Careers in Chemistry
What Can I Do With a Degree in Chemistry?
When thinking about what to do after University, Chemistry can be a career in its own right. Chemists are employed in a multitude of places including the pharmaceutical industry, industry and manufacturing more generally, in government departments dealing with the environment, and in clinical laboratories. However not all Chemists wear white lab coats, and an increasing number are employed in advisory roles and end up either at the top of industry, or in government departments in key decision-making positions.
If you choose to study Chemistry, you can study it as your major subject if you see Chemistry as your potential career, or as a minor subject if you want to understand Chemistry as part of a broader interest. The interface between Biology and Chemistry is the focus of some of the world’s most fascinating research, and is arguably having the greatest impact on our lives. This is Biochemistry – understanding how cells work at the molecular level. The Department of Chemistry at Canterbury works with the School of Biological Sciences to offer courses in Biochemistry that can lead to careers in the medical sciences.
New Zealand needs chemists in teaching, industry, health and research. New Zealand’s unique mix of primary and secondary industries provides a wide choice of careers in chemistry. Expanding industries in New Zealand, for example those related to new sources of energy and to the development of forestry and dairy resources, are further increasing the demand for qualified chemists.
The wide range of skills provided by a University Degree in Chemistry also opens up a variety of career opportunities outside chemistry. Studying chemistry develops skills in handling information, problem-solving and dealing with abstract concepts. These qualities are sought by many different types of employers.
A degree in chemistry is a good start to a teaching career with its emphasis on laboratory work and its relevance to other sciences. Chemistry teachers are currently in high demand; chemistry is a target subject for TeachNZ scholarships.
Industry uses chemists in such areas as research and development of new products, monitoring product composition and quality, environmental monitoring and regulation.
Chemists are often needed to solve deficiencies in chemical processes. As noted above, chemists are skilled at handling information, which leads naturally into the areas of sales and management. A number of our graduates have successfully moved into these areas.
Hospitals and other health services employ chemists in areas such as biochemical research, medical analysis and toxicology.
The majority of chemical research in New Zealand is done in universities, the Crown Research Institutes (e.g. Crop & Food at Lincoln) and private laboratories (e.g. Canesis at Lincoln). These institutions provide chemical challenges equal to any in the world.
Marie Squire – PhD in Chemistry
Marie completed her PhD in Chemistry (Protein Drug Delivery Systems) at the University of Canterbury. She then moved to the UK where she worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University on a carbohydrate and protein research project. Marie returned to New Zealand as an Assistant Lecturer in Organic Chemistry at Otago University before finally settling back where her career started at the University of Canterbury.
Marie now manages the instrument suite within the Department of Chemistry, and has a particular interest in NMR and Mass Spectrometry techniques. Marie enjoys the challenges and variety of her position – instrumentation, research, lecturing and tutoring, and student research project supervision. Her research interests are broadly in Chemical Biology, from molecular biology and protein expression, to chemical and enzymatic modification of proteins, to synthetic chemistry.