Analytical Chemist

Analytical chemists use a diverse range of methods to investigate the chemical nature of substances. The aim of such work is to identify and understand the substance and how it behaves in different conditions. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, analytical chemists are involved throughout the drug development process; they study the physical or chemical properties of drug substances and formulations, with a view to determining the quality and stability of drug products. Analytical chemists may be involved in work as diverse as: drug formulation and development; chemical or forensic analysis; process development; product validation; quality control; toxicology.

Typical work activities

  • Analysing samples from various sources to provide information on compounds or quantities of compounds present.
  • Using analytical techniques and instrumentation, such as gas and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), ion chromatography, electrochromatography and spectroscopy (infrared and ultraviolet, amongst others).
  • Interpreting data and adhering to strict guidelines on documentation when recording data.
  • Reporting scientific results.
  • Using a range of analytical techniques, instrumentation and software.
  • Developing techniques for the analysis of drug products and chemicals.
  • Working collaboratively in cross-functional teams.
  • Liaising with customers, staff and suppliers.
  • Being aware of, and keeping up to date with, health and safety issues.
  • Validating methods and equipment.
  • Preparing the documentation for product licence applications, e.g. with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency or the US Food and Drug Administration.
  • Setting the specifications for finished products.

Technical Skills

  • Self-confidence and motivation to investigate and solve complex problems.
  • Ability to prioritise and schedule work to meet demands set by the department, company or external customer.
  • Presentation skills and the ability to convey technical information to non-technical people.
  • Good standard of numeracy and skills in data analysis.
  • IT skills.
  • Creativity and the ability to use initiative.
  • Effective teamworking skills.
  • A flexible and methodical approach to work.
  • Good laboratory practice and have a theoretical knowledge, although not necessarily practical experience, of a range of analytical techniques and instrumentation.
  • Ability to perform tasks to quality standards in a safe environment is also a requirement.

Career Development

The role of analytical chemist offers good opportunities for career progression and employment is possible in a wide range of industries. Progression to more senior grades will involve undertaking increasing responsibility, and promotion will depend upon ability and experience. Obtaining a higher qualification, such as a PhD, is a common route into senior roles. Many analytical chemists become members of the Royal Society of Chemistry. This can be beneficial for progression as its careers service offers support to its members throughout their career. It provides information, advice and guidance on all aspects of career planning and the job-seeking process, including developing or changing careers. Analytical chemists can also develop skills and gain professional recognition by achieving chartered status as a Chartered Chemist (CChem) or a Chartered Scientist (CSci).

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