The Best Chemistry Graduate Schemes in the UK

by Jessica Clifton

Graduate schemes for those who have earned a chemistry degree are excellent ways to learn on the job. The best chemistry graduate schemes are generally entry-level jobs that include training on different aspects of company operations, so you get a well-rounded overview and experience of different aspects of work.

There are a number of companies offering chemistry graduate schemes in the UK that help new graduates get used to a new work environment and culture, as well as improving their knowledge and skills.

Are graduate schemes good?

Not all graduate schemes are created equal – and, of course, it’s important to choose a graduate scheme that you think sounds right for you. Unlike internship or apprenticeship programmes, graduate schemes do pay a full wage, but may not provide all the employee benefits – it’s best to check before you start. In some cases, graduate schemes are part-time.

As a newly hired employee, whether you’re a chemistry graduate or a graduate of another course, there’s a lot of benefit to be found in being part of a graduate scheme. You can reinforce and apply your skills and knowledge in a company setting, and the training you’re provided is specific to your experience and career aspirations. 

Sometimes, graduates are assigned to various departments. This is important as it means you’ll understand the various functions of different departments. Once you’ve completed your training, you might be given the opportunity to choose the department to which you want to be assigned. 

In most cases, graduates are offered full time positions in the company, and this is the case with the best chemistry graduate schemes. There are a few things you can do to help ensure you’re given a full time role when your graduate scheme comes to an end, including:

  • Be punctual
  • Be cooperative
  • Be sociable
  • Learn from your colleagues
  • Ask for additional tasks
  • Show initiative
  • Suggest new ideas
  • Have patience
  • Think long-term

Even if you’re not offered the full time position, your experience and new knowledge will help you in your next job search.

What are the best graduate schemes for chemistry graduates?

The best chemistry graduate schemes depend upon what you want or expect from this experience. You might like the sound of some but not others, and generally it will all boil down to your personal interests and perspective. It will also largely depend on your qualifications.

Generally, you can gauge whether a graduate scheme might be right for you (or not) based on the following criteria:

  • Compensation package
  • Connection to your course
  • Work environment and culture
  • Learning opportunities
  • Career options
  • Excitement and challenge
  • Location

Not all graduate schemes that are open to chemistry graduates are directly about chemistry or involve laboratory work. Some may be offering roles in sales, purchasing, quality control, or data science.

Graduate schemes for chemists can include:

  1. Data science and software development – solve a wide range of problems in science and engineering in connection with the manipulation of complex sets of data. Skills in software development are required for data visualisation. 
  2. Microbiology – an emphasis on laboratory work and interpreting test results, working with experts from different teams and supporting product development.
  3. Analytical chemistry – one of the most common applications of chemistry is analytical chemistry. Many companies are looking for analytical chemists for research and product development. Pharmaceutical companies particularly have high demand for chemists. Knowledge and skills in instrumentations and techniques are generally required, and you might be working with high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), ion chromatography, spectroscopy, and electrochromatography.
  4. Nanotechnology – the field of nanotechnology applies the most advanced, cutting-edge technologies in creating new materials and compounds. Manipulating matter at the nanoscale has a wide range of applications such as those used in diagnostic medicines and developing new drugs.
A chemistry graduate scheme may include working in nanotechnology
A chemistry graduate scheme may include working in nanotechnology

How long are graduate schemes?

The duration of graduate schemes vary from one company to another and may also vary depending on the industry. Generally, graduate schemes last around two to three years. The recruitment for prospective new graduates typically begins in June and goes through to the September of the year after, although some companies might recruit twice a year.

Can you apply for graduate schemes after graduation?

Graduate schemes are open to those who have recently graduated from university. The application process allows those who are about to graduate or those who have already graduated to apply. The screening process is typically very competitive, especially for the best or best-paid positions, so it’s important to put together a strong application and prepare thoroughly for any interviews you may have.

How do I get on a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are a good starting point for fresh graduates who are inexperienced in the workplace and want to figure out where they are going to fit best. Both private companies and government institutions offer graduate schemes.

Just like applying for a ‘regular’ job, you need to strategize and be competitive and resourceful when you apply. Here are some things you can do to secure a slot in graduate schemes:

  • Know the different options available to you
  • Focus on the benefits you will gain
  • Consult experts on how to apply and succeed
  • Learn to use your network and the network of others
  • Be sure that you are qualified for the position and you submit all the requirements

Where to find graduate schemes

It’s commonly well-established and large private companies that offer graduate schemes. Smaller and start-up businesses don’t usually have the financial capabilities or the luxury to train fresh graduates. The careers department at your university is a good place to start to find a chemistry graduate scheme, and you may find that your chemistry department has resources to support you in finding a placement. Of course, there’s also a wealth of information online.

Find out more about chemistry education in our chemistry education resources hub.


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