A good chemistry degree can provide you with a great future and a wide range of career choices, from academia to industry.
Chemistry degree holders are among the most sought-after professionals in industry, simply because there are so few who choose chemistry as a career. In the UK, the annual average income of new chemistry graduates is £23,427.
If you’re passionate about science and have a good aptitude for maths, it might be worth considering a degree in chemistry as there’s so much you can do with it. It requires a lot of laboratory work and precise computations, but chemistry is an exciting and challenging degree that can lead to great opportunities if you have the impetus to pursue it as a career. You might even decide to pursue advanced degrees in chemistry such as PhD or D.Sc. if you want to focus on purely scientific research.
In this article, we explore the basics of how to get a chemistry degree, and what you can do with it once you’ve earned it.
Is chemistry a good degree?
To answer whether chemistry is a good degree or not, there are several factors to consider, and it’s important to think about both the subjective and objective aspects.
For instance, subjectively, chemistry would be a good degree if you’re really interested in science, but not so good if you lack the passion for it. In fact, any degree that really doesn’t interest you or you don’t have an aptitude for is probably not a good one to pursue.
Objectively, we can assess whether chemistry is a good degree or not based on the following criteria:
- Cost of study – this includes the tuition fee, miscellaneous fees, project costs, time spent, and efforts exerted. Chemistry could be a good degree if the cost of study has a significant return on investment after you graduate.
- Career opportunities – in terms of career opportunities, chemistry graduates have a wide range of career options. These include teaching opportunities in college and school, research-related jobs, forensics, pharmaceuticals, industrial, and managerial positions. Chemists have stable careers both in the government service and the private sector.
- Market demand and competition – the job market is a competitive place that favours the most qualified. Chemistry is a specialised field where few people are qualified and the demand for professional chemists is relatively high.
- Compensation level – the entry-level average annual salary of chemistry graduates in the United Kingdom is £23,427. However, it could go as high as £90,000 annually depending on your experience and position in a company.
Chemistry is a relatively good degree if you compare it with other degrees in terms of employability, salary, cost, and opportunity.
What jobs can you do with a chemistry degree?
If you have a chemistry degree, you have good prospects for a stable and well-paid career. By simply browsing online chemistry jobs, you’ll find that there are always vacancies for chemists. Some require specialisations, but many require just a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Most of the highest-paying chemistry jobs are with pharmaceutical companies.
Here are examples of chemistry-related jobs and careers that you can pursue after graduation:
- Chemical technician – many of the entry-level jobs in chemistry fall under this category. You will mainly work as a laboratory assistant, ensuring that routine laboratory setups are properly prepared. These may include laboratory tests, reagent preparations, and equipment calibrations.
- Toxicologist – hospitals, forensic laboratories, and pharmaceutical companies all need chemists who are experts in toxicology. This job can involve testing toxicity levels in humans and researching various toxic substances.
- Chemistry teacher – you can either become a university lecturer or secondary school science teacher. You’ll need more advanced degrees like Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy, all majoring in chemistry, if you intend to become a tenured professor.
- Water chemist – your main task would be ensuring the safety of drinking water in cities and other communities. This job includes regular testing and monitoring of the water source, analysing for possible chemical contaminations. You might also create projections to serve as the basis for public policies.
- Synthetic chemist – your job will be to test and develop new chemical compounds and new materials for a wide range of purposes. You might work in the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturing, and food and beverage industry.
Should I do a chemistry degree?
Deciding whether you should pursue a chemistry degree or not will largely depend on your passion and scientific aptitude. It would be easier to pursue a degree that you are passionate about. If you dream of becoming a scientist and developing new and useful chemicals, pursuing chemistry is the right thing to do.
Science career opportunities are also easier to pursue if you have the passion and aptitude for science. There will always be careers for chemists as long as humans need medicine, mass-produced and processed food, chemical products (including cosmetic products), and new materials like nanotech.
So, basically, it all boils down to three considerations:
- A passion for chemistry – you must be motivated to study chemistry. If you have the passion for it, doing a chemistry degree is probably going to be a lot easier. Having that passion will also help you develop the self-discipline necessary to earn the degree.
- An aptitude for maths and science – even if you dream of becoming a scientist, if you do not have the right foundational education and aptitude, it might be difficult to earn your degree.
- Career goals – your career goals must be clear from the start. Although chemistry education offers a wide range of career opportunities, it’s important to think about focusing on a particular specialisation.
How long is a chemistry degree?
A degree in chemistry, on average, takes about four years to earn. Depending on the number of units you can undertake per school year, you could even earn the degree in just three years.
A typical course week may include the following:
- Small-group tutorials
- Laboratory classes
- Group work
- Individual research projects
- Computer studies
Tuition varies depending on the university. Once you’ve earned your Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, you can then pursue higher studies like a masters, doctoral, and post-doctoral fellowships.
All in all, it may take you a total of 10 years if you really want to become an expert in chemistry. However, a three-year or four-year bachelor’s degree is sufficient for employability.
Find out more about chemistry education in our chemistry education resources hub.
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