robertaap
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I'm in year 12 and am in the process of writing my personal statement, but in order to do so I have to have an idea of what I want to study. I'm stuck between chemistry and chemical engineering. From what I've been told chemistry will open lots of doors but if I want to go into research a PhD is needed because of the experience needed. I find the idea of a chemistry more appealing, I think that's because I don't think I'm innovative enough to do chemical engineering. I really don't want to end up stuck in a lab, and would prefer greater scale work which would be the engineering, but I feel like you don't cover a lot of principles in chemistry in the BEng?
If anyone can give me any advice on this it'd be appreciated.
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Sweetchills
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(Original post by robertaap)
I'm in year 12 and am in the process of writing my personal statement, but in order to do so I have to have an idea of what I want to study. I'm stuck between chemistry and chemical engineering. From what I've been told chemistry will open lots of doors but if I want to go into research a PhD is needed because of the experience needed. I find the idea of a chemistry more appealing, I think that's because I don't think I'm innovative enough to do chemical engineering. I really don't want to end up stuck in a lab, and would prefer greater scale work which would be the engineering, but I feel like you don't cover a lot of principles in chemistry in the BEng?
If anyone can give me any advice on this it'd be appreciated.
You should attend virtual lectures on the subject, perhaps research into videos that explain the main pros and cons of the subject. I too am confused about what I want to study, but it seems to me that you are currently more intrigued in being in the lab, but you fear that in the long term you won’t be? You should never feel as if the choices you make now will prevent you from moving around in different departments. Perhaps do a bullet point list on the pros and cons of chemistry and chemical engineering, then that will help you find out which one is actually better for you. I am not a chemistry student unfortunately, but I am in a similar position to you.
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Student-95
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They're very different subjects so you should probably research them more and think about what sort of job you want at the end of it. It's possible to go into engineering with a chemistry degree but it's not common.
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robertaap
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(Original post by Sweetchills)
You should attend virtual lectures on the subject, perhaps research into videos that explain the main pros and cons of the subject. I too am confused about what I want to study, but it seems to me that you are currently more intrigued in being in the lab, but you fear that in the long term you won’t be? You should never feel as if the choices you make now will prevent you from moving around in different departments. Perhaps do a bullet point list on the pros and cons of chemistry and chemical engineering, then that will help you find out which one is actually better for you. I am not a chemistry student unfortunately, but I am in a similar position to you.
Thank you! I’ll definitely have to do a bit more research into, i’m just not sure whether long term it’d be a good idea.
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robertaap
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(Original post by Student-95)
They're very different subjects so you should probably research them more and think about what sort of job you want at the end of it. It's possible to go into engineering with a chemistry degree but it's not common.
Thank you, I know I could move around but I don’t want to limit myself by doing chemical engineering.
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Student-95
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(Original post by robertaap)
Thank you, I know I could move around but I don’t want to limit myself by doing chemical engineering.
Limit yourself to what? You'd have more options with an engineering degree.
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zazzz000
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I've just finished my 2nd year in chemical engineering and I would like to say that engineer doesn't limit your options as any engineering degree teaches you a variety of skills. Both degrees will lead to many routes however I think you should choose what you enjoy. When i was in year 12 i had a similar experience and decided on chemical engineering because although i loved chemistry, I also loved studying physics and maths and preferred engineering route. So choose what you will enjoy more because they are both very tough degrees.
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University of Bath
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(Original post by robertaap)
I'm in year 12 and am in the process of writing my personal statement, but in order to do so I have to have an idea of what I want to study. I'm stuck between chemistry and chemical engineering. From what I've been told chemistry will open lots of doors but if I want to go into research a PhD is needed because of the experience needed. I find the idea of a chemistry more appealing, I think that's because I don't think I'm innovative enough to do chemical engineering. I really don't want to end up stuck in a lab, and would prefer greater scale work which would be the engineering, but I feel like you don't cover a lot of principles in chemistry in the BEng?
If anyone can give me any advice on this it'd be appreciated.
Hi there! I am a 3rd year chemcial engineering student at the University of Bath and I was in the same position as you when I was in Y12. Although chemistry and chemcial engineering degrees are actually very different, I think it is very common for people to have difficulty choosing between the two.

Firstly, I'll talk you through my own personal thought process into choosing. There were 2 big factors for me when choosing which ultimately led to me choosing engineering: maths content and employment options.
I really enjoyed maths at school and I knew that an engineering degree would have a lot more maths content compared to a chemistry. I did not want to lose that high level maths and I made the right choice in the respect. I have been able to study matrices, calculus, differential equations and numerical methods using code and I think all of these would not have been covered at all, or not in any depth at least, in a chemistry degree.
In terms of job prospects, this is a tricky one to be honest. I knew I wanted to have a career where I would actually use my degree day-to-day. From research, and as you have said, to do chemistry in industry you (normally, but not always) need a PhD. This put me off as I did not want to commit to that to just use my degree. With lots of chemistry students going into non-science jobs, this put me off. I don't actually know how true this is though - it is just things I read at the time when researching, and a chemistry degree definitely makes you highly employable. I've ended up 3 years into my engineering degree considering doing a PhD anyway, because it will open up different opportunities in innovative fields, and I enjoyed the lab work I did during my research project. Therefore, on reflection, it is definitetly more important to think about what you actually will enjoy studying for 3-4 years, as your job aspirations may change as you discover what you are interested in during your degree.

