What To Know About Becoming Chemistry Major

The chemistry major involves the study of matter and its transformations at the atomic and molecular level.Chemistry majors take courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry, plus inorganic chemistry.

Required classes for the chemistry major include math prerequisites like calculus and physics as well as foundational lab courses in general and organic chemistry.The curriculum covers advanced concepts in thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, spectroscopy, plus synthesis.

Chemistry is a challenging major that require math and science aptitude.To succeed, students must grasp complex chemical concepts and reactions.Lab courses build technical skills in areas like spectroscopy, chromatography, and synthesis.Communication skills are also important for conveying research findings.

The main benefits of majoring in chemistry are gaining versatile scientific problem-solving skills and a strong foundation for chemistry-related careers.Studying chemistry sharpens analytical thinking, research design, data analysis, and communication abilities valuable across disciplines.A chemistry degree qualifies graduates for in-demand, well-paying jobs in industries like healthcare, energy, materials, etc.

In terms of the individual, a chemistry major prepares students for graduate school or medical school.It also provides broad preparation for careers in pharmaceuticals, chemical engineering, environmental science, forensics, and other fields.Chemistry develops scientific curiosity and perseverance through hands-on lab work.

What is a Chemistry Major?

The Chemistry Major is the study of the composition, structure, properties, and reactions of matter, especially at the atomic and molecular level. It studies inorganic and organic compounds, their synthesis, interactions, and real-world applications.

The curriculum for a chemistry major provides a thorough understanding of core chemistry concepts like atomic structure, chemical bonding, thermodynamics, kinetics, quantum mechanics, etc. Chemistry students take foundational courses in general, organic, analytical, physical, inorganic chemistry and so on. 

In their coursework, chemistry majors learn laboratory techniques to synthesize chemical compounds, analyze unknown substances, and study chemical reactions. They use tools like spectrophotometers, chromatographs, and calorimeters to examine substances at the molecular level. Chemistry majors also learn to apply mathematical and computational methods to chemical problems.

Advanced chemistry coursework allows students to specialize in areas like biochemistry, materials science, catalysis, nanotechnology, etc. Classes emphasize the development of critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills. The Royal Society of Chemistry states that “Well-designed practical activities that give students the opportunity to engage with numerous science practices will promote students’ scientific development.”

In order to complete a chemistry degree, students also need to take math and physics prerequisites like calculus, differential equations, and classical mechanics. Different colleges have specific math and science requirements for chemistry majors. 

As a physical science, chemistry is considered a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) major by the National Science Foundation. The AACT (American Association of Chemistry Teachers) states, “No matter how STEM is defined, chemistry is at the core of any STEM curriculum. Because chemistry is known as the ‘central science,’ inherent to all branches of science, it must be an essential component to any STEM curriculum.”

Chemistry majors develop analytical thinking, complex problem-solving, research, plus technical skills, and important skills include critical evaluation of data, experimental design, instrumental techniques, computation, and modeling. Communication skills are also emphasized through lab reports and research presentations. These abilities prepare chemistry graduates for diverse STEM careers or advanced study in the chemical sciences and related.

What Are the Requirements for a Chemistry Major?

Each college and university has similar prerequisites to major in chemistry. This list explains common chemistry major requirements to consider as you research majoring in chemistry:

Complete general education requirements: These are required classes for all students at the university regardless of major. Taken in your first and second year, these 100- and 200-level classes may include English, math, humanities, social sciences, and electives. Total credit hours are typically 24-30.

Fulfill introductory chemistry requirements: These foundational classes are required before officially becoming a chemistry major. They usually include General Chemistry 1 & 2, Organic Chemistry 1 & 2, Analytical Chemistry, and Physics 1 & 2, often with lab components. Total credit hours for these prerequisites is around 20-24.

Take required major chemistry courses: Once admitted as a chemistry major, students take upper level courses like Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Instrumental Analysis, and advanced electives. Labs are included. Total major credit hours are typically 30-40.

Complete math prerequisites: Chemistry majors must take calculus (up to Calculus 3), differential equations, linear algebra, and statistics. Strong math skills are essential. Math credits usually total around 16-20.

Maintain a minimum GPA: Most universities require chemistry majors to keep an overall grade point average of 2.0-2.5 or higher to remain in the program. Some classes like Organic Chemistry have minimum grade requirements.

What Are Courses to Take for a Chemistry Major?

These required classes are 300- and 400-level courses in chemistry and related disciplines that prepare students for careers and graduate school.

Courses are in Analytical Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Instrumental Analysis, Spectroscopy, Materials Chemistry, Computational Chemistry, Chemical Biology, Polymer Chemistry, and more. Many classes include a lab component.

