Job descriptions and industry overviews

Medicinal chemist

24 Feb 2023, 12:44

Medicinal chemists play a vital role in the process of pharmaceutical developments, delivery and breakthroughs. By helping create new and more effective medicines, they use a range of chemistry techniques, primarily synthetic organic chemistry and data analysis to design and create new pharmaceutically active molecules to combat a particular disease or condition.

Person holding medicinal capsules

This is the front line of medical chemistry and Ireland has many global leaders in the field with major production and development facilities based here. Medicinal chemists work collaboratively within a project team to understand and interpret biological testing of the compounds that you've created to see if they're effective. They then analyse the results of these tests to identify how the molecule could be improved until there's sufficient evidence that it works and is safe for testing on humans. Although many firms recruit specifically for medicinal chemist, there are also a range of other job titles by which this role may be known - such as synthetic organic chemist, (graduate) scientist and research chemist. Ensure you delve into the detail of any job description to ensure you will be working specifically in medicinal chemistry if this is the field you wish to specialise in.

What the job involves

  • Work as part of a team in a research laboratory
  • Conduct tests and experiments
  • Record and analyse data
  • Present results to senior/other research staff
  • Write and research papers, reports, reviews and summaries
  • Demonstrate procedures
  • Prepare funding applications/bids
  • Supervise junior staff including technicians
  • Organise product/materials testing
  • Ensure that quality standards are met
  • Liaise with research and/or production staff
  • Develop original solutions to problems
  • Keep up to date with relevant scientific and technical developments
  • Teaching

How your career can develop

There is a large degree of diversity in career choices and paths for science and chemistry graduates seeking careers in medicinal chemistry. Senior positions usually require either a masters or doctorate. Universities increasingly cooperate with industry to include work experience placements into postgraduate degrees, boosting your chances of progressing


  • Patience
  • Determination
  • Scientific and numerical skills
  • Flexibility
  • Decisiveness
  • A logical and independent mind
  • Meticulous attention to detail and accuracy
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Excellent IT skills
  • Typical employers
  • Chemical companies
  • Company and government laboratories
  • Environmental agencies
  • Specialist research organisations and consultancies
  • Public funded research councils
  • Universities
  • Private food companies
  • Materials companies
  • Consumer products companies
  • Pharmaceuticals producers

Typical salary

  • Graduate/Starting €30,000 to €45,000
  • Senior/Postgraduate €50,000/€60,000+

Typical qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in science, chemistry or biochemistry is almost always required. A relevant postgraduate qualification (PhD/research-based MSc) is also normally required, particularly for permanent positions. Postdoctoral research and/or practical research/laboratory work experience is also beneficial, and frequently required for academic posts. The following courses can also serve as entry points:

  • Applied biology
  • Biological sciences
  • Biology
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Microbial sciences
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular biology

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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