​Why a career in chemistry doesn’t have to be confined to the lab

Posted on 28 September 2021

Graduates & PostDocs

Like many recent graduates and doctorates, when I first started my career in chemistry I assumed I’d predominantly be working in the laboratory. 25 years on however after a Degree, and PhD in chemistry, only four years were spent as Principal Scientist at the Paint Research Association. My career moved into recruitment, managing a team and running a business. Along the way I have enjoyed contributing and editing Surface Coatings International, becoming a board member of Surfex, establishing & managing the Surfex Bursary and a founder member of the Surface Coatings Special Interest Group with the Royal Society of Chemistry. I am also a Fellow of the Oil & Colour Chemists which is recognition of my contribution to industry by my peers. I’m pleased to have had a rich and varied career in our industry. Fortunately, having supported the development of hundreds of fellow professionals I know from experience that I’m in no way an exception to the rule.


Here are just a few of the exciting career opportunities we see at Merritt Recruitment every day.


Technical managers are the bedrock of our industry, responsible for formulating products, maintaining quality, supporting clients and developing new offerings. Although one of the closest roles to the one envisioned by graduates, with plenty of time in the lab, there is much more to these roles. Most Technical Manager will be leading a team of Chemists & Technician, as well as supervising research activities, they will be responsible for Health & Safety, providing regulatory advice and sourcing raw materials. A key task is supporting customers and the sales team and this will often see technical managers travelling across the UK and abroad.



Supported by a strong grounding in science and technology, we often find that chemists successfully make the transition into a commercial role. One of the most financially rewarding career pathways, an ability to effectively understand and relate to the challenges faced by client companies set the best technical sales candidates apart from the crowd. Company cars, commission and UK and international travel tend to come as standard in these positions.



A good eye for detail is one of the key requirements for production & process chemists, engineers and managers. Responsibilities include transfer of new products from the laboratory, developing production teams, health & safety, quality assurance, and in-depth knowledge of machinery. One of the industry specific requirements for the inks, paints and cosmetics sector, where colour matching is done both by eye and instrumentation..



While it may not sound like the most exciting career route in chemistry, regulatory professionals often find that they are the driving force of change in the industry. Responsible for ensuring sustainability best practice and compliance, regulatory consultants often come into contact with all aspects of a business. Employers are often now looking for candidates with a passion for sustainability as well as technical competence when recruiting for these roles.


Planning your career

With so many routes into the industry and opportunities to change career direction, candidates can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Thankfully, having been so ingrained within chemistry and supported hundreds of professionals in finding the right role for them, we’re able to offer much needed advice and support.


Dr Laura Merritt is an experienced recruiter and qualified chemist. Her PhD specialised in UV curing, photochemistry and polymer chemistry. Dr Merritt is the founder of Merritt Recruitment, a council member of the Oil & Colour Chemists’ Association, secretary of the Royal Society of Chemistry - Coatings Group and managing director of Surfex.


To connect with Laura on LinkedIn visit LinkedIn. A full list of the latest jobs in the chemistry industry and details of how to apply can be found here: Jobs


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