You spent years studying and understanding the nature of matter and now it’s time to put that knowledge to work. Going overseas for an internship in chemistry puts you in closer contact with both the industry and a different culture.
The periodic table of elements is pretty universal, but understanding how another country approaches the same problem gives you a completely new perspective on the field. Like interning overseas in any area of study, this is an unbeatable first step in launching your career, whether you want to work in environmental causes, teach chemistry to kids, or improve pharmaceuticals.
Although you won’t be able to turn lead into gold, an internship in chemistry abroad will kick-off your contribution to the field in a very unique way.
Teaching & Education
If you’ve always wanted to make an impact on the next generation, a teaching position in chemistry is ideal. Remember that twinkle in your eye when you discovered in high school that chemistry was your passion? Maybe you’ll get to see that very same thing happen to one of your students one day!
Although the curriculum might not have changed since you were a student yourself, that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with your own innovative ways to teach it. Dip your toes into the field of education with a chemistry teaching internship.
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most competitive industries in the world. Not only are most of these companies household names, but this fast-paced field demands that they constantly scout for new talent.
As an intern in a pharmaceutical lab, when you aren't working on developing a new drug, you’ll be assisting in improving existing ones. Helping to decrease side effects so you can improve a patient’s quality of life is just one of the many things you can do in your internship.
Food is a basic human need -- and it’s also a trillion-dollar industry that is transversal to all cultures and markets. This means that food safety is a top priority and, therefore, there are a lot of companies recruiting chemistry interns every year to work on exactly this.
The scope of tasks a food chemist performs is broad. It can range from creating healthier products just by replacing an ingredient to finding a more environmental-friendly option to preserve foods.
Monitoring the environment and humankind’s impact on the planet has become crucial. Environmental chemists study chemical and biochemical reactions in nature, monitoring them very closely.
You can find most of the internship programs in this area at public and government environmental agencies.
Not to be confused with environmental chemistry, which is mostly an analytical field that monitors the effect of chemicals in nature, green chemistry (or sustainable chemistry) looks into developing chemical products that are the least polluting possible.
As an intern in this field, you’ll study chemistry’s impact on the environment and help develop greener and more resource-efficient options.
Where to Go
This industry is constantly evolving and it’s one of the economic pillars of many countries. These are some of the destinations where you can apply for a chemistry internship and be a part of the most innovative companies in the world.
The chemical industry is the biggest in the European Union and a world leader. Germany concentrates some of the largest corporations in this field, mostly in the pharmaceutical business.
Here you’ll find well-established internship programs, focusing mostly on research, which usually lead to full employment opportunities later. Germany’s central location is a bonus if you wish to visit more of Europe in your free time.
In Switzerland, the pharmaceutical industry accounts for 30% of the country’s export market. The small central-European nation is also the home base of two of the largest pharmaceutical groups, Novartis and La Roche.
This is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a pharmaceutical chemistry internship in one of these reputable companies. Both value firsthand work experience and have created their own internship programs for local and foreign graduates.
Denmark employs over 10,000 people in 245 companies in this industry, working mainly in the pharmaceutical, energy, and biotechnology areas.
Innovation is key to Denmark’s industrial landscape. For those looking for an internship in green chemistry or environmental chemistry, keep this destination on your list of possibilities.
The chemical industry in India is one of the largest in the country and is continuing to grow at a steady pace. Skilled labor, however, doesn’t grow at the same rate, although it’s been improving.
Interning in India is an opportunity to fill in the human resources gap while gaining work experience in a different culture and environment.
Planning Your Trip
After choosing your destination and your preferred field of work, it’s time to address the bureaucratic part of your chemistry internship abroad.
How to Choose a Chemistry Intern Program
Assessing what you wish to accomplish with your internship is the first step to choose the right program. If all you want is the opportunity to be a chemistry intern abroad, then it’s best to choose a program based on your favorite destination.
For those who want to pursue a career in a specific field, research the countries that are the best in the industry. For example, Germany and Switzerland are leaders in pharmaceuticals where major companies have their headquarters. Green chemistry interns, on the other hand, will probably find an easier placement in countries where pollution and environmental issues are a growing concern.
Depending on your experience traveling or living abroad, decide whether you prefer a program that takes care of everything for you (housing, documents, visas, etc.) or one that gives you more flexibility.
Health & Safety
Before traveling, look for health and safety alerts on the official websites for the CDC and for the U.S. Department of State. Here you’ll find updated information on vaccinations, visas, and additional information for the country you’ll be traveling to.
Internship program providers will inform you of everything you need to know. Look for local sources of information on these topics if you want to have the health and safety overlook before choosing a destination or are reaching out to foreign companies for internship opportunities on your own.
These sources can include expats forums and blogs, Facebook groups, or local universities associated with your education institution at home.
Other Need to Know
Budget is a decisive factor for many interns when choosing a destination. Expat websites are usually an accurate source of information about the cost of living and the average salary for internships.
Ask your program provider or your employer about workplace etiquette, work culture, local labor laws, and how important it is that you learn the language in case you’re traveling to a non-English speaking country.