Universities offering Chemistry
- UCAS course list for Chemistry on its own as a single subject, in combination and associated degrees (e.g. Biomedical or Forensic sciences).
The list of chemistry degrees is a long, though the most common ones availiable are:
- Straight Chemistry (that's more a jargon term, the courses are just called Chemistry)
- Medicinal Chemistry with Pharmacology
- Chemistry with a year in Industry
There are also chemistry courses that are geared towards the respective departments' specialities, examples include:
- Chemistry on the nanoscale
- Analytical Chemistry
- Colour Chemistry
So in summary, there is a discipline of chemistry to suit most prospective chemists. There is a pretty good (but now a touch old) review by Dr Jeremy Hinks giving a few pointers as to what to look for from the RSC's Education in Chemistry (EiC) Journal.
There is also a course called Natural Sciences, offered at Cambridge, UCL and Durham among others. This allows you to pick streams, of which one could be Chemistry. For example, at UCL you can chose Chemistry as both a major and minor stream, along with Biology, Physics, History of Science etc. as the other stream. Natural Sciences has an individual wiki page.
Choose wisely and the course that is best for you. Look for courses that are accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC); some of the MChem degrees they accredit give you the opportunity to apply for chartered chemist status upon finishing your degree, adding some letters after your name. Things like this are important to think about if you want to use your chemistry degree (i.e. postgraduate study or going into industry).
This is dependent on the university in question. Fortunately, there are a range of academic requirements offering from A*AA (Oxford) to BCC. Chemistry is a demanding yet rewarding career choice, but in recent years, several universities have chosen to close their chemistry departments because of the high cost of running such programs.
You will obviously need chemistry at A-level, and many leading universities prefer (and sometimes require) maths at A-level due to the large mathematical content of the course, additionally a further science subject is useful (particularly physics). Many Chemistry students are shocked by the level of Maths and Physics in a basic Chemistry degree, thus it is beneficial to take at least AS Level Maths, or to reach a similar standard by the time you start in September.
UCAS Form & Personal Statement
Work experience is by no means a neccessity (many apply to oxbridge with none). Those who do have it may have something to talk about, yet at Imperial and Oxbridge, the interviewers rarely glance at your personal statement - they ask solely academic questions.
It is highly desirable to take mathematics and to a lesser extent physics to A-level - both are valuable if you plan to take a chemistry at degree level because of some of the theoretical physical aspects. Mentioning what you have researched (e.g. quatum mechanics, molecular orbital theory, hybridization) in your personal statement, will certainly show you have an interest in the subject. Don't be afraid to mention the topics you have yet to cover or are interested in. However, don't throw in words that you don't understand, as you might well be asked on it at interview.
Some excellent books to mention are "Why Chemical Reactions Happen" by Keeler and Wothers and "A basic introduction to Quantum Mechanics" by the OUP. If you have an interview, I would advise reading Peter Syke's Guidebook to Mechanism in Organic Chemistry (however, do not put this in your Personal statement - on the off chance the interviewer does have it, you do not want to get asked to do a mechanism(s) from this book!) Many are hard, and so I would suggeest reading only the first 100 pages or so. One of the most interesting books I have read is Magic Molecules, how drugs work. It really does explain many aspects of research.
Further mathematics, can be helpful due to the nature of the course but it's by no means essential, most universities include a maths module in the first year that covers the mathematics you will need to know for the course. Biology too can be helpful but again by no means a necessity, but may useful for certain biologically related topics such as medicinal chemistry.
I think the most difficult part is saying what/why you love chemistry (I certainly found this difficult to express, and the PS will be the last thing that requires such a thing). It is NOT reccomended to list how important chemistry is to the real world. Three sentences at the beginning and two at the end are all that is needed.
I would like to point out my personal statement - unlike the others, I have little down on why I like chemistry so much. However, this seems to have had little effect.
[To be added as of October 2nd 2009]
The chemistry course structure varies considerably between institutions but as a rough guide:
Introductory maths/physics/key skill modules. Physical modules that introduce quantum mechanics as well as more familiar topics such as kinetics and thermodynamics. Inorganic modules that explore transition metal complexes and molecular orbital theory. Organic modules that build upon A-level mechanistic knowledge and introduce hybridization
Physical modules that expand on topics as quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, computational chemistry etc. Inorganic modules that expand on topics such as molecular symmetry, ligand field theory, main group chemistry, F block etc. Organic modules that explore heterocyclic chemistry, stereochemical selectivity, functional group interconversion etc.
Depending on whether your doing a BSc or an MSci/MChem the third and fourth years will differ, but a range of advanced modules in all main and interdisciplinary areas are normally accompanied with an extended research project in the final year.
Life as a Chemistry Student
Get help with your course with these University level chemistry revision notes.
Chemistry is a demanding degree, there's no way to sugarcoat that fact. Though if you keep up to date with your assignments and keep your head (workwise) above water you'll be fine. Also, another piece of advice, don't expect to pass your degree exams by revising the night before, it can't be done!
Typical work hours for a BSc student per week (taking the Uni of Liverpool timetable)
- 8 hours of Chemistry lectures
- 4 hours of subsidy lectures
- 8 hours of CA workshops (2x3 hours, 1x2 hours)
- 3-6 hours of practical work (2 sets of 3 hours)
- +at least 5 hours of SDL
- 12 hours lab practicals
- 6 hours of Chemistry lectures
- 3 hours of subsidy lectures
- 6 hours of CA workshops (2x3 hours), with this increasing ocassionally
- 1 hour seminar
- +at least 10 hours of SDL
- 15 hours lab practicals
- 12 hours of lectures
- 2 hours of tutorials
- +at least 15 hours of SDL
Normally the dissertation is an extended practical in one of the core disciplines (Organic, Physical or Inorganic), and assesment is 100% CA, via a lab report, a report from your academic supervisor and an oral presentation
For masters it's similar, just add about 2 hours of lectures, Masters year is mostly lab based.
So it's a fairly demanding timetable, and you'll be in everyday. However, in spite of this, if you're dedicated, and put in the work, you'll be okay. It should also be said that there will be at least one day of starting at 9. In the first year, there is a lot of cross-over from A-level.
Graduate Destinations and Career Prospects
The main destination is further research (at PG level), with a significant number of people going into the medical field. In terms of non-academia, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are big recruiters, but a chemistry degree (especially BSc) will open doors to most careers.
Some sites that may help you with your career choice once graduated and some information on the general prospects of having a Chemistry degree!
- Chemistry Study Help Forum - get help with homework and coursework or just ask general academic questions about chemistry here.
- Biology, Chemistry and Physics Uni Course Forum - thinking of applying for chemistry courses at uni? Asks your questions here.