What Can You Do With a Chemistry Degree?

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Wondering what you can do with a degree in chemistry? You actually have a lot of options. Chemistry is the scientific study of substances, including their composition, structure, properties, and interactions. Chemistry overlaps with all other major life sciences. Therefore, a chemistry degree will give you both flexibility in your studies and the versatility needed to pursue a wide range of possible jobs and careers.

A chemistry degree studies matter and the mechanisms by which matter undergoes transformations. People who major in chemistry receive a strong grounding in lab work, an understanding of higher math, and a rigorous interdisciplinary science education.

If you’re sharp with numbers, fascinated by the chemical elements that make up the world around you, and not afraid of challenging course requirements, then you should consider a degree in chemistry.

What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?

Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition is not mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.

For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?

What is Regional Accreditation?
Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies

To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

What Is National Accreditation?
National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
 
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.

To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.

For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.

What is Programmatic Accreditation?
There is one additional form of accreditation that is distinct from regional accreditation and national accreditation. Regional and national accreditation are institutional forms of accreditation. By contrast, programmatic accreditation is typically given to specific departments, colleges, or degree programs within a broader institution. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, this form of accreditation is totally distinct and separate from institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation will often coexist with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
 
This is not necessarily the case with a degree in chemistry. It is not essential that you complete a chemistry degree with program–specific accreditation. There is no single requisite national accreditor for the chemistry course of study.
 
However, as you advance in your studies, the professional path you take could require program–specific national accreditation. This occurs most commonly for chemistry majors who ultimately pursue a career in pharmacy or pharmacology. In order to obtain your doctorate in pharmacy, you will need to complete a program that is accredited by the Department of Education-recognized Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

With that said, for most chemistry students working at the undergraduate and graduate level, the top priority should be to seek a stamp of approval from one of the regional accrediting associations listed in the section above. As long as your college or university is recognized by one of these six groups, you can be sure that your chemistry degree program holds up to the standards of quality and credibility put forth by the Department of Education.

The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accrediting groups.

To learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who Is Accrediting the Accreditors?

What Kinds of Chemistry Degrees Are There?

Associate Degree in Chemistry

An associate degree in chemistry is typically a 60–credit, two-year program where you will gain an introductory-level education in various chemistry topics, including organic chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular chemistry. You will also study closely-related subjects like physics, geology, and calculus. Many associate degree programs also offer the opportunity for some basic laboratory work. Once you have completed your degree, you will qualify for entry-level work as a medical lab technician, chemistry research associate, or a laboratory assistant. This is also a great way to get started on your way to a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

What Chemistry Courses Will I Take in an Associate Program?

  • Calculus and Analytic Geometry
  • College Physics
  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemistry Laboratory
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

Bachelor of Chemistry

A bachelor’s degree in chemistry is typically a 120–credit, four-year program that provides a well-rounded course of study in both mathematics and the life sciences. In addition to instruction in physics, biology, and cell biology, you will explore the chemistry’s various sub-disciplines, such as organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry. You will also take a wide range of mathematics courses, including advanced algebra and calculus. Laboratory work will also be an important part of your degree program and will likely provide you with significant hands-on experience in the chemistry laboratory. This valuable experience will help you pursue a wide range of career options, such as an analytical chemist for a consumer research company; a forensics scientist for an urban police force; or a toxicologist for a medical examiner’s office.

What Chemistry Courses Will I Take in a Bachelor’s Program?

  • Cell Structure and Function
  • Differential Equations
  • Experimental Physics
  • Intro to Research
  • Multivariable Calculus
  • Physical Chemistry Lab
  • Physics for Scientists and Engineers
  • Techniques of Chemical Measurement

What’s the Difference Between a BA and a BS in Chemistry?

While a bachelor of arts (BA) in chemistry will typically pair your science concentration with a variety of liberal arts and humanities courses, a bachelor of science (BS) in chemistry will provide a more math– and science-intensive experience.

Master of Chemistry

If you wish to become a professional chemist, you will need to earn your master’s degree in chemistry. This two–year course of study will provide you with advanced instruction and laboratory experience in chemistry sub-fields like organic, analytical, biochemical, and environmental chemistry. Your master’s studies are also an opportunity to advance and refine your research skills, which will be critical to your future work in the field. Your master’s degree will qualify you for many careers, such as a production chemist in a manufacturing facility; a medical chemist in a pharmacology firm; or a hazardous materials expert for the Environmental Protection Agency; Your master’s degree in chemistry will also be essential for pursuing a doctorate. If you wish to enter a Ph.D. program, then you will need to complete your master’s thesis project, which is based on a research question of your own design.

What Chemistry Courses Will I Take in a Master’s Program?

  • Advanced Inorganic Chemistry
  • Advanced Methods in Structural Biology
  • Advanced Organic Chemistry
  • Advanced Physical Chemistry
  • Chemical Thermodynamics
  • Complex Molecular Synthesis
  • Instrumental Analysis Laboratory
  • Master’s Thesis

Ph.D. of Chemistry

If you plan to pursue a career in research or university–level education, you will need to earn your chemistry doctorate. Most people work as chemists while completing their four-to-seven year Ph.D. Earning your Ph.D. will make you eligible to conduct research and teach at a college or university. A Ph.D. is also a requirement for working as a professional researcher in a range of settings connected to the chemistry field. If you wish to contribute to chemical research from a position of leadership and authority — whether in a healthcare, environmental, consumer, pharmacological or public setting — you will need to earn your Ph.D.

What Can You Do With a Chemistry Degree?

Your chemistry degree can be the key to any number of fascinating careers in the life, physical, and social sciences.

If you are asking yourself, “What can I do with a chemistry degree?” check out a few of the top careers in your field:

What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With a Chemistry Degree?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides 2018’s basic median annual salary statistics for top chemistry degree jobs:

Career Median Salary
Chemical Engineers $104,910
Biochemists and Biophysicists $93,280
Medical Scientists $84,810
Chemists/Materials Scientists $78,3300
Environmental Scientists $71,130
Agricultural/Food Scientists $64,020
Forensic Science Technicians $58,230
Chemical Technicians $48,160

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are There Professional Chemistry Associations or Societies I Should Join?

Professional Associations are a fantastic way to make connections, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for chemistry associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.

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