I am not a chemist, but all my friends who have done chemistry degrees do spend a lot of time in the lab. I would recommend having a look at University websites to see the breakdown of lecture / lab / independent study time. Chemical engineering, on the other hand, is much less lab work. We don't necessarily do things at scale because of the size restrictions of University labs, but we do study chem eng principles such as reactor design, fluid flow, thermodynamics etc. in the lab. At Bath, 1st and 2nd year you have 6 labs a year which are up to 3 hours long. If you do the MEng, you will do a research project where you can opt for lab or computational. If you opt for the lab projects, you will spend significant time in the lab.

As you are probably aware, chemical engineering does not have a lot of chemistry in it. In 1st year, some chemistry is covered (physical and organic) as the modules are aimed to bring everyone up to speed. Beyond that, the only chemistry tends to be the kinetics reactions, molecular interactions, basic chemical reactions and thermodynamics (which is more physics). At a research level (PhD and beyond) there is significantly more overlap between chemical engineering and chemistry, as the chemistry is developed by chemists and the chemical engineers are involved at the small scale reactions to optimise them for scale-up. If you are really passionate about chemistry and can't imagine not studying organic and inorganic chemistry again, chemical engineering probably is not for you (another factor in my decision making : physical chemistry was my favourite part of chemistry - I found it really interesting and it was the most mathematical).

I understand that this is a big and difficult decision and not one to be rushed! Let me know if you have any questions

Leah
3rd Year Chemical Engineering
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robertaap
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(Original post by robertaap)
Thank you, I know I could move around but I don’t want to limit myself by doing chemical engineering.
(Original post by Student-95)
Limit yourself to what? You'd have more options with an engineering degree.
I feel like it’s a specific course, like I’d rather have the ability to move around within chemistry as a general subject itself.
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robertaap
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(Original post by zazzz000)
I've just finished my 2nd year in chemical engineering and I would like to say that engineer doesn't limit your options as any engineering degree teaches you a variety of skills. Both degrees will lead to many routes however I think you should choose what you enjoy. When i was in year 12 i had a similar experience and decided on chemical engineering because although i loved chemistry, I also loved studying physics and maths and preferred engineering route. So choose what you will enjoy more because they are both very tough degrees.
I’m probably going to go for chemistry, I feel like I’d enjoy it more as a general subject. Thank you!
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robertaap
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(Original post by University of Bath)
Hi there! I am a 3rd year chemcial engineering student at the University of Bath and I was in the same position as you when I was in Y12. Although chemistry and chemcial engineering degrees are actually very different, I think it is very common for people to have difficulty choosing between the two.

Firstly, I'll talk you through my own personal thought process into choosing. There were 2 big factors for me when choosing which ultimately led to me choosing engineering: maths content and employment options.
I really enjoyed maths at school and I knew that an engineering degree would have a lot more maths content compared to a chemistry. I did not want to lose that high level maths and I made the right choice in the respect. I have been able to study matrices, calculus, differential equations and numerical methods using code and I think all of these would not have been covered at all, or not in any depth at least, in a chemistry degree.
In terms of job prospects, this is a tricky one to be honest. I knew I wanted to have a career where I would actually use my degree day-to-day. From research, and as you have said, to do chemistry in industry you (normally, but not always) need a PhD. This put me off as I did not want to commit to that to just use my degree. With lots of chemistry students going into non-science jobs, this put me off. I don't actually know how true this is though - it is just things I read at the time when researching, and a chemistry degree definitely makes you highly employable. I've ended up 3 years into my engineering degree considering doing a PhD anyway, because it will open up different opportunities in innovative fields, and I enjoyed the lab work I did during my research project. Therefore, on reflection, it is definitetly more important to think about what you actually will enjoy studying for 3-4 years, as your job aspirations may change as you discover what you are interested in during your degree.

I am not a chemist, but all my friends who have done chemistry degrees do spend a lot of time in the lab. I would recommend having a look at University websites to see the breakdown of lecture / lab / independent study time. Chemical engineering, on the other hand, is much less lab work. We don't necessarily do things at scale because of the size restrictions of University labs, but we do study chem eng principles such as reactor design, fluid flow, thermodynamics etc. in the lab. At Bath, 1st and 2nd year you have 6 labs a year which are up to 3 hours long. If you do the MEng, you will do a research project where you can opt for lab or computational. If you opt for the lab projects, you will spend significant time in the lab.

