster UK and Biovale (promotes the circular bioeconomy across Yorkshire and the Humber).
- The Association British Pharmaceutical industry member list can be used to find pharmaceutical companies of all sizes, including SMEs.
- The UK Science Park Association contains a members list of science parks where you can find information on the SME based on these specific science parks.
SMEs can also be found using Google Maps by running a search for a specific term (e.g. “Chemical”) in geographic areas where you would like to work or where you know one organisation is. Often SMEs will cluster together geographically around a larger organisation related to their work from hospitals to transport hubs.
LinkedIn is also a good tool to discover SMEs. Explore the profiles of different people who have roles that you are interested in and scroll down their profile to see where they have worked. You may find SMEs and other interesting organisations that you did not know about. For further support with LinkedIn, attend a Careers Essentials: LinkedIn course.
Career planning often takes time and can sometimes feel overwhelming. It’s a good idea to set aside a small amount of time on a regular basis to maintain momentum. Below are some things to get you started:
- Sign up to the Imperial Careers Newsletter by checking the relevant box on your personal profile on JobsLive
- Learn about the timescales for applying for further study, work experience and graduate employment
- See our what's on pages to find out about the different types of events that we run, including: workshops, careers fairs, career talks - and hear from alumni and employers about different types of work.
- Learn the skills that will help you succeed on the job market in the applications and interviews section of our website, and by attending our skills training and workshops
If you feel stuck with your career planning, you could book a one to one appointment to talk it through with a careers consultant. Madelaine Chapman is the careers consultant for Chemistry but you can see any of our consultants for your first appointment.