A person in a white coat working in a lab

You may not immediately associate construction with chemistry, but chemistry graduates have huge prospects if they are considering a career in the construction industry.

Versatile & applicable to many industries

There are few more versatile degrees to have than one in chemistry. The career options range over many different sectors, from healthcare to pharmaceuticals, scientific research to manufacturing, engineering to agrochemicals – and that is just the industries where a chemistry graduate’s scientific knowledge is in demand. The other skills chemistry students develop during their degree courses make them some of the most sought-after job applicants in the UK.

Chemistry meets construction: the invisible backbone of the industry

Construction is impossible without chemistry. All building materials are the result of chemical processes, and utilise chemicals in their composition, whether it is in the structure of a type of concrete, insulation, sealant or adhesive. As construction becomes more sustainable the role of chemistry is likely to play an even greater importance in the industry, as new products are developed with more sustainable chemical footprints.

Materials engineering

Also known as materials technicians or materials scientists, materials engineers source, test and assess the materials used in construction. They ensure that building foundations and materials are suitable and offer guidance on the best materials to use for a project, based on their individual properties, project costs and timeframes.

Nuclear process engineer

Nuclear process engineers are responsible for designing and managing the safe and productive running of nuclear power stations. They develop the processes and instruments used to produce energy, for distribution to homes and businesses. Nuclear process engineers monitor and measure radiation levels in their plants, dispose of nuclear waste safely, and play a role in the decommissioning process for sites that have to be shut down.

Chemical engineer

Chemical engineers turn raw materials into other substances. As a chemical engineer, you will be responsible for developing new industrial processes and modifying existing ones. By changing the chemical, biochemical and physical state of a substance, chemical engineers create a wide range of products. Chemical engineering uses cutting-edge technology, helping to pioneer valuable new materials and techniques. 

Remediation Specialist

Remediation specialists deal with the assessment, treatment and removal of contamination from soil and groundwater. They design and implement remedial action plans to clean up sites affected by fuel, pesticides and heavy metals amongst other substances, so that they are safe for the future.

Climbing the construction ladder

As a chemistry graduate, you will have great potential to develop a rewarding career, both professionally and financially. But it may not be an immediate rise to the top. Construction careers can be built gradually, as you gain experience. Continuous professional development (CPD), training courses and professional qualifications are often the way people reach seniority in their fields. Careers involving chemicals are highly skilled, with some carrying huge safety responsibilities, so moving from job to job may take more time than in other careers.

What to expect on a construction site?

If you are doing a job in construction that makes use of your chemistry knowledge and skills, like those above, the chances are that you will be working off-site much of the time – in a lab or office. However, there will be times when you are required on a construction site, whether just in an advisory capacity or in a more hands-on role. Here’s what to expect on-site.

Skills chemistry graduates have

People who have studied chemistry have a range of skills, from analytical thinking and problem-solving to communication and teamwork. Perhaps the most significant qualities they develop are those associated with the practical nature of chemistry – graduates learn to be very rigorous and structured in their planning and approach to tasks.

Chemistry students have to test a hypothesis and demonstrate with evidence the results of the work they have done or what has happened in an experiment. These are highly transferable skills that are in great demand from businesses. Chemistry graduates are also highly numerate and very good at managing their time.

Earning potential of a chemistry graduate

Like those with a maths degree, chemistry graduates have significant earning potential within the construction sector. Starting salaries for the jobs listed above are in the region of £20,000-£30,000, but senior chemical engineers can earn up to £80,000. 

Getting into the construction industry without a degree?

Studying for a university degree is not the only route you can take into a professional construction career. You could take a college course, complete an apprenticeship or apply directly to an employer if you have relevant work experience.

Where to find jobs in the construction industry

A wide range of jobs, graduate schemes and apprenticeships for chemistry graduates interested in construction are advertised regularly on Talentview. You can filter your job searches by job role, and location and also look for management traineeships, work experience, placements and internships.