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Chemist

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Summary of occupation

Chemists research and test the physical and chemical make-up of substances and materials to determine their composition. They also develop and improve the chemical make-up of products, and help streamline the processes involved in doing this. They conduct experiments, write reports based on their findings, develop theories, and test techniques and processes for creating and manipulating certain substances. They develop practical applications for their experimental and research findings, and develop quality control and safety procedures. Chemists may work anywhere in the State, in organisations and institutions ranging from universities, to mining and environmental facilities.

ANZSCO description: Studies the chemical and physical properties of substances, and develops and monitors chemical processes and production.
Alternative names: Chemical Scientist
Specialisations: Analytical Chemist, Developmental Chemist, Environmental Chemist, Geochemist, Industrial Chemist, Organic Chemist, Research Chemist
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A chemist needsto have:

  • an inquisitive nature
  • a solid understanding of chemistry and science
  • an understanding of safety practices
  • to be detailed and precise in their work
  • research skills
  • strong communication skills.
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Working conditions

Chemists work in laboratories, government departments, research centres, and large companies and universities. They may come into contact with dangerous materials such as acids and radioactive materials as part of their work. For this reason, safety training is particularly important. Chemists usually work regular hours, but may be required to work longer hours on occasion. They may also be required to travel to attend conferences, courses or seminars, or to complete fieldwork and liaise with other chemists regarding new research or developments in their field.

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Salary details

On average, chemists, classified under food and wine scientists, can expect to earn between $1 250 and $1 499 per week ($65 000 and $77 999 per year), depending on the organisation that they work for, and their level of experience. As a chemist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Chemists use a range of scientific equipment, including laboratory equipment such as flasks, beakers and microscopes, measuring equipment including spectrometers, and a range of computer-controlled and specialised scientific machinery. They usually need to wear protective clothing such as safety glasses.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a chemist you usually need to complete a degree in science with a major in chemistry or applied chemistry.  

​Most of the universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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