Chemistry is one the three main branches of science. Its experts have saved millions of lives throughout history, with discoveries like penicillin and pasteurisation, and made the modern world possible, with inventions like plastic and the screen you’re reading this guide on. Chemistry plays a role in almost every action on earth, and in every object we touch. As a degree, it’s the study of matter, its composition, structure, and properties.
Chemists use their scientific, problem-solving and analytical talents to pioneer new medicine, technologies, and discoveries. They’re consulted in fields as broad as engineering, nuclear power, and even space travel. Working at the forefront of science is thrilling and challenging in equal measure.
It goes without saying that you’ll most likely need to have previously studied chemistry for this degree. The higher your grade, the better your chance of being accepted onto competitive courses. Qualifications in subjects like biology, physics, and mathematics would also help your application.
When it comes to showing that you’re the right type of student for a chemistry degree, in your personal statement you’ll want to show skills in analytical thinking, problem-solving, attention to detail, and research. If you know which type of chemistry you’re particularly interested in, showing this level of dedication will help set you apart.
A levels – Entry requirements range from BCC to AAA, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for AAB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from BBCCC to AAAAB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AABBB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for AB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
- Apply by 15 January
- Write a personal statement
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Attend an interview
- Pass an entry test
- Show work experience
Many universities would like to see a qualification in maths on your application, but it’s not normally a requirement, although you need to be fairly good at it. Chemistry involves a lot of calculations, equations, and data. If you’re not feeling confident about your maths, consider brushing up before you start your application.
Chemistry is the science which helps us answer most of our questions about life and the world around us. If you’re naturally curious and want to find out why things are the way they are, then chemistry will give you the opportunity and the skills to do so.
You’ll have a range of career paths to choose from. Whether you stay in your field and pursue biochemistry, astrochemistry, or chemical engineering, or you choose to branch out into other fields like forensics, medicine, or product development, you’ll be well equipped with your chemistry degree.
A degree in chemistry isn’t just about the science though, it equips you with valuable life skills including reason and logic, communication and presentation, analysis, observation, and much more.
Chemists are considered thinkers, who can work with large amounts of information to make the best decisions, in all walks of life. And if it’s fame and fortune you’re seeking, some of the biggest names in history have been chemists: Marie Curie, Alfred Nobel, and Robert Boyle.
Some modules you may study are:
- Medicinal chemistry
- Molecular pharmacology
- Physical chemistry
- States of matter
- Biorenewable chemicals
- Nanoscale processes
- Solid state chemistry
While alchemy is a big part of pop-culture, in books, films and video games, it’s not a modern science. It shares a lot of traits with chemistry – both looked at elemental characteristics, reactions, and matter. However, alchemy was more concerned with the mythical – like turning metal into gold, or creating magical potions.
Studying chemistry will take you from the classroom to the laboratory and back again, in quick succession. You’ll spend a lot of time reading theories, and papers about the history of chemical discoveries, and then you’ll have the opportunity to try it out for yourself.
Chemistry is a hands-on subject, whether you’re in the lab or the lecture hall. You’ll spend around 20 hours per week with your tutors, sometimes as many as 25 hours. There’s a lot to learn, and jobs in chemistry require a high level of expertise and accuracy, which is why you’ll probably be spending more time at uni than your friends on other courses.
You’ll start off with the basic two strands of chemistry: organic and inorganic. You’ll look into states of matter, reactions, and advanced theories of what you previously studied.
Throughout the first year, you’ll share a lot of modules with your peers, but from the second year you’ll begin to specialise in smaller, more focused lectures. This is when you’ll have the chance to follow your heart into astrochemistry, or nuclear chemistry, or medicinal chemistry.
Some universities will offer you the choice to spend a year in industry, conducting an independent research project, which will help your career options. When choosing your course, your two main options will be a three-year BSc in chemistry, or a four-year MChem/MSci. Both will give you good career prospects. 95% of graduates are employed or in further study within six months, with those in work earning around £22k as a starting salary.
Studying a chemistry degree is likely to involve:
- writing reports and essays
- attending lectures and seminars
- laboratory and experimentation work
- placements and industry experience
- project, presentation, and group work
- independent research projects