Some independent study, research, and internships are part of most chemistry programs. Students take advanced electives like Medicinal Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Forensic Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, and Nuclear Chemistry aligned with their interests and career goals.

Total upper level credit hours for a chemistry major are typically around 60-70. Coursework gets progressively more intensive, focusing on complex concepts, lab techniques, research methods, and critical thinking skills. Advanced courses allow chemistry majors to specialize and prepare for graduate studies or professional roles as chemists, researchers, health professionals, engineers, etc.

How Hard Is a Chemistry Major?

Chemistry is considered a hard major by most students because the required courses involve advanced math and science concepts. A significant time commitment and diligent study is required to comprehend complex theories, lab techniques, and the diverse fields within chemistry. However, students with an interest in chemistry and strong study skills can thrive in the challenges of a chemistry degree. Chemistry is difficult for several reasons. 

1. The curriculum includes fewer broad electives. Instead it emphasizes core science courses like organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, plus biochemistry. These classes are complex, mathematically rigorous, and fast-paced. 

2. Advanced math skills are mandatory. Chemistry majors need to complete Calculus 1, 2, & 3, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, and Statistics. 

3. Chemistry demands students synthesize concepts from physics, biology, materials science for a comprehensive understanding. 

4. Lab components add hours of hands-on practice, data analysis, and technical report writing. 

Graduation rates for chemistry majors range widely based on the institution. Highly selective schools like MIT and Caltech see 95%+ graduation rates, while state colleges are around 60%. With hard work, utilizing resources like tutoring, and pursuing a genuine interest in the field, chemistry is a rewarding major with unlimited career potential. The challenges ultimately provide chemistry graduates with highly valued skills.

What Can You Do With a Chemistry Major

There are many career options in science, research, healthcare if you have a chemistry degree. Here are 10 jobs for chemistry majors:

Chemist: Chemists conduct complex research, analyze chemical compounds, develop new products, and apply chemistry to solve problems. They work in labs for government, universities, and private companies.

Chemical Engineer: work content of this profession is using chemistry, biology, physics, and math to manage large-scale chemical processes and production. 

Pharmacist: Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and provide advice on drug usage, interactions, and side effects. Strong chemistry knowledge is essential.

Doctor/Dentist: Chemistry coursework provides the foundation for medical and dental school. Doctors diagnose and treat patients, while dentists provide oral healthcare.

Forensic Scientist: Forensic scientists use chemistry and biology to analyze evidence from crime scenes and accidents to uncover facts for investigations.

Environmental Scientist: Environmental scientists study the environment and find solutions to protect it. Knowledge of earth science, ecology, and chemistry is required.

Science Teacher: Those passionate about education can teach chemistry and other science courses in middle schools and high schools.

Biochemist: Biochemists study the chemistry of living things like proteins, DNA, and cell structures. Biochemistry is a rapidly growing field.

Materials Scientist: These scientists research and develop new materials used for everything from aircraft to electronics and sports equipment.

Patent Lawyer: Patent lawyers use their science background to help inventors and companies secure patents for innovations.

Career or JobEntry-level DegreeAnnual Salary
Chemical EngineerBachelor’s$106,260
Physicians and SurgeonsDoctor’s$229,300
Forensic ScientistBachelor’s$63,740
Environmental ScientistBachelor’s$76,480
Science TeacherBachelor’s$ 81,650
Materials ScientistBachelor’s$81,810
Patent LawyerDoctor’s$110,590

What are the Salaries for Chemistry Major

Salaries for chemistry majors vary widely based on the specific job role, level of education, years of experience, and employment sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, typical salary ranges are:

Bachelor’s degree in chemistry – $50,000 to $70,000 starting salary. Experienced chemists with a bachelor’s can earn $80,000 to $100,000 on average.

Master’s degree in chemistry – $65,000 to $85,000 starting salary. Average overall salaries range from $90,000 to $120,000.

PhD in chemistry – $75,000 to $100,000 starting salary. Overall average earnings of $100,000 to $150,000.

Chemical engineer – $70,000 to $110,000 to start. Experienced chemical engineers average between $120,000 and $170,000.

Chemistry professor at a university – $60,000 to $80,000 for assistant professors, $90,000 to $120,000 for associate professors, and $120,000 to $180,000 for full professors.

Pharmaceutical chemist – $70,000 to $100,000 entry level. Overall average of $100,000 to $150,000.

Forensic chemist – $50,000 to $75,000 to start, increasing to $70,000 to $100,000 with experience.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Chemistry Major?

