How to become a Chemist

Chemists study the physical and chemical properties of materials to determine their composition. They use this information to develop new materials and products, to devise more efficient processes for making materials and to increase scientific knowledge. Chemists should not be confused with pharmacists (see separate entry for Pharmacist).

Personal requirements of a Chemist

  • Enjoy scientific activities, including laboratory work, fieldwork and research
  • Able to think logically and creatively
  • Aptitude for accurate work
  • Patient and able to persevere
  • An inquiring mind
  • Able to work independently or as part of a team

Education & Training for a Chemist

To become a chemist you usually have to complete a science or applied science degree at university with a major in chemistry. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology are normally required. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Additional Information

Students and graduates of a chemistry-related program may be eligible for membership of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. For research and teaching positions, postgraduate qualifications may be required. Geochemists require tertiary training in earth science, as well as in chemistry.

Duties & Tasks of a Chemist


  • conduct experiments to identify chemical composition and study chemical changes that occur in natural substances and processed materials
  • undertake research and analysis to develop and test theories, techniques and processes
  • develop practical applications of experiments and research findings, including those combining new compounds for industrial, agricultural, veterinary and medical use
  • test products and materials and prepare specifications and standards to ensure compliance with government health laws and quality standards
  • undertake cost analysis, pricing and quality assurance exercises when developing new substances, processes and products
  • take part in the marketing and financial management of substances, processes or products developed
  • supervise and coordinate the work of technical support staff
  • conduct routine analyses in a process environment.

Working conditions for a Chemist

Chemists may work alone or as part of a team of professionals and technicians. They work in laboratories, in the field or in chemical processing plants, offices and educational institutions. Depending on the type of laboratory, chemists may have to handle dangerous or hazardous materials. Protective clothing and equipment are usually provided.

Employment Opportunities for a Chemist

Chemists are employed in a wide range of government, industrial and university laboratories. They may work in hospital laboratories or with medical and scientific research bodies, food processing firms and pharmaceutical manufacturers. They also find employment as consultants, technical specialists, patent officers and teachers. Chemists may specialise in developing new products or supervising production. With experience, they may progress to management positions.


Analytical Chemist

An analytical chemist carries out tests and analyses to determine the compositions of substances and to detect the presence of impurities, residues and trace elements.

Environmental Chemist

An environmental chemist monitors waste products from all sources, determines ways to neutralise any negative effects pollutants might have on the environment and devises industrial processes that are environmentally friendly.


A geochemist studies the chemistry of earth materials.

Industrial/Production Chemist

An industrial/production chemist designs, runs, troubleshoots and improves the processes of chemical and material production on an industrial scale.

Organic Chemist

An organic chemist studies the nature of organic compounds to develop new substances for use in the industrial, agricultural, veterinary and medical fields.

Physical Chemist

A physical chemist studies macroscopic, atomic, subatomic and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical laws and concepts.

Research Chemist

A research chemist provides innovative solutions to chemical problems and may be involved in pure or applied research.

Avg. weekly wage:


Future growth:


Employment by state:

ACT 1.3%

NSW 27.6%

NT 0.4%

QLD 12%

SA 13.3%

TAS 1.8%

VIC 33.2%

WA 10.5%

Hours worked:



Lower unemployment

Gender split:

Male 60%

Female 40%

Education level:

Highest qualification is secondary school: 7%

Highest qualification is a Certificate 3 or 4: 3%

Highest qualification is a Diploma or Advanced Diploma: 6.8%

Highest qualification is a Bachelor degree: 56.6%

Highest qualification is a Postgraduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 24.1%

Age brackets:

15-19 - 0.1%

20-24 - 6.1%

25-34 - 26.8%

35-44 - 22.6%

45-54 - 19.5%

55-59 - 8.2%

60-64 - 7.1%

65 and Over - 9.5%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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