Advertisments in the Sunday Times

Faced with many diverse and challenging options, you may still be undecided about the subjects you want to study at university. Well consider that CHEMISTRY is a subject that can offer many and exciting challenges. It is a subject that is backed up by its own industry. The job opportunities cater for a variety of personalities and aptitudes. If you are unsure about what the chemical industry has to offer then read on.

Here is a summary of the jobs that have been advertised in the Sunday Times since May 1999. Note that only jobs that directly ask for a graduate with chemistry are included. Jobs which ask for a BSc with an appropriate major which is not specified (but might be chemistry) are not included.

Sectoral distribution

The jobs have been allocated into three sectors. The academic sector includes all jobs at universities or schools. The government sector includes employment with national government, provinces, municipalities, CSIR, Water Research Council, Medical Research Council, Agricultural Research Council etc. All other jobs are classified as industrial.

Chemistry jobs sectoral distribution

The pie graph above indicates that 50% of the 362 jobs advertised (in the period May 1999 to February 2001) were in the industrial sector. The chart below is a representation of the weekly availability of jobs in each of the months. There is a slight cycle with the fewest jobs being advertised in June and December (especially in the government and academic sectors).

Regional distribution

Regionally most of the jobs advertised are in the Gauteng region (37 % equally spread between Pretoria and the Witwatersrand). This is a reflection of the Sunday Times being a national newspaper and the industrial strength in Gauteng. The chart below indicates that Cape Town (9 %), Durban (7 %) and Port Elizabeth (5 %) follow behind in the employment stakes. The remainder of the jobs are either unspecified (7 %), are for overseas locations (5 %) or are scattered throughout the rest of the country.


Academic sector jobs

Most of the jobs in the academic sector are for positions at university (79 %) with the remainder at Technikons (15%) and schools (6 %). Most of these positions are teaching positions although some researchers have been sought. It should be noted that advertisements for Physical Science teachers have not been included in this analysis (only specific references to chemistry).

Government sector jobs

The big government employers are all in the water and environment field. The national Department of Water Affairs has advertised 26 jobs (33 % of the government jobs) over the last 21 months. Other major employers are Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism (10 jobs), Eskom (8) and the statutory councils and their off shoots: SABS (8), CSIR (6), Mintek (2). As can be seen chemistry is at the heart of much of what government does by ensuring that the quality of service provided to the nation is maintained. Other government employers include the forensics section of the South African Police Services (6 jobs), Department of Health (5) and even Department of Trade and Industry (4). This latter involves graduates with an interest in chemistry and economics to look after South African trade issues.

Industrial sector jobs

Chemistry industrial sector jobs

The above pie chart shows the break down of advertisement within the industrial sector. As can be seen the steel and mining sector is by far the largest employer. This is a reflection of the importance of mining to South Africa. Chemists are required to analyse samples to determine the mineral composition, certify purity of extracted metals as well as develop new methods for improving the extraction of South Africa’s mineral wealth.

The next largest advertiser is the polymer industry which includes the plastics industry (both raw material and finished product manufacture), the rubber and tyre industry, the cable industry, the paint industry and the plastic coatings industry. Take a look at the inside of a cool drink or beer can. Chemists are needed to develop new products as well as certify the quality of existing products.

Sasol as well as the petrol companies remain big employers in the Fuel and Solvents sector. Note, however, that Sasol is a very diverse company and one of the largest employers in the South African chemical industry. Thus their advertisements are not restricted to the Fuel sector but include mining, polymers and some speciality sectors.

Because environmental concerns are very important today, the water suppliers (e.g. Rand Water and Umgeni Water) are also big employers. They require well-trained chemists to assure the quality of South Africa’s drinking water. Chemists are also at the forefront of tackling South Africa’s waste disposal problems while others may be found providing analytical services for environmental consulting companies.

As South Africa’s economy grows, the local manufacture of pharmaceutical products will increase. Chemists will always be required to analyse the quality of the product as well as develop synthetic routes to new drugs that come onto the market. Employment is provided in this sector in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Gauteng.

Personal goods include the beverage industry (4 jobs), the food and flavourants industry (4), and the cosmetics and perfume industry (4). Again chemists are called upon to be involved in the manufacture and quality control of these products.

The other section includes all the speciality sectors that have not been included above. The list below shows the diversity of employment opportunities that are available to chemists: ink industry, pulp and paper industry, packaging, agricultural chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers), catalyst industry, explosives, leather goods, equipment supply and the patent attorney profession.

Across the industrial sector chemists fulfill a range of functions. Some are employed in managerial positions (and not just as managers of chemists), many are analysts who are concerned with quality control, others are technical sales representatives who required detailed understanding of the products they are selling while others will be involved with the synthesis and ultimate industrial manufacture of the chemicals on which the economies of the world are built.