Job descriptions and industry overviews

Research chemist

22 Jun 2023, 13:20

Research chemists work across a range of industries and the public sector giving graduates scope to specialise in the area that most interests them.

Organic chemistry textbook

Alternative job titles for this role

  • Analytical chemist
  • Biochemist
  • Biomedical scientist
  • Chemical research scientist
  • Organic, inorganic, physical chemist


Research chemists use their knowledge of chemical reactions to create and improve processes and products in a wide range of areas from new drugs and medical treatments to cosmetics, electronics and manufactured goods. Everything in the natural world is composed of chemical compounds and a research chemist uses them to find out how they interact with other chemicals to improve everyday human life by giving the findings practical applications. The results can also be used to improve current scientific developments or to enhance or re-evaluate current scientific theory.

What the job involves

  • Work as part of a team in a research laboratory
  • Conduct tests and experiments
  • Record and analysing 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. 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.

Why research chemistry matters

Research chemists recently came up with new letters to map human DNA. Previously, there has just been four letters, A, T, C and G in the genetic alphabet and they have recently been joined by P and Z.


  • 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+

Typical qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in science, chemistry or biochemistry is normally 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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