Where can chemistry take me?

Always wondered if chemical engineering was for you but not sure where to find out more? Keep hearing the word ‘nanotechnology’ in the news but no idea if it is an area that you could one day be working in? Don’t worry. We are here to help with our quick and easy explanations below, along with further ideas about where your degree in chemistry could take you in the future.

What is chemical engineering?

Chemical engineers work on the large-scale production of chemicals of all kinds – from pharmaceuticals to foods and paints. They work on the manufacturing process to ensure as many useful products as possible are extracted from the raw materials in a cost effective and safe way. Using computer models and simulations, they design and build plants to change the physical or chemical composition of the starting material to form a product such as a plastic.

Once a plant is in operation, a chemical engineer’s role changes from construction to production. They are then responsible for the day-to-day operation of the plant.

Chemical engineers can take on many different roles from project and design engineers, to operations and research & development engineers, to food processing engineers. The Institution of Chemical Engineers and whynotchemeng websites will give you more information on education and development of these professions.

What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology relies on the study and use of particles smaller than 100nm (a human hair is 80,000nm wide). Modern techniques use these tiny particles in more and more applications, ranging from drug delivery systems to the development of more powerful computers. You can find out more by reading the nanoscience edition of the Wellcome Trust’s publication Big Picture.

A few nanoscience degree courses are now available and several institutions offer courses such as ‘chemistry with nanotechnology.’ However, a more common route into nanoscience research is to gain a degree in a science subject, such as chemistry or physics, and then apply the knowledge gained from this course to the specialist area of nanoscience or nanotechnology. Details of the courses currently available can be found on the UCAS website.

What else can I do with my chemistry degree?

Chemistry is a very versatile science that can be used in a large number of fields, depending on the degree you have taken, including environmental law, pharmaceuticals, space exploration, forensic science, medicine, engineering, and much more!

For more information on which chemistry degree would suit you, check out the course search on the UCAS website.

For more information on job descriptions and finding out whether your chosen career is the right job for you, have a look at the National Careers Service website.

We’ve given you some ideas, now it’s your turn to explore careers in chemistry in more detail to find the right one for you – Good Luck!