Chemistry Overview

If you are curious about the building blocks of life and matter, a major in Chemistry might be for you. In this major, you will learn everything about matter including the atoms that make it up, how it behaves when manipulated, and reactions it has to other matter. You will take classes in organic chemistry, physical chemistry, thermodynamics, and biochemistry, and many others in order to be introduced to the many practical uses for chemistry.

Chemistry is a large field and offers many specializations. You may have the option to choose a concentration in Analytical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry, Chemical Physics, Environmental Chemistry, Forensic Chemistry, and Theoretical Chemistry. These areas of specialization open up a variety of career choices to students.

Required Skills

Students should have a strong background in science and math. You will be required to use and memorize a variety of formulas when conducting experiments. Strong critical thinking and analytical skills will help you look at data and draw conclusions. Problem solving skills will help you use this data to solve issues. You will also be required to give presentations or write articles about your findings.

Both your undergrad work and most future careers will involve a lot of time spent in a lab performing experiments and recording data. Experience in this field is helpful when you are looking for a job after graduation. You can gain this experience by working in research labs on your campus while working towards to undergraduate degree, through internship, or through fellowships.

A bachelor's degree will allow you to work as a chemist, but you must obtain a master's or Ph.D. if you wish to conduct research or lead experiments. Typically, you will specialize in a certain aspect of chemistry when you earn an advanced degree.


Chemists work in a variety of locations from research and development labs to medical manufacturing. Graduates have been hired by manufacturers to develop new materials, private industries to perform tests for pharmaceuticals, and by companies to monitor environmental conditions. You will be able to employ your strong understanding of chemistry concepts to any number of industries.

The chemistry field is growing at a slower than average pace creating competition for graduates looking for jobs. Those with previous experience or advanced degrees will be more competitive in the job market.

Chemistry graduates earn average starting and mid-career salaries of $42,628 and $81,101.

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Example Careers

Here is a small sample of the careers that a degree in Chemistry might open up.

Chemistry Teachers, Postsecondary
Environmental Science Teachers, Postsecondary
Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health
Forensic Science Technicians
Natural Sciences Managers
Physics Teachers, Postsecondary
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education
Salary data is estimated by College Factual using 2013 data provided by PayScale.
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