Today I headed over to Werneth High School in Stockport and met (in person!) with the students in Year 10 at a really nice careers event. It was lovely to meet with you if you were there, really great questions and listening skills. You’re all an absolute credit to your school and I look forward to coming back.
We talked about a range of subjects but the major talking point was about what on Earth the chemical industry does, what jobs are available and how you ‘get into’ this. I wanted to address the 2 main questions in a followup blog.
Several of you are considering chemistry at A-Level others Biology and this could naturally see you moving into this industry in a few short years time.
Others were just interested and working out what you want to do, and that was fab as well after all you’re 14/15 and at that age I didn’t know what I wanted to do either.
So, the talking points were:
1)How do you get into Science?
2)What Jobs are there in Science / are there many companies?
1)How do you get into Science?
Some do a degree (the 3 year qualification most do at University), about 7% of those people with a degree do a Masters (another 1 year) or PhD (stay another 3 years, become a Doctor-of-Science).
Some decide 3-6 years at University is perhaps not for them, and do the apprenticeship route. I’ll add I know several with absolutely no qualification beyond GCSE level science who asked at the right time and ended up in what you’d call ‘scientific’ jobs in different areas of the market following training.
Typically however, there are the main routes in. University degree’s I will say are still the most common road however Apprenticeships are growing in popularity, and provide a lot a degree doesn’t. Depending on what you want out of this 18-21 year old time, I would consider these on the same level as degree. I appreciate you’re reading this in Year 10 but it’s worth knowing your options and having a think.
It might impact on A-Level choice for example or you could read about alternative qualifications (International Baccalaureate, BTEC etc).
The following links will give you information about apprenticeships:
2)What jobs are there in Science? Are there many jobs in Science?
The TLDR answer is yes there is a lot of opportunity. However, the companies and opportunities are sometimes difficult to spot and the reason is that chemistry takes place in areas where people don’t live or go to.
Chemistry is sometimes smelly, sets on fire, explosive, routinely toxic etc… not something you’d forgivably want to live next to or go on a walk near.
There are many jobs in the field, Research, Analysis, Production as well as ‘dry bench’ roles like Documentation, Regulatory Compliance, Commercial/Sales, Logistics etc. Hundreds of types of jobs are out there.
The reason we don’t know this naturally is that the public isn’t a customer of most scientific businesses, so they don’t market themselves to the public.
This leads to a low awareness of their existence, as an example we discussed the iPhone has an anti-reflective chemical on the lens, a chemical invented by someone in a lab, produced in a plant somewhere and sold by a business.
So, I bought that chemical when I bought my phone.
However, I couldn’t tell you who made this chemical. Certainly, Apple didn’t ‘make it’. And it’s the same with so much of the chemistry we consume - it’s “bundled-up” in another product, meaning we naturally don’t appreciate which company makes what.
However, looking into it, Chemical companies are twice as popular as McDonald’s restaurants (1,249 Maccy’s vs 2,500 Chemical companies in the UK).
We can all name 4 local McDonalds, we can’t name the 8 nearest chemical companies.
So the point is lots of businesses exist in this sector and you could have a thousand careers and not experience every possibility. And now onto opportunities.
To highlight how vast some chemical companies are - Manchester United made £509 million sales in 2020. In the same year BASF (a chemical company) made £59 Billion in sales.
To put that in perspective, it takes BASF 3 days to make what Manchester United do in a whole year of mainly losing cup finals. So the opportunities as you can imagine are massive within an industry made up of such organisations.
So, hopefully this gives an overview of an area to look into and some initial pointers, maybe start you off getting interested etc...
Good luck with the GCSE’s and ask away if you’ve ever got any questions I’ve always got 5 minutes.