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Pharmaceutical Chemistry Degree Programs

Pharmaceutical chemistry is a high-level research and development career in a rapidly growing field. Read on to learn information and requirements of bachelor's degree programs in this field.

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Pharmaceutical Chemistry Bachelor's Degree Program Information

Pharmaceutical chemistry programs prepare students for a career in the biotechnology or pharmaceutical industries. It is a specialized area of chemistry that emphasizes drug design and drug development, as well as important issues surrounding therapeutics like medical ethics and quality control. Coursework for pharmaceutical chemistry programs starts with a strong foundation in basic math and sciences, and then focuses into laboratory-based learning of pharmaceutical topics. The article below discusses admission requirements for these programs, descriptions of courses, and information on future career options.

Admission Requirements for Pharmaceutical Chemistry Programs

Pharmaceutical chemistry is a program that delves deep into topics of math, physics, chemistry and biology. It is therefore a good idea for prospective students to have completed higher-level science and math classes in high school and graduate in good academic standing in these areas. Pharmaceutical chemistry programs also tend to be small and competitive, so admission committees might encourage applicants to exceed the minimum grade point average and testing scores set by the university at large. Otherwise, you can expect to be required to submit a standard application, letters of recommendation and statements of motivation with your application.

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Pharmaceutical Chemistry Program Coursework

Students enrolled in this program typically complete their university's general chemistry core curriculum and additional courses relevant to bio-pharmaceutical chemistry. These might include:

Physical Chemistry

Thermodynamics and kinetics are two core topics in chemistry covered under the umbrella of physical chemistry. Topics in this course could include energy balances for reactions and biological processes, energy conversion systems, multi-component systems, phase diagrams and chemical reaction analysis. This course will likely have a laboratory component in addition to lectures.

Organic Chemistry

In this course you will learn about the different classes of organic, or carbon-containing, compounds. The principles of stereochemistry, bonding, and resonance will help you understand and organize these compounds. Organic chemistry is also a laboratory-based course, and in lab you will practice analyzing organic molecules and their reactions through the practices of spectroscopy and spectrometry.

Drug Action

Drug action, or pharmacology, is the study of how drugs behave in their target. You will begin in this course by learning to determine how the chemical structures and properties of drugs influence how they interact with biological receptors: either your body itself or bacterial or viral pathogens. More advanced topics in this course look at the drugs used as therapeutic agents of specific systems (like the nervous or cardiovascular system), their clinical use, efficacy, toxicity and absorption.

Computational Biochemistry and Drug Design

This course examines the modern methods of computer-aided drug design and the principles behind them. It is the crux of pharmaceutical chemistry programs, teaching you how to design and synthesize drugs. This can be achieved with a combination of laboratory work and by looking at case studies of particular therapeutic agents. Some of the advanced topics covered in this course include structure-activity property relationships, models of electrostatics and solvation and reaction mechanisms.

Pharmaceutical Analysis

Analysis of raw chemicals and manufactured pharmaceuticals is essential in the drug synthesis process to ensure quality control. This hands-on course teaches the quantitative and technical analysis skills that are used in pharmaceutical laboratories around the world. It includes many topics such as instrumental analysis, validation of analytical methods and characterizing and reporting samples. This course is also important for building critical thinking skills of students and for learning industry-standard Good Quality Practices.

How to Choose a Pharmaceutical Chemistry Program

Because pharmaceutical chemistry is a laboratory science, it is important to gain as much exposure to lab work as possible. You should look at not only the lab-based course offerings of each program, but also how much the school supports undergraduate research opportunities. This might be in a faculty member's lab, or through an internship with a nearby company. You might also want to compare the laboratory facilities available for each program. Biomedical technology advances quickly, so it is important for you to learn to use the most up-to-date equipment.

Career Options for a Degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry

The median annual salary in May 2016 for all chemists working in research and development was $83,830, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This site also reports job growth of 6% in this sector between 2016 and 2026. While some require further education or specialization, other careers you could consider in this field include:

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