Chemistry is the heart of scientific discoveries and new processes. Chemistry degree careers include working in manufacturing, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, in areas such as healthcare or forensics. With a sought-after degree, those who study chemistry can work as chemical scientists, leading research on the world’s top issues, such as climate change and human health.
What is chemistry?
Chemistry is one of three central branches of science. It’s the study of substances, focusing on their structure, composition, properties, and how they interact with each other and the results of those reactions. Chemistry is the cause of some of the world's biggest discoveries such as pasteurisation and aided many modern-day inventions including plastic. It plays a role in everything on Earth and is an impressive branch of science to become an expert in.
When choosing which chemistry degree to go for, you will typically have the option of a BSc (bachelor of science) degree or an MChem/MSci degree (master of chemistry/science). A BSc will last three years, while an MChem course takes four years and includes a master’s qualification, hence why entry requirements are typically higher than a BSc.
Your university will recommend relevant books to help you with your degree.
You can choose a degree which is exclusively chemistry. However, many chemistry-related degrees referred to as chemical science courses are also an option. Ranging from chemical engineering to biochemistry, they are a solid option to learn about chemical principles.
What are the modules for this course?
Modules can vary based on the type of chemistry degree and university. Generally, the majority of chemistry courses will cover the following topics:
- Analytical methods
- Chemistry for physical sciences
- Chemistry of materials
- Computational chemistry
- Inorganic chemistry
- Integrated chemistry
- Maths in chemistry
- Mineralogy and petrology
- Molecular pharmacology
- Molecular spectroscopy
- Orbital theory
- Organic and biological chemistry
- Physical chemistry
- Properties of molecules
- Principles and methods of organic synthesis
- Quantum mechanics
- Solid state chemistry
- Transition metal chemistry
The chemistry course can also include optional modules, which you will be able to choose in the second or the third year of the degree, depending on your course. These can include:
- Chemical engineering
- Environmental chemistry
- Polymer chemistry
What are the entry requirements?
Chemistry degree requirements can vary based on the course and university you apply for, as requirements can be higher for MChem than BScs. Typically, the expected UCAS points range from 104–165. These qualifications include:
- A-levels: Requirements can range from BCC to A*A*A* with the most commonly asked grades of AAB. Chemistry is essential and biology, maths or physics are also valuable.
- BTECs: Some courses may accept BTEC qualifications and the expected grades range from D*D*D*–MMM, sometimes in combination with A-levels.
- Scottish Highers: Entry requirements for Highers can range from BBCCC to AAAAA, with AABBB being the most common expectation. Sometimes, universities ask for Advanced Highers in addition to Highers at grades AB.
- International Baccalaureate (IB): For students taking the IB, overall score points required range from 40-26.
Additionally, work experience, volunteering and further reading are beneficial to your university application. Look for work experience opportunities in your local NHS trust, shadowing in a lab or office work in a chemical company. For volunteering, you can work in any environment which can help develop your team working or interpersonal skills, such as a youth group. Extra reading and further research can include podcasts or websites such as the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).
How do I write my personal statement for this subject?
Your chemistry personal statement is an opportunity to share your passion for the subject and give the university scope of who you are and your future ambitions.
The first thing to consider is why you are applying for this course. Why do you have an interest in chemistry? Has someone or something inspired you to choose this as a career path? Did you love science as a child? Be honest with your answers, the admission tutors want to see what’s different about you. Everyone is unique and has different motivations for subjects and they want to see what yours is. Try to avoid general statements about chemistry and focus on keeping it personal.
Your passion is the key when discussing your work experience, interests and further reading. What did you learn from work experience that can be applied to this degree? Think about the skills, whether it’s team-building or interpersonal skills as an example. The experience doesn’t necessarily need to link to chemistry, but how it can showcase the relevant skills. How have the books you have been reading impacted you? You want to be as specific as possible, don’t just name the books and videos you have enjoyed but think about the why and the benefits.
Including hobbies can provide a personal look at who you are. Talk about what you love about the hobby or interest, don’t just list it. Why do you enjoy this hobby in particular? Have you done it since you were younger or did someone inspire you? Your passion and commitment to hobbies and interests can show your drive and ambition generally.
Another aspect to consider is your career ambitions and future goals. Admission tutors want to know how this course will match your plans. Do you have the ambition to be a chemical scientist? Or do you have a big passion to change the world? Whatever the ambition is, describe how you think this degree will be beneficial.
What books or equipment do I need?
Your university will recommend relevant books to help you with your degree. However, further reading can be beneficial to develop your understanding and interest in the subject. Some examples include Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements by Hugh Aldersey-Williams and H2O: A Biography of Water by Phillip Ball. For other resources, you can head to the Royal Society of Chemistry Journals to find many scientific publications in all areas including chemistry.
Your university will also recommend the relevant equipment, including anything for practical learning in laboratories. Generally, a quality laptop is essential for assignments and taking notes in lectures, a calculator and any organisational stationery can come in handy.
How will I be assessed?
Assessment for chemistry degrees can vary from module to module and usually includes a combination of the following:
- Assessed laboratory work
- Poster and oral presentations
- Practical tests
- Research project
- Written exams
What are the career prospects?
Studying chemistry will open you up to a world of opportunities, in various career industries including manufacturing, medical research, education, forensics and food science. With further study including a PGCE (postgraduate certificate in education), master’s or PHD, you can also move into careers such as biochemistry, chemical engineering, pharmacology, and teaching.
What jobs can I get with this degree?
Jobs can vary as some may require further study at the postgraduate level or other training, however others you could move directly into. Potential job roles include:
- Analytical chemist
- Chemical engineer
- Drug safety officer
- Environmental scientist
- Flavour chemist
- Forensic scientist
- Healthcare researcher
- Laboratory technician
- Medicinal chemist
- Production chemist
- Production technician
- Research chemist
- Scientific journalist
- Science technician
- Teacher or lecturer
How does chemistry change at a postgraduate level?
A chemistry undergraduate degree takes three to four years to study, whereas a postgraduate qualification can take one to two years. The undergraduate degree can sometimes include a year in industry, totalling four years. As there are two options with your degree, either a BSc or MChem, the BSC, you will need to apply for a postgraduate course separately, whilst an MChem includes the postgraduate study in the fourth year.
Chemistry is one of three central branches of science.
A postgraduate degree teaches you the modules you learnt at an undergraduate degree at a more advanced level, developing your knowledge and understanding of the topics. Some course examples include Analytical Chemistry and Advanced Organic Chemistry.
What is the average grad salary in this area?
Salary for a chemistry graduate can vary based on employer, qualification and location. On average, the graduate salary can range from £20,000-£27,000 with an average of £23,000. With more experience in a chemist role, for example, you can earn between £34,000-£46,000.