The pros and cons of a chemistry major should be weighed when considering this challenging but rewarding field.

The pros of a chemistry major include gaining a deep understanding of the composition and properties of matter and molecules. Coursework develops critical thinking, logic, research, and analytical skills. Lab work provides hands-on training with cutting-edge instruments and techniques. Chemistry majors have opportunities to collaborate, present research, and contribute to scientific advancement.

A chemistry degree also provides a strong foundation for professional careers in healthcare, engineering, forensics, consulting, education, and more. Majoring in chemistry exhibits competence in STEM disciplines for employers and graduate programs. An undergraduate degree can lead right into a well-paying job or advanced studies.

However, there are also cons to a chemistry major. Coursework is mathematically intensive with classes in calculus, physics, statistics, and differential equations. Labs require meticulous attention to detail and hours of study and practice. Students must synthesize complex concepts spanning multiple scientific realms. Fast-paced upper-level courses quickly get complex. Maintaining a high GPA for a chemistry degree demands consistent, diligent work.

Is Chemistry a Good Major

Chemistry is an excellent major for students who enjoy lab work and are fascinated by the properties of matter and transformations at the molecular level. It offers many advantages.

First, a degree in chemistry provides the foundation for graduate study in chemistry-related fields like biochemistry, materials science, pharmacology, toxicology, nanotechnology, and more. It also prepares students well for professional programs in healthcare like medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry.

Secondly, majoring in chemistry opens the door to well-paid careers in a variety of industries. Graduates are qualified for jobs in pharmaceuticals, energy, agriculture, food science, forensics, environmental science, and chemical engineering. Chemistry majors also develop analytical skills applicable to many other fields.

Is Chemistry a Good Major for Med School

Yes, chemistry is a good major for medical school. In fact, chemistry is one of the top majors pursued by students entering medical school.

Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges(AAMC) shows that after biology, physical science (chemistry is one of the five majors) is the second most common degree for students admitted to medical school. In 2023-2024, 9.1% of students entering med school had an undergraduate degree in physical science.

The chemistry major acceptance rate to medical school is around 47%, which is on par with other common pre-med majors like physics, math, and engineering. This high acceptance rate demonstrates that medical schools recognize the value of a chemistry education.

Majoring in chemistry provides the strong scientific foundation necessary for the medical school curriculum. Courses in organic chemistry, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, and lab techniques are directly applicable to the study of human health. Chemistry majors also develop critical thinking, research, and problem-solving skills.

While medical schools accept students from all majors, chemistry allows focused preparation. The scientific rigor, lab expertise, and understanding of chemical processes gained from a chemistry degree establish a solid foundation for a successful medical career. For those with both an aptitude and interest in chemistry, it can be the ideal path to medical school.

What Are Different Types of Chemistry Degrees

Associate’s Degree (AS) in Chemistry: This is a 2-year degree, typically 4 semesters or 60 credit hours. Coursework covers introductory chemistry, general chemistry, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and basic lab techniques.

Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry: This 4-year degree is 8 semesters or around 120 credit hours. In addition to introductory courses, students take advanced classes in inorganic, organic, physical, analytical, and biochemistry. Other requirements are physics, biology, calculus, and chemistry lab courses.

Master’s Degree in Chemistry: A graduate chemistry program is usually 1-2 years with 30-60 credit hours. It includes advanced coursework, seminars, research, and a thesis project. Focus areas can be analytical chemistry, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, or physical chemistry.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Chemistry: This is the terminal degree in chemistry, taking 4-6 years post-bachelor’s. Students take advanced courses, qualify exams, conduct original research, and defend a dissertation. PhD chemistry programs emphasize specialization in a subfield like materials chemistry, theoretical chemistry, chemical biology, etc.

In summary, an associate’s degree provides an introduction to chemistry, while a bachelor’s thoroughly covers all major areas. Master’s and doctoral degrees allow for advanced study and independent research in a chemistry subfield. All four prepare students for careers in chemical sciences, engineering, healthcare, and education.

What Are the Different Specializations of Chemistry Major?

There are several common specializations and focus areas within the chemistry major. These allow students to gain expertise in a particular subfield of chemistry.

Some typical chemistry specializations are:

Analytical Chemistry – Focuses on developing and applying experimental techniques to identify, quantify, and characterize chemical components and processes. Useful for quality control, forensics, and environmental monitoring.

Inorganic Chemistry – The study of materials, structures, reactions and properties of compounds not involving carbon. Relevant for materials science, electronics, and energy.

