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Chemistry is a branch of physical science, and is sometimes referred to as “the central science”. This is because it bridges other natural sciences like geology, biology, and physics. It is the study of the properties, behavior, and composition of matter. Chemistry looks primarily at atoms and the interactions between atoms and between atoms and certain forms of energy.

Program Information

Northwestern University has one of the best chemistry programs in the country. The chemistry major will require you to complete a set of core courses in chemistry, a series of related courses outside of chemistry, and another series of courses in an area of concentration. The required courses in physics and math provide the chemistry major student with a solid base in these areas which is essential to the study of chemistry. The core courses (including General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Physical Chemistry) provide a solid base for students to continue in the field of chemistry. During the fall semester of senior year, graduating students will be contacted by the Chemistry Department about the chance to graduate with Honours in Chemistry. Students who want to do so need to meet certain requirements, and during the winter semester will prepare a Senior Thesis which will reflect some portion, if not all, of the student’s independent research. The University of California, Berkeley is another top school with an excellent chemistry program. The Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry is planned for students who are interested in pursuing a career as a professional chemist, or wish to create a comprehensive grounding in chemistry in order to prepare for graduate school in chemistry and other related disciplines. The curriculum gives students fundamental knowledge of the major fields of chemistry. A student must complete at least 120 semester units in order to graduate, and must earn at least a C in all courses undertaken.

chemistry student

Pros & Cons

A career in chemistry will provide a steady salary. It also provides good salary prospects. Chemists, for example, on average made $70 000 in 2011 with some people earning over $117 000. There are also several options of specialization which increases the number of career fields you can potentially enter. For example, some chemists work for biotechnological industries to help develop drugs to treat diseases. There is also a strong sense of accomplishment from inventions and discoveries, and thus the profession can be very rewarding personally. Earning a chemistry degree can be difficult however, and it will require a lot of work and studying. The field also has a slower than average growth rate (only a 4% increase expected over the next decade), and competition for jobs can be high (especially entry level positions). An undergraduate degree may not be good enough for some positions, forcing you to attend graduate school which requires more money and more time in school.

Graduate School & Career

Many students with chemistry degrees attend graduate school to specialize in a certain aspect. Some potential careers include Chemical Educators, such as teachers. They give lectures, conduct discussions and prepare classes. At the university level, teachers also review professional journals and stay up to date with any new field developments. Some people work in chemical plants as chemists, or work in sales or marketing for the plant. Many government agencies hire chemists, including the Department of Energy, Centers for Disease Control, and the Department of Agriculture. There are also non-traditional options, such as becoming a journalist for technical and scientific articles for trade magazines and journals.