Chemistry is one of the three main arms of science, along with biology and physics. It can be defined as the study of matter – so that means what things are composed of and their structure, properties, and how that changes when placed in different situations.
The fact it is the study of matter at its most primordial level, means that there is much overlap between chemistry and other scientific disciplines. For example, the study of living organisms requires the study of matter's relationship with forces, so in some cases one cannot study chemistry, without relation to the other sciences.
Typical modules studied on a chemistry degree include organic chemistry, physical chemistry, analytical methods and maths in chemistry. In an undergraduate degree, students often choose electives in their first year, which will inform their dissertation topic and possibly lead to further study. Specialisations might be biochemistry, medicinal chemistry, astrochemistry and nuclear chemistry.
Teaching is made up of lectures, tutorials and practical lab sessions, which cover organic and inorganic synthesis (the construction of compounds using the appropriate reaction pathways) and using analysis to work out an element or compound’s concentration.
At most universities, you can choose a three-year BSc (bachelor of science) degree or a four-year MChem/MSci degree (master of chemistry/science). Some courses give students the option to spend a year in industry, which includes an independent research project alongside full-time work.
A degree in chemistry equips graduates with both chemistry-specific and transferable skills, among which is an analytical way of thinking, numeracy and computer skills, creativity (you will need to design experiments and find solutions to problems) and strong research, oral and written communication skills.
Chemistry related professions include becoming a medicinal, analytical, environmental or research chemist, a forensic scientist, or as a teacher or lecturer. However, a degree in chemistry can also lead to a path in law, media, business, IT or in the public sector.
Why study a chemistry degree? Our essential guide to what you will learn on a chemistry course, what you should study to get your place on a degree, and what jobs you can get once you graduate