Explore the different levels of qualifications available where you live
The work-based qualifications available will depend on where you live, the qualifications you currently hold and what training providers or employers you want to work for are currently offering. Your age may also affect which qualifications you can complete.
Qualifications are available at different levels and build on each other so you can progress onto a higher level qualification if desired.
Applied generals are a range of Level 3 qualifications suitable for students aged 16+ who want to develop a broad range of knowledge and skills that employers seek, and progress on to either university or work in chemistry. Applied science courses cover topics across biology, chemistry and physics with lots of practical lab skills. Over two years, you will learn through lab-based practical assignments, presentations and discussions based on real workplace situations. The BTEC Level 3 in applied science is an example of an applied general.
Higher national certificates (HNC) last one to two years and are generally delivered by colleges. You will need to hold Level 2 qualifications in English and maths and a level 3 qualification in a relevant subject (applied general, A-level or access to HE diploma). It can lead on to a job, higher national dploma (HND) and may be taken as part of an apprenticeship. You will work as part of a lab team but also on your own to solve complex technical problems and deliver professional work.
Higher national diplomas (HND) last two to four years. You will develop a wide knowledge of lab principles and methodologies to support the development of household products or new medicines under highly regulated conditions. If you are looking to work in manufacturing, research and development, healthcare or with organic compounds, polymer chemistry or environmental protection then an HND could be an option. You can go on to a full degree, or work in science-related industries such as medicines, nuclear or water treatment. Like the HNC, the HND may be taken as part of an apprenticeship.
Advanced level apprenticeships are suitable if you are aged 16+ and are delivered largely by colleges and independent training providers. Although no prior qualifications are required, many employers do ask for candidates to have five GCSEs (including maths and science). You must be in science-related employment whilst studying towards your advanced apprenticeship and will be typically studying a level 3 science qualification such as an applied general. It is possible to undertake an HNC as part of your advanced apprenticeship if that particular qualification would better support you in your job role. You will be supported throughout your apprenticeship by your employer and training provider and at the end of the programme you could be eligible to become a Registered Science Technician (RSciTech).
Foundation degrees (FdSc) combine an academic and work-based qualification in higher education, equivalent to two-thirds of an honours bachelor’s degree. They are a good option if you are unsure about doing a full degree, an apprenticeship, or if you are employed in science and want to enhance your knowledge. They are largely suitable for individuals aged 18+ and equip you with practical lab skills, scientific knowledge and work experience. They last two years full time and some are available to study part-time. Student finance is also available. Foundation degrees are available in chemistry, applied chemistry, analytical chemistry, chemical and pharmaceutical science and chemical science for industry. You can go on to a full degree, or study further professional qualifications. Search for these on the UCAS website.
Higher level apprenticeships allow you to study for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in chemical science or applied chemical technology, or a foundation degree one day per week whilst working in a science-related industry. These can last up to five years. You will likely be operating specialist laboratory equipment to test and develop new products and materials in science-related industries. You need at least five GCSEs and a set amount of UCAS points. You can progress into research and development roles, or could top-up your foundation degree or HND to a full degree with further study. At the end of the programme you could become a Registered Scientist (RSci).
Degree level apprenticeships are currently only available in England and Wales. You will study for a bachelor’s degree whilst undertaking full time work in a science-related role. You could be analysing data or researching and developing new products in your specialist scientific area alongside a senior scientist. These qualifications are not yet widely available but are increasing. You will need to hold a grade C GCSE, A-level or applied generals. It takes three to five years depending on the level of experience and qualification you already have. Upon completion, you could be eligible for the Registered Scientist (RSci) professional award.
Foundation apprenticeships are available to 5th and 6th year secondary students as one of your subjects if you are working towards your Highers. This is the only apprenticeship open to under 16s. You could be working as a laboratory assistant or technician. It can lead to further study, a job, a modern or technical apprenticeship, or a related university course in some cases.
Modern apprenticeships are for over 16s and there are no set entry requirements. Modern apprenticeships build on each other and range from Level 5 to 7 offering individuals the option to move from junior technician to supervising a team who are developing medicines or flavours in the food industry. These apprenticeships can last one to two years and you will gain recognised qualifications that can be used for university entry, further study or work.
Technical apprenticeships are suitable for over 16s, can last one to four years and are for individuals who have a modern apprenticeship level 7, equivalent qualification or work experience. You could gain an HND in applied chemistry, applied science, industrial biotechnology, could be employed as a technician or trainee scientist improving scientific techniques, supervising others or progress onto a university degree.
Suitable for school leavers (leaving certificate), level 5 or 6 graduates or those looking to return to chemistry and ultimately work in biopharma, chemical manufacturing, medical devices and diagnostics, food and drink or analytical testing laboratories.
The two apprenticeships were designed with close alignment to the current needs of the Irish BioPharmaChem sector. Programmes start each January and September.
Higher certificate in science – laboratory technician apprenticeship, level 6 is a two-year programme with three on-the-job days and two off-the-job training days. As a lab technician, you will be responsible for carrying out basic lab duties, maintenance and basic physical and analytical testing methods. You need a Pass (Grade 06 or better) in five leaving certificate subjects,(at least two must be maths and a science subject), 250 CAO points, relevant FETAC Level 5 or Level 6. You can progress onto the level 7 apprenticeship to become a labatory analyst
Ordinary bachelor of science degree – laboratory analyst apprenticeship, level 7 is a three-year programme with three days on-the-job and two days off-the-job training . As a lab analyst, you will conduct both basic and advanced analytical testing throughout the development lifecycle. The entry requirements are a Pass (Grade 06 or better) in five leaving certificate subjects (at least two must be maths and a science subject), 250 CAO points, relevant FETAC level 6 or successful level 6 laboratory technician apprentices. You can progress onto employment as a lab analyst and establish your career in the chemical sciences.
Find out more about these apprenticeships in the Republic of Ireland: Laboratory apprenticeship.
If you have the right to work in the EU you can find out more about, search and apply for apprenticeships across the EU on their Drop-in website, or follow on Twitter #ApprenEU.
If you’re unsure or what to learn more about apprenticeships visit Not Going to Uni.
Holly develops new medicines at a global pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca alongside completing her degree apprenticeship
Joseph helps ensure there is clean, safe, water for 15 million people in the UK whilst studying towards his chemistry degree
Rebekka tests and finds ways to improve solar panels whilst balancing her studies towards her Foundation Degree apprenticeship