Analytical Chemist

Analytical chemists examine the composition, structure and characteristics of a variety of materials by examining and identifying the various elements or compounds that make up the substances, as well as the processes and changes that they undergo. They are absolutely crucial to the pharmaceutical industry because pharmaceutical companies need to know the identity of compounds that they hope to turn into drugs. They study the relationships and interactions between the parts of compounds. 

Analytical chemists analyse samples using a range of modern techniques including electro-chromatography, high performance liquid chromatography and spectroscopy. They are employed by a variety of public and private sector organisations, and can specialise in areas such as toxicology, pharmaceuticals, quality control or forensics with 

An analytical chemist also aims to develop new methods of analysis. As well as investigating which substances are present, they establish their quantities; they conduct experiments in a laboratory and write reports on their findings. Analytical chemists work closely with a team of chemists who are all specialists in their own fields.

Quality control will continue to be an important issue in chemical manufacturing and other industries that use chemicals in their manufacturing processes. Chemists will also be needed to develop and improve the technologies and processes used to produce chemicals for all purposes and to identify the presence and concentration of chemical pollutants in air, water and soil.

Environmental research will offer many new opportunities for chemists and materials scientists. To satisfy public concerns and to comply with government regulations, the chemical industry will continue to invest a large amount of money each year in technology which reduces pollution and cleans up existing waste sites.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • using a range of software, techniques and equipment to carry out research and analysis
  • analysing and interpreting data
  • making sure that data is accurately recorded in accordance to guidelines
  • reporting/presenting results
  • writing research papers, reports, reviews and summaries
  • keeping up to date with scientific and technical developments
  • ensuring that health and safety issues are adhered to
  • preparing product licence documentation
  • liaising with customers, suppliers and research/scientific staff
  • developing new analytical methods

Chemists are also needed to find ways to reduce the use of energy and to discover new sources of energy.

Personal Requirements

  • scientific aptitude and above average academic ability
  • problem-solving skills
  • organised, meticulous and thorough
  • patience and perseverance
  • work well with others
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • leadership ability

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences


What to Study

Degree: BSc degree with Chemistry: most universities.


In addition to the required courses in analytical, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry, undergraduate chemistry majors usually study biological sciences, mathematics and physics. Computer courses are essential, because employers prefer job applicants who are able to apply computer skills to simulation tasks and operate computerised laboratory equipment. Courses in statistics are also useful.

Post-graduate study:
BSc (Hons) in Chemistry - most universities.
BSc (Hons) in Applied Chemistry

A masters degree or doctorate is needed for higher positions in lecturing, research, and administration - NMMU, UNISA.

A person with a BSc (Hons) degree in Chemistry may register as a corporate member and professional chemist at the SA Chemical Institute.


  • chemical and other manufacturing industries
  • government departments
  • non-profit research organisations
  • educational institutions
  • SABS
  • CSIR
  • Eskom
  • Council for Mineral Technology
  • Uranium Enrichment Corporation

Further Information

Meiring Naudé Road
Brummeria, Pretoria 
Tel: (012) 841-2911

South African Chemical Institute
School of Chemistry - University of the Witwatersrand
Private Bag X3
Johannesburg, 2050
Tel: (011) 717-6705

Getting Started

  • take courses where laboratory experience can be obtained
  • arrange to speak to an analytical chemist andask permission to observe him at work
  • visit laboratories and chemical plants

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Become an Analytical Chemist

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