What can I do with a degree in Chemistry?

Chemistry lab

Chemistry deals with the composition, structure and behaviour of the atoms and molecules that make up all forms of matter. It contributes to medicine, geology, materials science, molecular physics, biology and astronomy. Its central role in science is emphasised by the fact that chemistry merges with the biological sciences (the field of biochemistry) at one extreme and with physics (physical chemistry and chemical physics) at the other.

Chemistry has an important role to play in solving the world's major problems: energy, food supply, health and the environment. Every day we utilise products developed by experimental chemists, such as paints, plastics, fabrics, petrol, dyes and pharmaceuticals. Practising chemists make important contributions to almost all fields of applied science. Indeed, chemists far outnumber all other types of scientists.

Through their Chemistry degree, graduates gain a valuable set of transferable skills such as:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Creative, logical and quantitative thinking
  • Good planning and organisational skills
  • Oral and written communication
  • Cooperation, teamwork and leadership
  • Mathematical and computer competencies
  • Observation, research and development abilities.

Applied learning opportunities are available such as laboratory sessions and fieldtrips. These experiences deepen your skillset, awareness of others, working knowledge and employability.

Many types of organisations employ Chemistry graduates. They include:

  • Government departments and agencies
  • Intellectual property agents
  • Crown Research Institutes (CRIs)
  • Other research organisations and laboratories
  • Manufacturing firms
  • Industrial plants
  • Environmental consultants
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Food and drink producers
  • Research and development organisations
  • Energy companies
  • Secondary schools and universities
  • Health sector.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique mix of primary and secondary industries provides a wide choice of chemistry careers. Expanding industries include:

  • New sources of energy
  • Development of forestry and dairy resources
  • Materials, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology
  • Tech sector including nanotechnology, app development and data science.

Graduates with this degree are employed in a range of jobs — see some examples below.

Note: Some of the jobs listed may require further study at postgraduate level. See also ‘Further study’ on this page.

Research scientist / associate

  • Designs and conducts research experiments
  • Analyses the data and results
  • Publishes journal papers, files patents, and presents information at conferences

Toxicologist, chemical consultant

  • Identifies toxic substances and evaluates potential harmful effects
  • Conducts laboratory and field experiments
  • Produces research reports and advises business, government and industry

Environmental scientist / technician

  • Applies knowledge of atmospheric, water and soil chemistry to the environment
  • Carries out field and lab tests and records data eg, measures level of pollutants
  • Conducts analysis and writes technical reports
  • Develops and oversees policy and procedures
  • Interprets regulations and monitors compliance

Field / laboratory technician

  • Plans and carries out research experiments with guidance
  • Maintains and calibrates equipment
  • Liaises with scientists and industry personnel
  • Collects and collates data, and drafts reports

Laboratory manager

  • Manages laboratory staff, budgets, workloads
  • Maintains and updates lab documentation
  • Ensures safety and quality standards
  • Reviews methods and validates results

Secondary school teacher

  • Plans and delivers instructional lessons
  • Evaluates performance and provides feedback
  • Sets and marks assignments and tests

Science communicator

  • Presents science topics to various audiences eg, publicising research findings
  • Manages educational programmes eg, exhibitions, outreach events, seminars
  • Produces content eg, media releases, videos

Patent attorney / advisor

  • Researches technical or scientific documents to assess if a product is new and innovative
  • Maintains knowledge of laws and regulations
  • Writes patent applications for new chemical inventions, including medicines and materials
  • Advises businesses, government and industry

Quality manager

  • Ensures that products, processes and systems meet quality standards
  • Develops policies and procedures
  • Solves problems, makes decisions and supports others to achieve these standards

Data analyst / technician

  • Analyses data and models techniques to solve problems
  • Uses software and computer programs, may develop these for new products
  • Gains insight for decision-making purposes

Entrepreneur and CEO

  • Develops an idea to form their own business
  • Gets involves in a start-up
  • Offers their services as a consultant

Get started with Entrepreneurship here.

As they progress, students and graduates often join professional bodies relevant to their area of interest. These organisations can provide regular communications and offer the chance to network.

Social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can provide avenues to keep up-to-date with industry knowledge, networking opportunities, events and job vacancies.

Learn from our students' experiences

For more information

see the Chemistry subject page