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The University of Southampton

What can I do with a chemistry degree? 

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One of the great things about choosing to study chemistry is that it opens up so many options when you graduate. You could use your skills to research and discover new medical vaccines and tests; to optimise the power and range of electric vehicles; or put digital chemistry and computational methods to good use in answering questions that have stood for years.

You’ll be prepared for roles outside of the chemical industries too; Southampton chemistry graduates go into careers such as finance, patent law, management and computer science. 

The chemical industries

Chemical industries contributed an enormous £87 billion to UK GDP in 2019. There are so many areas you can go into, all of which are making a huge difference to the world and society. Here are some chemical job roles that you might not have considered.

Medicinal chemistry: developing vital new drugs

Medicinal chemists carry out research to discover, create and test new drugs. They use synthetic organic chemistry, computational and analytical techniques to design compounds that have the properties required to interact with biological targets and prevent disease. The need for new drugs to improve global healthcare is more obvious now than ever. For example, even with the development of vaccines, medicines to treat COVID-19 are still needed for those already with the virus or those who could contract it in the future.

If that sounds interesting, see the MChem Chemistry with Medicinal Sciences degree.

Electrochemistry: powering our machines in a sustainable way

Electrochemists use electricity to do chemistry. It’s a broad field with many applications, such as sustainable energy storage, water based sensors and developing electronic components that enable phones, tablets and wearable devices to be so small. There’s a huge amount of investment in this area already, and with the Government’s move to support electric cars that’s likely to increase. Employers are always looking for graduates with electrochemical skills and expertise.

At Southampton you’ll be learning from experts in electrochemistry, benefit from strong industrial links for placements and can choose a number of optional modules to tailor your degree in this field.

Computational or digital chemistry: answer questions that have stood for generations!

A computational chemist will use the ideas of classical or quantum mechanics to study, model and understand the characteristics of a chemical system. A digital chemist will use the tools of artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict the results of chemical reactions, without the need for long, complex experiments. We are at the start of the digital revolution where robotics, AI and machine learning are beginning to answer questions that have stood for generations. Employers are looking for people who understand traditional chemistry but also have the skills required to use advanced, digital tools.

If you’re interested in this field take a look at the MChem Chemistry (Digital Methods and Computational Modelling) degree.

Analytical chemistry: what is this material?

In its simplest terms, an analytical chemist does a lot of measurement! Within a wide range of industries they use chemical and instrumental approaches to identify and quantify different materials. One example of when analytical chemists have been vital is when horse meat was found in our supermarket products.

Analytical chemistry was used to determine the types of different meats in those products. Another example is testing the fuel lines running to airports; if impurities are found the report from the analytical chemist will determine whether the airport can remain open. Other examples include Olympic Games drug testing; identifying counterfeit products like perfumes and honey; and the make-up of modern medicines. Analytical chemists do a critical job across a wide range of industries and application areas, making important decisions based on their discoveries.

At Southampton we’ll prepare you for a career in this area. You’ll use instrumentation that you’d use as an analytical chemist, e.g. liquid chromatographs, mass spectrometers, NMR spectrometers and X-ray diffractometers. These facilities are specially for use by our students. You’ll also be able to study a dedicated analytical chemistry module.

Roles outside of chemistry

The skills you build as a chemist will open the door to a range of careers outside of the chemical industry. Your degree will demonstrate to employers that you are analytical, logical, good at problem solving, intellectually curious and have a mathematical mind. These competencies are valued in a range of careers, and our graduates have gone into industries such as:

Useful links

  1. Careers support at Southampton
  2. Placement opportunities
  3. Royal Society of Chemistry careers
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