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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Where can studying Chemistry take you?

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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Choosing to study abroad is a big decision: you leave behind your family and friends, it can cost a lot of money, and you find yourself - initially - in an unfamilar place, with an unfamilar culture (you'll get used to that). You want to know that what you study is going to pay off: that it will be interesting, that you will find yourself challenged, and most crucially, that it will take you somewhere afterwards - into a rewarding career, or on to a great postgraduate program. Chemistry is a subject that almost guarantees this (providing, of course, you work hard and apply yourself). In this article we'll explore why.


What is Chemistry?


Simply put, Chemistry is the science of substances: their composition, structure, properties, and interactions. It is everywhere we look, and in everything we use and do, from the air we breathe to the dinner we cook.


You will have encountered Chemistry at school, but a degree in the subject allows you to delve much deeper into the science than you ever have before – you will be encouraged to carve out an area of expertise for yourself, and may 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.


Chemistry is an amazing subject for international students because it is truly global, and is at the heart of the pharmaceutical industry and NGOs. As a result, there are plenty of opportunities for career development and international travel - where better to start a globe-trotting career than by studying abroad?


What will you learn if you study Chemistry?



At an undergraduate level, all Chemistry courses are designed to provide rigorous education in the fundamental areas of chemical knowledge and chemical experimentation.


The first year will usually contain four subjects, covering the following three traditional areas:


  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry


These are usually studied together with Mathematics for Chemistry.


Of couse, these are all very large areas of study, and include topics such as Biological Chemistry and Physics, which are presented in a chemical context. The purpose of your first year is introduce you to Chemistry in the broadest sense, but as your degree progresses you will be allowed to specialise in more specific areas of the subject, and and there is a strong focus on strengthening your research skills. 


Many universities will also give you the option of a year working in industry or studying abroad before graduation. 


With all this in mind, it is important you shortlist your University options according to the relevance of teaching and research, as specialties vary according to each institution. Different universities will also offer a different quality of support and facilities such as labs and scientific equipment, as well as learning opportunities and work experience. University rankings can offer you an insight to a universities’ strengths and weaknesses.


If you choose to pursue further studies, 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.


Dr. Ian Mabbett, senior lecturer at the Swansea University's Chemistry Department explains: "Chemistry is a practical subject, so expect lots of lab work and contextual links back to the industries that use it. We are well connected to chemical industry so have a lot of case studies to draw on."


Where can you study Chemistry?


There are over 1,600 institutions offering undergraduate Chemistry courses around the world. Here are some of the best:


  • Queen Mary University of London (London, UK) - "Chemistry at QMUL offers excellent and highly regarded training in both theoretical and practical chemistry, together with interdisciplinary modules such as spectroscopy, analytical chemistry and biochemistry."
  • Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, Illinois, USA) - "At Illinois Wesleyan University, your chemistry program will begin with a series of introductory courses designed to give you an understanding of the basic principles of the field. Then you'll select classes in specializing areas of interest, such as analytical, inorganic, organic, physical, and biochemistry."
  • James Cook University (Queensland, Australia) - "Choosing JCU means you will have opportunities to explore analytical chemistry, synthetic organic and inorganic chemistry, kinetics and mechanisms of chemical reactions, spectroscopy, medicinal and biological chemistry and materials chemistry."
  • Swansea University (Swansea University) - There are many reasons to choose to study Chemistry at Swansea University, according to Dr. Mabbett, among the: "a beautiful location, modern curriculum and facilities, research and industry links


What will you need to study Chemistry?



It's probably no surprise, but Chemistry isn't an easy subject. Many courses will require you have a strong academic background in at least two of the 'hard' sciences (Chemistry, Physics and Biology), and a strong grasp of Mathematics will als be essential. If you are a person that enjoys the process of things more than the results, with attention to detail, problem-solving attitude and patience, universities will probably be very pleased to accept you on to their Chemistry course, but remember to check each university’s entry requirements before you apply.


Beyond formal university requirements, Dr. Mabbett says Chemistry Departments are looking for students with "enthusiasm and drive... we want to help people develop their technical and professional knowledge, but that’s done in partnership with students with a thirst for information which can deliver in a variety of ways."


It's also worth bearing in mind that if English is not your first language, you will probably be required to take the IELTS exam to demonstrate your level of English.


Where can a Chemistry degree take you?



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


As Dr. Mabbett explains, "Chemistry is a central science so graduates work in all fields from medicine and life sciences, food and agriculture to renewable energy, manufacturing and even aerospace."


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



Chemistry combined with Management has become a popular option among many students in recent years – this gives you a balance between the abstract study of Chemistry and a more pragmatic, practical approach applicable in the world of business.


Like all STEM subjects, Chemistry has often had a reputation of being male-dominated (despite one of the history's most important chemists, Marie Curie, being a woman!) but recent years have seen women growing in power in Chemistry, often leading the way with innovative research and dedication. If you're a girl who is interested in pursuing a career in Chemistry but are worried about the gender imbalance, don't be!

Want to check which program suits you the best?
Find out with our new "Course Matcher" tool!

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