The College of Arts and Sciences offers students a traditional liberal education to meet the needs of the 21st century, allowing them to compete for a variety of careers in an increasingly complex and evolving world.

Why You Should Major in Chemistry


Read on for information about Chemistry and careers in Chemistry.
To find out why Chemistry is a great major for pre-Health studies, jump to Chemistry as a Pre-Health Major.

What to Chemists Do?

Most Chemists work in the chemical industry, which is enormous. The American Chemical Society (ACS) is the largest scientific society in the world, with nearly 157,000 members. These chemists use their skills to produce products, analyze materials, and create products in the areas of:
nuclear chemistry chemical production forensic chemistry
nanochemistry coatings government agencies
personal care textiles materials science
plastics (polymers) waste management pharmaceuticals
dyes, pigments, inks pesticides & herbicides geochemistry
food chemistry lab management fuel refining & production

As you can see, chemists are involved in creating or producing nearly everything you see in your daily life. They also help to keep our environment safe. To learn more about careers in chemistry, go to the ACS careers page.

Employment in Chemistry

Employment opportunities are good with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry. There are very many jobs available in the above areas. Unemployment for chemists is low, only 3.1%. Salaries are good, with inexperienced starting B.S. chemists earning a median salary of $36,900. The median salary for all B.S. chemists is $67,200 in our area. This includes some with years of experience.

Where Do Our Graduates Go?

Our graduates have gained positions in biotechnology companies and other chemical industry in the Alabama and elsewhere, with state government agencies such as the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the state Forensic laboratory. Some of our students have gone on to earn Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in Chemistry or Forensic Science. Other students have become successful doctors, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, and physical therapists.

What is Chemistry?

Chemistry is one of the Physical Sciences, along with Physics, Astronomy, Geology and Meteorology. Chemistry is the study of matter and its changes. Everything is made of matter, so chemists try to understand how one form of matter can change to another, and how we can use these changes to better our lives. There are several areas of Chemistry as shown below. You can follow the links to go to the American Chemical Society site for more information on each one.

  • Organic Chemistry - the study of the compounds of Carbon. Carbon forms many different types of compounds, including substances in nature, in our bodies, plastics, and drugs. Organic chemists seek to learn how to produce useful compounds in the laboratory.
  • Inorganic Chemistry – the study of compounds based on elements other than carbon. Many such compounds are found in nature, such as in soil, rocks, minerals, our water and atmosphere. Some of the compounds also contain carbon in addition to the other elements. Some are found in our bodies, such as our bones and teeth. Some are useful as catalysts, fuels, drugs, and many other uses.
  • Biochemistry – is the study of the compounds and chemical processes in living things. How do living things function on a molecular level? How do diseases work? How can drugs be designed to treat disease?
  • Analytical Chemistry – is the study of how to identify substances, how to separate mixtures of substances, and how to determine the concentrations of substances in mixtures. Analytical Chemistry includes “wet” chemical methods such as titrations and gravimetric analysis, while instrumental methods use sophisticated instruments to perform the analysis. All the other areas of Chemistry use analytical techniques to answer their questions.
  • Physical Chemistry – asks why things happen the way they do. It seeks to understand the driving forces and processes behind all the other areas of chemistry. It includes experimental work in the laboratory, as well as theoretical and computational approaches to answer the questions it asks.

As an undergraduate Chemistry major, you will gain an understanding of all these areas of Chemistry. At AUM, we offer courses in each of these areas, taught by faculty who are experts in that area. If you choose to go on to graduate study in Chemistry, you may specialize in one or more of the areas.

Chemistry as a Pre-Health Major

To apply for most Health Professional schools, you need a Bachelor’s Degree and a set of prerequisite courses. (Qualified Pre-Pharmacy students can apply for early admission.) It makes sense to choose a major in which you are interested, and one which contains as many of the prerequisite courses as possible. Most of the prerequisite courses come from Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics, the courses needed for the Chemistry major. So, you will be earning your degree at the same time you are meeting the requirements for professional school.

For example, the following lists show the number of prerequisite credit hours in sciences for various professional schools.

Medicine Pharmacy Dentistry Optometry
Chemistry 16 20 20 16
Physics 8 4 8 8
Mathematics 8 4 8 8
Biology 8 28 12 12

After you have completed your pre-health Chemistry requirements, you will need only 3 or 4 more Chemistry courses to complete the Chemistry requirements for the major.

Our Chemistry majors have an excellent record of acceptance to health professional schools. A Chemistry major is excellent preparation for the entrance exams to the Pre-health professional schools, such as the MCAT, DAT, and OAT. Many of our graduates have gone on to be successful doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physical therapists, and optometrists.

If you change your plans, many jobs are available with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, as noted above.

Isn’t Chemistry Hard?

Chemistry is a challenging subject, but our faculty are here to help. Our faculty have years of experience in teaching chemistry to students just like you. We do not assume any prior knowledge of Chemistry in the General Chemistry I class. Class sizes are small, so you can get to know your professor. Free tutoring is available in the Instructional Support Lab as well as the Learning Center. Laboratory classes will give you hands-on experience with what you learn in the classroom. So, while it is challenging, you have help available every step of the way to meet the challenge.