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Course Info: Chemistry

A chemistry degree allows you to delve much deeper into science and research than you have ever been before, read more about what you can achieve with it.

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A chemistry degree allows you to delve much deeper into science and research than you have ever been before – you will be encouraged to carve out an area of expertise for yourself and will even get the chance to pioneer new developments in the field. If you want a degree that’s challenging, engaging and rewarding in equal measure, then chemistry could hold the right formula for you. Our Hotcourses editor, Alejandra, is here to get you started.

January 2011 marked the start of the International Year of Chemistry and the 100th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize for chemistry to Marie Curie. Chemistry has remained a determinant subject for human development for decades.

Chemistry is the science of substances, their composition, structure, properties, and interactions. It is literally everywhere we look, use and do, from the air we breathe to the dinner we cook everyday; the only difference is that in chemistry you should never lick the spoon!

Past triumphs of chemistry include the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and agricultural products that have revolutionised our daily lives, while future challenges include the solution of numerous important problems relating to health and the environment.

Undergraduate

The undergraduate program in chemistry aims to provide rigorous education in the fundamental areas of chemical knowledge and chemical experimentation.

The first year usually contains 4 subjects, covering the following 3 traditional areas:

  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry

These are usually studied together with Mathematics for Chemistry.

The above are all very broad study areas, and include topics such as Biological Chemistry and Physics, which are presented in a chemical context.

Postgraduate

More specialisation in specific areas and strengthening of research skills are the focus of the remaining years. Finally, you can choose to do a year working in industry or studying abroad before graduation but depends on the chosen university.

If you want to carry on to Graduate School, you need to determine the kind of career you want, considering both your interests and abilities. Postgraduate programmes are usually the best option for those who want to spend a major portion of their career doing independent research or in academia. However, this requires from you loads of autonomy and self-motivation, as the hours are long and sometimes you will need to try and fail before getting anywhere.

Careers

A person with a degree in Chemistry is ready and qualified to assume a variety of positions within industry, government and academia. All 3 share similarities and differences; for instance, a career in commercial chemistry is more lucrative, yet more constrained than the academic route.

A graduate in Chemistry can interact with other related subjects such as

  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Biotechnology
  • Forensic sciences
  • Engineering
  • Material sciences 

Chemistry combined with management has become a popular option among many students in recent years – this allows you a certain level of compromise between academic philanthropy and pragmatic commercialism.

If you have made up your mind and want to have a look at what universities offer, it is important you shortlist your options according to the relevance of teaching and research as specialties vary according to each institution, the quality of support and facilities such as labs and scientific equipment, and the learning opportunities and working experience that each of them offer. University rankings can offer you an insight on universities’ strengths and weaknesses.

Follow the link to find a list of universities that currently offer courses on Chemistry, so you can choose what is best for you.

Considering Chemistry?

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for a chemistry course, you need to prove that you have a strong academic background in chemistry, physics and biology, and very good marks preferably. If you are a person that enjoys the process of things more than the results, with attention to detail, problem-solving attitude and patience, you can definitely succeed in a career in chemistry. Please check each university’s entry requirements well in advance so you are ready to apply.

Chemistry is a truly global subject and is at the heart of the pharmaceuticals industry and NGOs.  As a result, there are plenty of opportunities for career development and international travel. As such, you should consider strengthening your language abilities so you are ready to grab any opportunity that comes along. If English is not your first language, you will be required to take the IELTS exam to demonstrate your level of English.

The growing role of women in chemistry has also been praised during this international year of Chemistry; this article about Marie Curie shows us an example of that. If you are a girl considering this career path, do not think it is a male-dominated sphere only. Many women have challenged this assumption with innovative research and dedication.

If you want to find out the experience of other existing students, you might want to have a look at our ‘student spotlight’ section. Or if you want to find out which scholarships are available for chemistry and sciences students, click the link.

Student Voice: We also recommend that you read our interview with a PhD Chemistry student at Cambridge University

And remember, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate!

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