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How do I get a Chemistry Degree?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Chemistry degrees are available in several ways and at several levels. You can earn your degree online, through a community college, a four-year college, or a university. Your chemistry degree may be an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a Ph.D.

Several schools offer online chemistry courses leading to a degree. Whether a distance learning choice turns out to be of value to you will partly depend on what you want to do with your chemistry degree. When deciding about an online degree in chemistry, consider the importance of the laboratory component. How the school handles labs will help you know whether the program is a quality one. In the distance education chemistry degree program at Athabasca University Centre for Science in Canada, for example, there are home labs that can be done with a special kit if you live in Canada, but for supervised labs, you must travel to a lab that is supervised by a certified instructor or find another institution at which to perform your labs.

Another important consideration with an online school is whether the online school is accredited. As Athabasca University is accredited not only in Canada, but is also the first Canadian public university that has been accredited by the US, specifically, by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, this sends a signal that they provide a quality education.

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An associate degree in chemistry, often an AA or an AS, is more likely to prove valuable in providing a stepping stone for a bachelor’s degree than to secure many job openings in its own right. Most associates degrees are designed with this in mind, in order to make transferring to a four-year institution easier. This means that the associate degree usually focuses on basic courses in science and math, as well as general education requirements, leaving the subject-area focus for the junior and senior years at the four-year college.

To obtain a chemistry degree at a four-year institution, you generally choose chemistry as your major and complete prescribed courses your choice of the special areas in chemistry that your school offers, along with the general education course requirements that the school has adopted and other basic science and math courses and electives. Depending on your choice of college, you may be offered a choice something like this: analytic chemistry, biochemistry, environmental chemistry, general chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, or physical chemistry. Many of your courses will require laboratory time.

To earn a graduate degree in chemistry, you must complete coursework, take qualifying exams, and conduct research with the guidance of a supervising professor. Often the degree program runs through the summer, unlike the undergraduate nine-month model with the summers off. You may expect to contribute to research journals as co-author on papers, to make research presentations, and to be involved in grant applications. Advancing to doctoral candidacy may require a formal process, and Ph.D. candidates write a dissertation on their doctoral research. Often, graduate degree candidates in chemistry will have teaching responsibilities, lab responsibilities, or both as part of their degree.

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