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Department of Chemistry & Biomolecular Sciences

What does a chemist do?

Chemistry is a very central science and not all Chemists wear white lab coats. To explore the many career opportunities available by studying chemistry, search for 'chemistry' at: You will find chemists are employed in a wide range of industries working on problems such as:

  • metal extraction from ore bodies
  • studying the nutrition of plants
  • reducing the pollution from automobile exhausts
  • the manufacture and design of explosives
  • finding new sources of energy
  • operating a water treatment plant
  • making more efficient pain killers and pharmaceuticals
  • locating new oil deposits
  • helping to solve problems of industrial waste
  • developing new materials with desirable properties.
  • understanding what makes a good diet

Chemists rely heavily on advanced instrumental techniques such as chromatography, mass spectrometry, laser spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and surface analysis - all using computers for control and data processing.

There are sound employment prospects for chemistry graduates in industry as quality control chemists, biotechnologists, materials scientists, customer-service personnel and technical sales representatives. Government departments provide employment for chemists in their analytical and research laboratories. Graduates are also in demand as secondary school teachers and in specialised legal services such as patent law and licensing negotiations. Many chemistry graduates, particularly those with the Diploma of Chemistry in Industry, can expect to move into executive or management positions as their careers develop. Students graduating from the Environmental Geochemistry strand of the Bachelor of Technology program will be in demand from mining companies, manufacturing companies and government regulatory bodies.

What does a chemist earn?

In 1999 the median base salary for all members of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute was $61,200. According to the same 1999 survey the median salary of a bachelor degree graduate was $55,000. Graduates with Honours or post-graduate degrees can expect to earn in excess of these salaries.