Earning an Undergraduate Chemistry Degree

Find out what to expect while studying chemistry at the undergraduate level. Here, you’ll learn about the types of degrees you can earn, classes you’ll likely take, and how much time you can expect to spend in the lab.

Types of Undergraduate Chemistry Degrees

The degree you earn depends on the school you attend. Many schools offer degrees in chemistry, biochemistry and chemical engineering. However, some schools may also offer degree programs in environmental chemistry, or forensic chemistry.

Common Courses

Course What will I learn?
General Chemistry Molecular structure, bonding, chemical reactions, periodic trends, chemical equilibrium, acids and bases, thermodynamics
Organic Chemistry Structure, bonding, and reactions involving organic compounds, organic mechanisms, organic synthesis, spectroscopy
Physical Chemistry States of matter, thermodynamics, phase diagrams and phase equilibria, electrochemistry, chemical kinetics, quantum mechanics
Analytical Chemistry Making accurate and precise measurements, scientific statistics, laboratory instrument operation, quantitative analysis
Inorganic Chemistry Structure and bonding of inorganic compounds, coordination compounds, organometallics, group theory, spectroscopy, molecular orbital theory
Biochemistry Chemistry of: amino acids, proteins, polymers, enzymes, nucleic acids, lipids, cholesterol; metabolic pathways, phosphorylation

Other Related Courses

  • Physics
  • Calculus
  • Advanced chemistry electives
  • Technical writing

How much time will I spend in the lab?

Hopefully, lots! An important aspect of your training as a future chemist is learning the skills of research. Because chemistry is an experimental science, work in the laboratory is the method by which new areas of the field are discovered and contributions to society are made.

Most schools require that laboratory work be included as part of main classes – General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, etc. For classes that involve a laboratory, expect to spend several hours working in the laboratory or analyzing data you’ve collected. You’ll be learning techniques that will serve you well as you develop your ability to ask good scientific questions and explore possible solutions. You’ll also reinforce what you’ve learned in class and gain the ability to support the theory you’ve learned with an applied context.

In the chemistry lab, you’ll learn how to:

  • Analyze and interpret data
  • Make accurate and precise measurements
  • Use instruments
  • Keep an accurate and complete laboratory notebook
  • Handle chemicals and dispose of them safely
  • Work independently or as part of a team
  • Communicate your results orally or in writing
  • Synthesize, separate, and characterize chemical compounds