As you are probably aware, chemical engineering does not have a lot of chemistry in it. In 1st year, some chemistry is covered (physical and organic) as the modules are aimed to bring everyone up to speed. Beyond that, the only chemistry tends to be the kinetics reactions, molecular interactions, basic chemical reactions and thermodynamics (which is more physics). At a research level (PhD and beyond) there is significantly more overlap between chemical engineering and chemistry, as the chemistry is developed by chemists and the chemical engineers are involved at the small scale reactions to optimise them for scale-up. If you are really passionate about chemistry and can't imagine not studying organic and inorganic chemistry again, chemical engineering probably is not for you (another factor in my decision making : physical chemistry was my favourite part of chemistry - I found it really interesting and it was the most mathematical).

I understand that this is a big and difficult decision and not one to be rushed! Let me know if you have any questions

Leah
3rd Year Chemical Engineering
I feel like chemistry as a general course will be better for me as I’m really interested in organics and not so much the physical side. I’m just worried that I would end up not going into a science based career after doing a degree in it as I know that’s quite a common thing
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artful_lounger
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As above they're pretty different. Most importantly, chemical engineering has very little actual chemistry in it - you'll normally do a little bit of organic chemistry in the first (and sometimes second) years of the course, and after that any chemistry stuff you do will be physical chemistry, heavily skewing onto the physics side of it in many cases, plus many more general physics and maths focused topics in fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, and mathematical methods. Maybe 10% of a chemical engineering degree will be straight up chemistry.

Essentially, I'd suggest picking chemical engineering only if you are primarily interested in maths and physics, but don't mind a touch of chemistry or those topics being applied to chemical systems. The undergrad admissions tutor at Southampton told me (about 10 years ago mind you) that every year they get a handful of applicants who had started a chemical engineering course then realised it wasn't quite what they expected! It pays off to carefully research the courses beforehand to avoid being in the situation of having to withdraw from the course and reapply.

Also bear in mind that many if not most graduates will end up working in areas completely unrelated to their degree subject, and not actually using the subject specific knowledge of their degree. It's very common for grads to apply to generalist grad schemes in e.g. finance, business, media, or various routes in the civil service or for law training contracts (which do not require a law degree to apply to typically, and with the new SQE route any graduate will be able to go into that area), etc. These roles tend to rely on the transferable skills you develop in your degree, which will be broadly similar between a chemistry and chemical engineering degree (things like researching, writing skills, team working ability, etc - these are usually more important to employers than subject specific knowledge).
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milliejayne19
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(Original post by robertaap)
I feel like chemistry as a general course will be better for me as I’m really interested in organics and not so much the physical side. I’m just worried that I would end up not going into a science based career after doing a degree in it as I know that’s quite a common thing
I feel the same way! I was/still am slightly torn between physics and mechanical engineering. I recognize that a lot of physics graduates don't use physics in their everyday life, more so the skills they've acquired from their degree. A lot of physics graduates end up working in industries such as computing/IT, teaching, retail, finance, business ect which probably means I would have to do a PhD in order to work in scientific research and I don't really think I can make such a big commitment at this stage in my life. I'm definitely leaning more towards mechanical engineering.
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robertaap
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(Original post by milliejayne19)
I feel the same way! I was/still am slightly torn between physics and mechanical engineering. I recognize that a lot of physics graduates don't use physics in their everyday life, more so the skills they've acquired from their degree. A lot of physics graduates end up working in industries such as computing/IT, teaching, retail, finance, business ect which probably means I would have to do a PhD in order to work in scientific research and I don't really think I can make such a big commitment at this stage in my life. I'm definitely leaning more towards mechanical engineering.
I know I should think about what I'd enjoy more but I don't want to end up having done the degree and then have to do a PhD in order to progress, I feel like I can't make a decision like that yet.
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University of Bath
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(Original post by robertaap)
I feel like chemistry as a general course will be better for me as I’m really interested in organics and not so much the physical side. I’m just worried that I would end up not going into a science based career after doing a degree in it as I know that’s quite a common thing
Hi there,

There's no need to feel worried about going into a non-science career! As you've said, it's a common and completely normal thing and there's nothing wrong with it. Lots of people do science degrees because they are interested in the subject, but go into other fields such as banking, business or management as the skills learnt in a science degree are often transferrable. That being said, you may study chemistry and go into a chemistry related career. You may do a placement year or a final year project in a topic, love it, and go and work in that field. Whatever way it goes, it's all fine! The best thing to do is to study a course that you do genuinely love, as you will obviously excel more in something you enjoy. Whatever career you choose after that is up to do, but so long as it's what you want to do then it doesn't matter if it is related to your degree or not

It's also worth noting that you can do combined courses like Chemistry for Drug Discovery (organic chemistry and chemistry used in developing pharmaceuticals) and Chemistry with management at Bath. Some people I know do a chemistry degree, then go on and do a law conversion course so they can work in chemistry patenting law. There's SO many options to choose from, so you're bound to find a career path you like

I hope this has helped,
Jessica, a final year NatSci student
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