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).
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. Most universities in Australia offer degrees in science or applied science with a major in chemistry. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.
Chemists may perform the following tasks:
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.
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.
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.
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.
An industrial/production chemist designs, runs, troubleshoots and improves the processes of chemical and material production on an industrial scale.
An organic chemist studies the nature of organic compounds to develop new substances for use in the industrial, agricultural, veterinary and medical fields.
A physical chemist studies macroscopic, atomic, subatomic and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical laws and concepts.
A research chemist provides innovative solutions to chemical problems and may be involved in pure or applied research.