Degree programs in chemistry are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. All programs generally include both classroom and laboratory time. The curricula of these programs typically offer mathematics and statistics courses in addition to classes in organic and inorganic chemistry, biochemistry and analytical chemistry. These degree programs can prepare students for careers as lab technicians, researchers or teachers.
Entrance requirements for an associate's or bachelor's degree program require a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree in a related field is required for a master's or doctorate program. GRE scores and letters of recommendation may be requested. Thesis and non-thesis options are available for master's degree programs and a dissertation and a comprehensive exam for doctorate degrees are often required.
Associate of Science in Chemistry
Associate degree programs in chemistry prepare graduates to work as chemistry laboratory technicians. The degree can be completed in two years of full-time study, and it may include classes in concepts in general and organic chemistry. Students should have a solid background in mathematics, as they may be expected to balance equations and solve problems in general chemistry.
In the event an applicant does not have a high school diploma, a GED certificate will likely be accepted. Additionally, a community college may request scores for the ACT standardized exam. The curriculum of an associate degree program in chemistry combines basic chemistry courses and labs with general education requirements; students may also have to complete college-level physics courses. Some possible classes include:
- General chemistry
- Organic chemistry lab
- General physics with lab
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
Students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree program receive training and laboratory experience in chemistry's sub-disciplines. Many Bachelor of Science degree programs in chemistry allow students to specialize in a particular area. Popular concentration areas for the undergraduate chemistry degree may include biochemistry, chemistry education and forensic science.
Many colleges and universities request scores for either the ACT or the SAT exam. Applicants that have completed advanced science and math courses in high school will have the best chance of succeeding in an undergraduate chemistry degree program. The classes for a B.S. degree in chemistry cover all of the major areas of chemistry. Specific course topics include:
- General physics
- Inorganic chemistry
- Organic chemistry
- Analytical chemistry
- Physical chemistry
Master of Science in Chemistry
The Master of Science (M.S.) in Chemistry degree is widely considered as the degree required to become a professional chemist. Students enrolled in the master's degree program receive advanced graduate training in all major fields of chemistry. A key component of the M.S. program is the completion of a thesis that is required if a student plans to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry. Additionally, some institutions offer a course-based master's for individuals who are not seeking to continue their education.
Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree in either chemistry or chemical engineering. Some universities accept applicants with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry. Many colleges also require that applicants meet the minimum required GPA for coursework in chemistry and submit scores for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Students enrolled in a course-based M.S. program in chemistry take more courses than do students in a thesis master's. Possible courses include:
- Advanced organic chemistry
- Advanced physical chemistry
- Advanced analytical chemistry
- Environmental chemistry
- Statistical methods
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Chemistry
A Ph.D. program in chemistry is a research-based degree that takes 4-7 years. A doctoral degree program in chemistry allows students to choose an area of concentration, such as physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, organic chemistry or biochemistry, where they will focus their research.
Doctoral students also take courses in graduate research methods and laboratory techniques prior to presenting a research proposal and beginning work on their dissertations. A number of comprehensive examinations may also be required and serve to test a student's knowledge of a particular facet of chemistry.
A bachelor's degree in chemistry is the minimum educational prerequisite for admission into a chemistry Ph.D. program; however, many applicants hold a master's degree in the field. If an applicant plans on applying with only a bachelor's degree in the field, he or she must have outstanding grades in chemistry courses during the last two years of enrollment. Additionally, a university may request scores for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and 2-3 letters of recommendation. Other application requirements typically include a personal interview or letter of intent.
Doctoral degree programs in chemistry vary by school, but all require students complete core courses in at least two of the major areas of chemistry. Additional elective courses should support research interests. Some possible classes include:
- Advanced analytical chemistry
- Structure elucidation and spectroscopic techniques
- Thermodynamics and statistics
Popular Career Options
Career options can vary according to the type of concentration pursued by a student enrolled in a B.S. in Chemistry degree program. A master's degree program in chemistry qualifies graduates to work as professional chemists; however, some graduates choose to teach at the community college level. Many graduates of a Ph.D. in Chemistry program pursue teaching and research positions with a major university or college. Graduates who do not want to teach may find employment within the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Some possible career outcomes include:
- High school chemistry teacher
- Materials scientist
- University chemistry professor
- Production chemist
- Research chemist
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), the employment of chemical technicians is expected to increase 2% for the 2014 to 2024 period. The annual median salary in 2015 of a chemical technician, also reported by the BLS, was $44,660. Chemists earned a median salary of $71,260 in May 2015, as reported by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS predicts demand for chemists, in general, will increase by 3% over the 2014-2024 decade.
Degree programs in chemistry offer extensive knowledge on a variety of topics in mathematics, statistics, and biochemistry that will prepare students for careers in chemistry research, technology, analytics and other opportunities in the chemical field.