Double Major in Chemistry & Physics

Dec 31, 2017

Chemistry and physics are two of the main disciplines in the physical sciences, so there is a great deal of overlap in topics covered by coursework. A double major may have benefits, and you can read more to find out.

Overview of a Double Major in Chemistry and Physics

Students enrolled in a chemistry undergraduate degree program usually take physics classes and physics majors often take chemistry courses. A double major often involves up to 41 hours of coursework in chemistry and potentially an additional 36 hours in physics. However, some classes, such as introductory courses, are able to count for both degrees. Each major also has required components that must be completed such as upper division classes. Coursework for both majors focuses on how physical and chemical properties are established at the atomic level and the techniques to analyze those properties.

Admission Requirements for a Double Major in Chemistry and Physics

Depending on the school, admission requirements may vary. For many universities, students must complete a college preparatory curriculum in high school, although students can also transfer from a community college. Within the high school curriculum, proficiency in chemistry and physics coursework would improve the student's success. In addition, there are often minimum levels for grade point averages (GPA) and standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT. There may also be competency tests that are specific to individual universities.

Double Major in Chemistry and Physics Coursework

Physics and chemistry coursework usually involves a combination of lecture and laboratory based classes and often requires a high degree of mathematical competency.

Organic Chemistry

Organic molecules are those made by living organisms. This course surveys the structures and bonding arrangements between atoms that make up these molecules. In addition, the rules for naming organic compounds and classification of compounds as nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids are covered. This is usually a two semester set of courses which also covers reaction mechanisms, chemical synthesis and analytical tools which are explored in a laboratory setting.

Physical Chemistry

The way heat energy causes molecules to change is called thermodynamics, and that is the major focus of this course. This class combines both physics and chemistry by studying the movement (or kinetics) of gas particles. Studying the electron structure in gases ultimately leads to a discussion of quantum mechanics.

Analytical Chemistry

This class guides students through the analysis of chemical reactions using stoichiometry. From this analysis, quantitative predictions for chemical reactions can be made. In addition, photometric and electrochemical processes are explored. All analyses in this class require the use of statistics.

Classical Mechanics

This course covers the laws of motion and conservation of energy based upon the work of Isaac Newton. In addition to vectors and kinematics, other motion such as particles in an electric field and the dynamics of two-body systems are studied. The motions covered in this class can be applied to the solar system or car crashes here on Earth.


Energy, heat and work are the main principles explored in this course. The laws of thermodynamics and their applications to kinetics are covered. Statistical analysis is used along with other mathematical formulas to evaluate the transfer of energy between objects.

Quantum Mechanics

This course introduces quantum behavior on the subatomic scale of photons. The wave properties of matter are explored and the resulting atomic structures are analyzed. This course may require high level math skills to work with quantum states as in Schrodinger's equation.

How to Choose a Program with a Double Major in Chemistry and Physics

Things to consider when deciding on which university to attend include the level of computerization in laboratory classes. Even if the program is lacking in computerized equipment, the program may offer internships or cooperative programs with employers which will allow you to gain this experience. In addition, look for opportunities to participate in research when choosing your undergraduate program because you will gain critical thinking and communication skills. These skills are often endorsed by professional organizations and sought by employers.

Career Options for a Double Major in Chemistry and Physics

Both chemistry and physics degrees teach students analytical skills that are desired by many different employers and especially those related to materials science. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for materials scientists are expected to grow 7% from 2016-2026. Also, it was reported that the median annual salary for materials scientists was $99,430 in 2016. That and other occupations that chemistry and physics graduates can consider are listed with links below.

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