Organic Chemistry – Examines the properties, reactions, structures and behavior of carbon-based compounds. Essential for medicine, biochemistry, polymer science, and more.

Physical Chemistry – Applies physics concepts like thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and kinetics to chemical systems. Important for research and development.

Biochemistry – Studies the chemistry of biological processes in living organisms. Foundational for medicine, pharmaceuticals, health science and more.

Theoretical/Computational Chemistry – Uses mathematical and computer-based methods to understand and predict chemical phenomena. Valuable for modeling and simulation.

Chemical Engineering – Focuses on design, operation, and optimization of chemical production processes. Key for manufacturing and industry.

Polymer Chemistry – Synthesizes and analyzes the structures, properties and applications of polymers. Useful for materials development.

Pursuing a specialization allows chemistry majors to focus their studies while still gaining broad chemistry knowledge. This provides specialized skills to qualify for jobs or advanced study in a particular subfield of chemistry after graduation.

Chemistry BranchesMost Common Awarded DegreeTotal Degrees​ Awarded In 2020
NeurobiologyBachelor Degree10,508
BiochemistryBachelor Degree10,071
PhysiologyBachelor Degree7,473
BiotechnologyMaster Degree3,585
Animal BiologyBachelor Degree3,141
Marine BiologyBachelor Degree1,914
ZoologyBachelor Degree1,775
AnatomyBachelor Degree1,740
GeneticsBachelor Degree1,403

Chemistry Major vs. Chemical Engineering

Chemistry and chemical engineering are related fields, but have key differences in focus and coursework.

The chemistry major provides extensive lab training and coursework in inorganic, organic, physical, analytical, and biochemistry. Chemists study properties, structures, synthesis, and analysis of materials and compounds.

Meanwhile, chemical engineering concentrates on design, operation, and optimization of large-scale chemical production processes. Classes emphasize thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, process control, and plant design.

While both study chemical principles, the chemistry major is more science-focused, whereas chemical engineering applies chemistry to real-world systems and manufacturing. Chemistry grads may work in labs to discover new materials. Chemical engineers use that knowledge to develop practical applications and commercial production.

Coursework also differs. Chemistry majors take higher-level chemistry and lab courses. Chemical engineering majors have more required classes in math, physics, computer science, and engineering fundamentals.

Both degrees offer strong job prospects. Chemistry grads are suited for roles in research, testing, quality control, forensics, and more. Chemical engineering grads qualify for process engineering, plant management, and production supervision roles.

In summary, chemistry gives a broad background in chemical science, while chemical engineering teaches scaling up lab chemistry to industrial processes. Students should consider their interests in order to choose the right path between these closely allied majors.

Biology Vs Chemistry Major

Biology major provides extensive study of living organisms and life processes. Core courses include cell biology, genetics, evolutionary biology, and ecology. Biology students develop lab skills in microscopy, dissection, and field research.

Meanwhile, the chemistry major concentrates on the composition, properties, and reactivity of substances. Chemistry students gain lab techniques in synthesis, spectroscopy, chromatography, and quantitative analysis.

While both examine natural phenomena, biology focuses on living systems, while chemistry studies the structure and interactions of all matter at the molecular level. Biology majors take more courses in botany, zoology, microbiology, physiology, and anatomy. Chemistry majors are required to take more classes in physics, calculus, and analytical math.

In terms of careers, biology grads are prepared for health science roles such as medicine, research, and nursing. Chemistry grads qualify for chemical engineering, materials science, quality control, forensics, and pharmaceutical research jobs.

What Are Good Double Majors With Chemistry Major

Some great options for double majors with a chemistry degree include biology, biochemistry, chemical engineering, physics, mathematics, computer science, and business/economics.

Pursuing a double major in biology or biochemistry along with chemistry provides extensive lab skills and deeper knowledge at the intersection of chemistry and the life sciences. This powerhouse training qualifies graduates for careers in pharmaceuticals, medicine, genetics, forensics and more.

Pairing a chemistry degree with chemical engineering develops expertise in both lab chemistry and large-scale chemical production processes. This is a lucrative combo for the manufacturing, energy, and materials industries.

Double majoring in physics or math complements the advanced calculus, physics and analytical skills used in chemistry. This cross-disciplinary science background suits research roles, graduate studies, and jobs requiring strong quantitative abilities.

For those interested in computing, a computer science double major applies programming to model and analyze chemical systems and processes. It allows developing new software and tech solutions for the chemical industry.

Finally, adding a business or economics double major provides management, marketing and financial skills to commercialize scientific advances. This opens doors to consulting, project management, sales, marketing and other business-focused chemistry careers.

Leave a Comment