Like many other types of apprenticeships, chemistry apprenticeships are a great way of developing your skills and experience in this particular field. From chemical engineering to laboratory analysis, there is a wide range of apprenticeships available in chemistry. Finding the right apprenticeship for you will depend on your experience, education, its compensation package, and your field of interest.
What Are Apprenticeships?
The history of apprenticeships is rooted in the practice of training potential successors in a profession or trade. This has been common practice throughout history, and typically involved training younger generations to become blacksmiths, masons, or carpenters.
During the Middle Ages in Europe, apprenticeships became a formal system controlled by craft guilds. These guilds outlined the training standards, professional standards, and working conditions that apprenticeships should adhere to.
This eventually led to our modern day understanding of what an apprenticeship is:
- An apprenticeship is a programme that trains someone in a particular skill or trade
- Apprenticeships are used to gain on-the-job experience, in lieu of or in addition to a degree
- For some university courses, doing an apprenticeship is a requirement for graduation
- Many vocational courses also require their students to complete an apprenticeship
- Apprenticeships can be a good alternative to a degree, depending on the career path
During their programme, apprentices are not yet licensed in the profession they are training in. This means that apprentices can only practice their trade under the supervision of a licensed professional.
While they are often thought of synonymously, apprenticeships and internships usually refer to different programmes. The key difference is that internships are typically offered to graduating students or post-graduates as a way of starting their career in the industry. Although apprenticeships can work like this, it’s more common for inexperienced workers or undergraduates to apply to these programmes.
Apprenticeships can also appear under many different guises, depending on the university course or industry sector. Medical internships, for example, are a form of apprenticeship that medical undergraduates have to complete. Similarly, aspiring health workers usually undertake a residency at a healthcare facility.
Are Apprenticeships Paid?
Since apprenticeships are considered as training programmes rather than official jobs, their funding can vary massively depending on the employer and industry, as well as many other factors. In general:
- Apprentices are required to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage
- This figure will vary depending on how old the person is and how much experience they have
- Pay rates also depend on how much of the programme an apprentice has completed
Apprentices are also entitled to the same working conditions and benefits as fully fledged employees, such as annual leave and sick pay.
What are Chemistry Apprenticeships?
Chemistry apprenticeship programmes are completed in order to gain experience in a particular field. Different programmes require different prerequisites, and they can range from:
- Secondary and further education, like GCSEs and A-Levels
- Higher education, like bachelor degrees in chemistry, masters, or PhDs
- Demonstrable industry experience in a related profession
- Preceding levels of apprenticeship that have been completed
Apprenticeship programmes in chemistry typically lead to full-time, regular employment. Chemistry apprenticeships can also secure careers in highly specialised industries, such as polymer processing, laboratory analyses and even forensics.
Chemistry apprenticeships offer a wide range of career opportunities in both private and public sectors. Trained chemists and chemical technicians also find employment in government agencies, such as the UK Environmental Agency and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Popular Apprenticeships in Chemistry in the UK
The UK offers an enormous range of chemistry apprenticeships that span many different industries. Here are the top five apprenticeships that aspiring chemists and scientists undertake:
- Laboratory Process Technician
Many private companies related to oil processing, chemical manufacturing, waste treatment companies, and food processing have regular apprenticeship programmes open. These are well-suited to chemical technicians who have laboratory skills and experience, though some companies only require secondary education and a willingness to learn. Apprentices in this sector are typically involved in assisting senior process chemists in the study, testing, and analysis of various chemicals, substances, or equipment.
- Laboratory Analyst Apprenticeships
Laboratory analyses require an advanced and specialised degree in chemistry. Therefore, apprenticeship programmes in this field may vary depending on the needs of a company and the industry. In general, a laboratory analyst apprenticeship may include forensic evidence analysis, industrial material analysis, geology sample analysis like radiometric dating, and biochemical analysis.
- Degree Apprenticeships
A degree apprenticeship is split between working for an employer and studying part-time at university. When completed, it’s the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s, depending on the apprenticeship. In chemistry, a degree apprenticeship helps you gain work experience in a specific industry whilst being able to simultaneously study the subject. Universities all across the UK offer these programmes. They can also be used by existing workers who want to develop their skills and knowledge.
- Laboratory Scientist Apprenticeships
Laboratory science is a level 6 degree apprenticeship offered to those who are already employed by a company and have a background in science. It’s designed for highly talented employees who want to earn a higher degree in chemistry. This programme is similarly offered by many universities in the UK, making it extremely accessible. Through this chemistry apprenticeship, laboratory technicians can become certified chemists and scientists.
- Apprenticeships in Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineering is an industry that can be accessed by obtaining a relevant degree, doing an apprenticeship, or sometimes both. They are often a required part of a university course, but those who are unable to attend university can also use the programme as the first stepping stone in their career. Work experience is essential for chemical engineering, which encompasses an important set of responsibilities. At a minimum, this includes ensuring the safety of chemical products and equipment.
How to Find an Apprenticeship
Finding an apprenticeship involves the same process as finding any job. The most straightforward method is to check apprenticeship and job postings online – a good place to start is visiting specialised websites that focus on apprenticeship programmes, like Amazing Apprenticeships.
But sometimes, applying for a posting isn’t enough, so here are some other things you can do when looking for an apprenticeship:
- Some vacancies are not advertised or updated on company websites, so make sure to contact the company directly to enquire about apprenticeship programmes.
- Check university websites to see if they are offering apprenticeships. If you’re employed, you can also ask your company if they would sponsor your degree apprenticeship.
- Join social media groups related to your field is a great way of keeping informed about what apprenticeship programmes are available and where.
Find out more about chemistry education in our chemistry education resources hub.
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