Chemist Kairarau Matū

Chemists study the make-up and behaviour of chemicals, and may use their findings to develop new products and processes.

Chemists may do some or all of the following:

  • develop methods and equipment to study chemical compounds
  • test chemical samples to determine their make-up and properties
  • think of ways to make new chemical compounds
  • work with industries to develop chemical processes
  • carry out experiments and write up the results
  • publish articles in scientific journals
  • teach and supervise students and/or staff.

Chemists who work with industries that manufacture chemicals may also do some or all of the following:

  • manage and monitor chemical manufacturing processes
  • carry out environmental monitoring
  • carry out analytical testing to check the quality and safety of products or materials
  • design and carry out experiments to develop improved chemical processes. 

Physical Requirements

Chemists need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and good hand-eye co-ordination.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for chemists includes laboratory work as a technician, or other scientific research work.

Personal Qualities

Chemists need to be:

  • accurate and observant, with an eye for detail
  • patient and persistent
  • enquiring, creative and motivated
  • good at problem solving
  • good written and verbal communicators
  • well organised, with good planning skills.


Chemists need to have:

  • knowledge of chemistry and chemical compounds
  • knowledge of how to safely handle, store and produce large quantities of chemicals
  • practical skills for performing experiments and operating scientific equipment.



  • may work long but flexible hours, and evenings and weekends when doing experiments
  • work in laboratories and offices at research centres, universities and chemical-manufacturing companies. They may also do field research. 
  • may come into contact with hazardous chemicals, so need to take safety precautions
  • may travel nationally and internationally to do research or attend conferences.

Subject Recommendations

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training.

Useful subjects include chemistry, physics, maths with calculus and statistics, computer science, biology and English.

Chemists can earn around $65K-$120K per year.

Pay for chemists depends on their skills, experience and qualifications and the type of work they do.

  • Chemists can earn $65,000 to $120,000. 
  • Those with PhDs or more responsibility can earn up to $150,000 a year or more. 

Source: research; and PERSOLKELLY, '2023 -2024 Salary Guide', 2023.

Chemists may progress to jobs in areas such as: 

  • senior roles in an analytical laboratory
  • management  
  • research science
  • lecturing in universities 
  • advising on policy and funding for government organisations, including councils
  • patent law for legal firms. 

Chemists can specialise in a number of roles, including:

Analytical Chemist
Analytical chemists determine the structure, composition and nature of substances. They help pharmaceutical industries identify compounds that can be used in drugs, and also identify chemical pollutants in air, water and soil.
Biochemists study biology and chemistry.
Inorganic Chemist
Inorganic chemists study chemical compounds other than those in living things.
Materials Chemist
Materials chemists study, develop and improve materials such as plastic.
Organic Chemist
Organic chemists study the chemical compounds that make up living things. They mix these chemicals to create new compounds, which are used to develop products such as drugs or plastics.
Physical Chemist
Physical chemists study the physical characteristics of atoms and molecules in chemicals. Their research may result in new and better energy sources.

Years Of Training

5 years of training usually required

To become an assistant chemist you need to have a Bachelor's degree in chemistry, biochemistry or a related science.

To become a chemist you need to have a Master's degree in chemistry, biochemistry or a related science. However, a PhD or further postdoctoral study are often preferred.