At the bachelor's degree level, students obtain a foundational knowledge of chemistry and chemical reactions. These programs involve a great deal of lab work and usually call for a research project.
In a master's degree program, chemistry students perform experiments in advanced fields of study, such as spectroscopy, chemical kinetics and organic synthesis.
Doctoral programs are typically designed for experienced chemists or aspiring college-level instructors. In these programs, students conduct group research projects as well as complete courses in advanced topics.
Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry
A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Chemistry provides students with a basic understanding of chemical reactions and how those reactions can be used to manufacture everyday products and further technological development. These 4-year degree programs consist of classroom lecture, laboratory instruction and an undergraduate research project. Some institutions even offer paid or unpaid internships as part of undergraduate programs. Students should have their high school diploma or GED to qualify for admission.
Coursework usually consists of general electives in math, English, computer science and the social sciences along with heavy concentration in the natural sciences. Some coursework may be availalbe online at this level. Core chemistry courses include the following:
- Organic chemistry
- Inorganic chemistry
- Analytical chemistry
- Physical chemistry
Master's Degree in Chemistry
A Master of Science (M.S.) in Chemistry allows students to familiarize themselves with the inner workings of a laboratory. Master's candidates conduct advanced experiments in such areas as biochemistry, organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry, and in order to graduate, must complete either a thesis or a research project.
Candidates for an M.S. in Chemistry must hold a B.S. in Chemistry and have received satisfactory scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Students should also have undergraduate research experience as well as a letter of recommendation from a research adviser. Notably, a record of outstanding research performance can hold more weight than GRE scores or grades in the admissions process.
Graduate students in chemistry are required to study highly advanced chemistry courses, including the following:
- Advanced biochemistry
- Organic mechanisms
- Polymer preparation techniques
- Advanced analytical chemistry
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Industrial Technology
- Operational Research
Doctoral Degree in Chemistry
A Ph.D. in Chemistry is designed around original research, allowing students to carry out experiments in a group setting under the supervision of experienced scientists. Research groups work in analytical, organic, inorganic, physical and polymer chemistry. In addition to laboratory work, Ph.D. candidates have a heavy class load and must also develop and defend a doctoral dissertation.
Applicants seeking admission into a doctoral program must hold a B.S. in Chemistry and have prior experience conducting laboratory research. Similar to the M.S. degree program prerequisites, students are required to submit GRE scores and letters of recommendation.
Doctoral degrees in chemistry include advanced chemistry courses and laboratory research. These advanced courses may include:
- Quantum chemistry
- Heterocyclic chemistry
- Advanced polymer chemistry
- Biochemical mechanisms
Popular Career Options
Career opportunities for an entry-level chemist or material scientist are found in the areas of medicine, pharmaceutical manufacturing, food science and agriculture and include such positions as the following:
- Research and development specialist
- Quality control technician
- Product analysis technician
- Science technician
After graduation, individuals with an M.S. in Chemistry may find employment within the industrial science field as an agricultural chemist, a biochemist, a chemical engineer or a materials scientist. Graduates may also find employment in other areas as a:
- Environmental chemist
- College professor
- High school teacher
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for chemists and material scientists are expected to grow by three percent in the period between 2014 and 2024. Though growth is slower than the average for all occupations, these professionals will still see demand due to advances in medicine, genetics and eco-friendly manufacturing, requiring the need for new medical treatments, new pharmaceutical products and more efficient means of packaging. As of May 2015, the median annual wage for a chemist was $71,260, and the median annual wage for a material scientist was $91,000 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Graduates with a B.S. in Chemistry who want to further their studies as a scientist go on to graduate school. A master's degree in chemistry provides students with advanced training and prepares them to pursue a doctoral degree.
Graduates of master's programs in chemistry who want to advance their studies and receive higher-paying positions go on to acquire doctoral degrees in chemistry.
While job growth in this field is projected to be slow over the next several years, students who pursue degrees will likely face a more favorable job market than those who do not, as they will gain the necessary skills, qualifications, and experience to excel.