Whether you’re doing a chemistry degree or you’ve recently graduated, undertaking a chemistry internship is a great way to gain practical experience and boost your career prospects.
If you want to find a chemistry internship, it’s worth looking at top employers like AstraZeneca and Cancer Research UK as they often advertise these types of programs on their website. Alternatively, your university placement office may be able to help you find a suitable internship. You can also browse online chemistry forums and local job boards, or speak to family and friends.
Continue reading to find out more about chemistry internships, the benefits of on-the-job training, and tips on how to find a chemistry internship in the UK.
In this post:
What is an internship?
An internship is a short period of on-the-job training that you can undertake to gain relevant skills and experience in a particular field. Most internships are unpaid because the trainee is inexperienced and may not be able to complete the work to the required standard. That being said, some larger companies do pay a small amount of remuneration, albeit not at the same level as regular employees.
Chemistry internships are typically open to both students and university graduates. Usually lasting anywhere between a few weeks and four months, they’re an excellent way to gain some practical work experience in the real world. An intern is usually placed under the supervision of a regular employee who has expertise in the particular job an intern is training for.
Depending on the available opportunities and an intern’s qualifications, workplace assignments can range from laboratory assistants to trainee factory engineers. Interns aren’t typically given sensitive tasks and in certain situations they may only be allowed to observe.
Various types of internship programs are available to chemistry students and chemistry graduates. Pharmaceutical corporations, fertiliser companies, chemical manufacturing firms, and government chemistry laboratories typically accept interns on a limited basis (you’ll find examples of some of these employers later on).
Why choose a chemistry internship?
A chemistry internship is open to both chemistry and chemical engineering graduates. Irrespective of whether an internship is required for your course, being accepted into this type of program has several benefits.
Firstly, it allows you to familiarise yourself with a company’s day-to-day operations, protocols, and procedures. Undertaking a chemistry internship means you can learn practical skills and theoretical knowledge that are not taught in the classroom. It also gives you the opportunity to improve your social skills in a workplace setting and learn how to relate and communicate with your colleagues and management.
Many chemical and pharmaceutical companies also use advanced state-of-the-art equipment. If you’re lucky, you might be allowed to use these devices and learn how to operate them. This kind of practical, hands-on experience is excellent preparation for paid employment after graduation.
The purpose of an internship
The main purpose of an internship program is to provide practical, on-the-job training for students, graduates, and inexperienced individuals who want to enter a particular field.
Internships are often offered as part of the recruitment process for potential new employees. Many internship programs therefore operate a points system that ranks interns based on their performance while undergoing their training. Together with other requirements, the interns who score the most points may then be hired after they’ve completed the training period.
Both companies and students can benefit from an internship arrangement. Some of the advantages for businesses include the following:
- Promotional opportunities that create brand awareness among local universities and communities
- Improves the productivity and time management of the regular workforce, as some tasks are delegated to interns
- Reduced labour costs because interns are usually unpaid or only receive a small wage
- Potential to improve business operations and productivity based on the opinions of interns who have good ideas
- Companies can build bonds with an intern’s community, making it easier for them to hire the most competent and qualified employees in the future.
As an intern, you can benefit from an internship program in the following ways:
- Gain essential job experience, knowledge, and skills that you wouldn’t receive by simply listening to lectures or doing school laboratory work
- Get the chance to assess which career goals you’d like to pursue based on actual on-the-job experience
- Enhance your CV and improve your future employment prospects, especially if the internship is directly related to the career you’re pursuing. An internship can also help you stand out from your fellow job applicants
- Earn course credits if the internship is a requirement for graduation
What is the difference between an apprenticeship and an internship?
An internship lasts for a few weeks to up to four months. In comparison, a chemistry apprenticeship typically lasts longer and usually leads to direct employment with the company that’s offering it. An apprentice is trained under the supervision of an experienced and expert employee.
Formal apprenticeship programs typically last about four years, although this can vary depending on the type of occupation or employer. An apprenticeship is usually a substitute or the equivalent of a degree for an employee who wants to achieve certification and advance their career. It may include a hybrid of academic, in-school tuition and practical training in the company itself.
You can explore our range of chemistry apprenticeship resources here.
The best way to find a chemistry internship
If you have to complete an internship as part of your chemistry degree, the placement office will match you with a suitable company. Some companies and government agencies may have a standing agreement with your university or place of education. Even if you aren’t required to undertake a chemistry internship, you may still want to. In this case, here are some of the things that you should consider when looking for a chemistry internship.
1. Conduct thorough research
There are various means and platforms you can use to search for internship opportunities in chemistry. You might want to start by looking at classified ad websites for local opportunities, newspapers, and business directories. You can also join online forums for job seekers who specialise in chemistry.
Another option is to speak to the placement office at your university or your local careers advisor. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, relatives, and acquaintances – just make sure you research the background and reputation before you approach the company.
Here are some of the top cities in the UK where you’re likely to find internship opportunities in chemistry.
2. Ensure it’s something you’ll enjoy
As the saying goes, find a job you enjoy doing and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. If you’re passionate about chemistry, you’re likely to enjoy your stay as an intern – even if some of the tasks are new and challenging. Just make sure that you apply to a company that has an employee-friendly culture.
3. Speak with an adviser
Find a professor that you trust and respect to be your adviser during your final year at university. Ask for tips and guidance on how to find the best internship program to suit your interests and particular needs. You can also seek advice from the university placement office.
What to expect from a chemistry internship
As an intern, don’t expect to be given sensitive or confidential tasks. You’re likely to be assigned to do routine work under a supervisor who will also serve as your instructor.
Unlike entry-level and apprenticeship roles, you’re unlikely to be given complex obligations and responsibilities. In reality, you’ll probably act as an assistant or an observer in laboratory tests and factory operations.
Which internship is best for chemistry students?
There are hundreds of companies to choose from when looking for a chemistry internship. However, the best programs are usually offered by top, well-established companies in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and chemical manufacturing. Some examples of these companies include:
Chemistry internships provide an excellent way to gain practical experience and on-the-job training. However, finding the right chemistry internship program that will best suit your interests and needs requires extensive research. As a starting point, find out whether your college or university already has an existing agreement with a particular company. You may also find opportunities advertised online, in newspapers, or through word-of-mouth.
You can find out more about chemistry education and employment by visiting the resources section of our website.
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