What can you do with a chemistry degree?

Chemicals, reactions and enthalpy.  Chemistry is, in the words of Walter White, the study of change.  The science has long been appreciated as one of the oldest forms of study in existence – right back from the days of alchemists, where people tried to work out how to turn different things into gold.  The riches, it seems, was highly tempting – so much so that people turned to chemistry to try and find it.

In modern chemistry, chemical mathematics and alcohols are all the staple, as the various technological advances throughout modern history have meant that, over time, we can study more and more.  Nowadays, we’re at the stage where chemistry and physics are blurring as scientists continue to redefine atomic structure and the make-up of atoms.

The Higher Education Career Services Unit (HECSU) compiled statistics last September about the graduates that came out of university in 2012 – all in all there were 3000 chemistry graduates.  The breakdown of what students decided to do looks a bit like this:

  • 38.3% of graduates had a full-time job within the 6 months after graduation.  Part-time employment was 8%.  Put simply, you’re in pretty good standing to get a job if you want to when you’re done.
  • Nearly as many graduates went into further study, with 34.1% finding some sort of postgraduate learning or research.  It’s quite an attractive option if you want to continue with a certain specialisation.
  • The unemployment rate stands at around 9%, roughly in line with the national average for all subjects.

All in all, it does seem that chemistry students have got an even match of employment prospects and the opportunity for further study.  For those students who are considering further study, here are just a few ideas for you to think about….

  • Because many courses offer the option of becoming a Master of Science (MSc) and not just a Bachelor’s degree, it does open up the door to getting a PhD – in fact, among chemistry graduates it is the most popular option for those who want to carry on studying, over 63% of further study entrants opt to become a doctor of a particular field.
    Aside from that, both a Masters degree and PGCE are popular options – 14% of chemistry graduates decide to embark on a teaching career.  Masters admissions are around 17% of graduates for chemistry, but because many first degrees allow you to become a Master anyhow, there isn’t necessarily an advantage to go back to study for a separate MSc, unless you wish to change subjects.
  • Some of the popular PhD courses chosen were Analytical Chemistry, Biochemistry and ‘Synthetic Organic Chemistry’ – I’m sure there is someone out there who could explain that one better than I can!  For those who want to do MSc qualifications, a chemistry degree does open the door into environmental-type courses.

Chemistry is one of the more traditional subjects out there and is considered a fairly classical subject that is rather at the cutting edge – it carries a lot of practicalities in modern society without getting mathematical and theoretical like our physicist friends!

Chemistry is more than just mixing chemicals and involves an huge amount of complex and detailed research.  Not only does this demonstrate that you are going to be good with projects over a long period of time, but it also shows that you can write long reports and effectively show off your findings.  To an employer, this is a rather attractive quality to have.

As people get more and more concerned about different environmental challenges in society, it will be well-noted that chemistry graduates are going to become highly-demanded over the next few years.  From energy challenges to disaster management, your knowledge, in some ways, is going to be rather unique.

Remember the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, courtesy of some BP equipment going wrong?  Yes, managing that kind of disaster and the effects it will have on marine life can’t just be left to marine biologists and the like, your understanding of oil and chemicals would be something that companies will like to have on board.  Of course, large pioneering companies in the energy sector don’t mind having a back-up plan in case something goes wrong.  That said, many opportunities will be open to you as a chemistry graduate, even if a company had no safety protocols at all.  There are so many modern solutions to energy needs that you’ll find yourself working at the very forefront of modern technology and society’s needs.

Check for a good chemistry class here.

The great thing about graduating with a chemistry degree is that it’s quite a broad subject, with polymers and oils and alcohols all being included under that umbrella term.  What makes it even better is that all of these subject areas carry big impacts on our modern society, so you’ll find yourself with a lot of relevant experience in technology and theories you can apply everyday.  Could this be one of the most practical subjects around?

Bearing the advantages of chemistry in mind, you will likely find yourself with a lot of different opportunities.  Some of the ideas I found included:

  • Chemical Engineering – The design, development and creating of specialist and industrial chemicals is a very precise science, one that takes lots of planning and research.  You could find yourself in pharmaceuticals or even in developmental areas looking at future building materials.
  • Biochemistry – If you’ve ever been to see a doctor or taken the unfortunate trip to the hospital, you’ll likely have tests and samples done to diagnose a particular condition.  Behind every group of doctors is a group of biochemists who analyse various samples of almost anything to come up with a definitive answer as to what’s going on.  Be careful, this might require you to have worked with biochemistry during your degree or as a postgraduate.
  • Pharmacology – Not just the work of chemical engineers, pharmacology concerns how medicines and drugs interact with the human body.  Complex understanding of different molecular structures is something so essential to the success of the drug that you could find yourself literally changing someone’s life.
  • Teaching and tutoring – Science, for many, was never the most interesting thing in the world.  However, inspiring a group of students to become some of the future generation of chemists and scientists might just be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.  If you’re still a student, for example, why not do some chemistry online tutoring?

Do you know you can find a chemistry tutor on Superprof?

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A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.