Is Chemistry a Hard Major? (With Student Quotes)

Are you wondering is chemistry a hard major? Do you wonder how many hours you will spend in class, in labs, and studying for exams?

Chemistry is a difficult major to study, but it is also very rewarding with everything you learn and as a career. It will take a lot of studying, practice, and persistence to succeed and graduate with a chemistry degree.

Chemistry is a very broad field. It covers everything from organic chemistry to biochemistry. There are many subfields within chemistry, including physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, and computational chemistry.

This article will get more into the difficulty of chemistry as a major. 

Chemistry Equipment
Chemistry Equipment

Is Chemistry a Hard Major? 

Chemistry is a challenging field of study because it incorporates numerous sciences. It is not enough to simply memorize formulas and chemical reactions; one must also comprehend the underlying ideas. Chemistry is an extremely comprehensive subject, encompassing physics, biology, and even psychology.

Mastering chemistry necessitates a substantial investment of time and energy. You must study a variety of subjects, including physics, biology, mathematics, statistics, etc. However, it is well worth the effort! Chemistry is a fantastic tool for comprehending the world around us. It may be used to discover new materials, develop new treatments, address industrial challenges, and even enhance our daily lives.

Chemistry investigates the chemical bonds that hold atoms together, the forces that keep them apart, and the interactions that take place when these two opposing forces meet.

The physical properties of substances, such as solubility, melting point, boiling point, density, electrical conductivity, refractive index, viscosity, surface tension, and reactivity, are also studied in chemistry. Chemists investigate the behavior of molecules, atomic clusters, and ions, as well as the transformation of one form of matter into another.

Chemistry Branches

In order for us to fully understand chemistry, we must first take a look at the several branches of chemistry and how they differ from each other.

Inorganic chemistry is the study of the elements and compounds that are made up of: rocks, minerals, metals, and other nonliving substances. Oxygen is the most well-known element example that’s studied by inorganic chemists.

Organic chemistry is the discipline involving carbon-based chemicals. Carbon is the foundation of all life on Earth. Numerous types of carbon exist, including diamonds, charcoal, polymers, and petroleum. Structure, characteristics, and reactivity of organic molecules are the focus of organic chemistry.

Biochemistry is the study of biological and chemical systems combined. Biochemists study the function of proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, hormones, vitamins, and other biomolecules. They investigate the movement of these molecules in animals, plants, humans, and microbes.

Physical chemistry involves the research of matter and energy. Physical chemists look at the characteristics of solids, liquids, and gases, how they connect with one another, and how they react under various circumstances. Physical chemists are employed to design or process chemicals in a variety industries.

Chemical engineering is the industrial application of chemical technology. Chemical engineers are responsible for the design of industrial processes and machinery. They develop new methods and technologies in close collaboration with scientists and technologists.

The analytical chemistry discipline looks at the chemical makeup of substances. To identify unknown substances, analytical chemists utilize techniques such as spectroscopy, chromatography, mass spectrometry, and electrochemistry.

Environmental chemistry is the study of contaminants and pollutants out in the environment. Environmental chemists research and study how all the pollution affects living organisms. They analyze water, soil, air, and other chemicals to assess their toxicity.

Chemistry Lab Projects and Tests
Chemistry Lab Projects and Tests

What Does the Chemistry Major Curriculum Consist of?

Students who major in chemistry receive thorough theoretical and practical instruction in the subject. Students will also get practice using physics and math to understand chemistry. Most significantly, kids will study about the structure, makeup, and interrelationships of all types of chemicals.

Students have the ability to study engineering, biology, and chemistry through these academic programs. Through internships and research projects, students get a strong foundation in science and mathematics while also gaining real-world experience.

Graduates will be equipped to work in business, government, academia, or other similar fields.

Chemistry degree programs last four years. After completing your degree, you will receive a bachelor’s degree in science in chemistry. You will take courses in:

  • General chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Thermodynamics
  • Physical chemistry

Your courses will be divided into theoretical courses, practical courses, labs, and conferences.

Bill Johnson, a Chemistry Major from Harvard University, says “Organic Chemistry was the hardest class. There were so many mechanisms and it hit everyone hard in the class. It was the first time I ever got a F on an exam.” 

Bill adds that “if you’re able to get through the organic chemistry course, you can graduate with a Chemistry degree without a problem.” 

Why is Chemistry a Hard Major? 

There are a number of reasons that a chemistry major is hard. Let’s take a look at the main reasons. 

1. Chemistry Requires Lots of Math

You’ll need to be proficient in mathematical concepts including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, probability, and linear equations. When attempting to solve issues involving chemical reactions, these abilities are crucial.

Chemistry is challenging because it involves a wide variety of computations. To understand what is happening, you must grasp algebra and geometry. To determine what happens when you alter variables, you will then need to understand calculus. To determine whether your results are significant, you might also need to study some statistics.

2. Chemistry is Not Just in the Classroom

In chemistry, there are three main approaches of learning. The initial approach to research is experimental chemistry. It entails carrying out experiments and analyzing the results.

Computational chemistry is the name given to the second method. Mathematical models are used to simulate chemical reactions on computers. You’re still doing experiments, but now the outcomes are being simulated by servers and computers.

Theory-based chemistry is the third approach of study. You try to understand chemical concepts through maths in this instance. Theory is emphasized more than actual application or experimentation.

These three methods are combined for a thorough comprehension of chemistry.

3. Chemistry is Like a Foreign Language

Learning chemistry is similar to learning a foreign language. To read and write in chemistry, you must first master the fundamentals. Prior to speaking a language, you must first grasp it.

Chemistry is a science that examines matter and its interactions. We can use chemistry as a language to express what we perceive around us.

To comprehend how everything interacts, we need to be familiar with the elements, compounds, atoms, molecules, reactions, etc.

Chemistry Equations and Problems
Chemistry Equations and Problems

4. Different Levels of Scale

When studying chemistry, you may have to deal with very small things or large ones. For example, you may work with single atoms or entire planets. This means that you need to learn about scales from nanometers (one billionth of a meter) to kilometers (a thousand meters).

There are many ways to represent matter. At the macroscopic level, we see matter as a collection of atoms and molecules. Atoms are made of smaller particles called quarks, and quarks are made of even smaller particles called leptons. Atoms are held together by forces of attraction and repulsion.

At the microscopic level, we see matter in terms of its structure, composition, properties and interactions. We can describe matter at the atomic scale using quantum mechanics, and at the subatomic scale using particle physics. Matter can also be described through mathematical models and simulations.

5. State of Mind About Chemistry’s Difficulty

Your thinking mostly determines your success and failure. If you think chemistry to be too difficult for you, then you will really find it difficult. If you do not find chemistry to be particularly challenging, you will be in a better mental state to succeed.

Regarding the difficulty of earning a degree in chemistry, it is essential to keep an open mind. Maintain a positive attitude as you study and work towards accomplishment.

Who Should Major in Chemistry?

Laboratory work is something that chemistry students like to do. They enjoy learning about the interactions between various chemicals. They enjoy trying out theories and doing experiments. Additionally, they enjoy coming up with solutions to issues.

Because they believe it will help them land a position in industry, they can be interested in chemistry. Many students who love science and want to support research choose for this profession. Some individuals picked this line of work because they enjoy working with chemicals and materials.

A chemistry major would be good for a student with these traits:

  • A tech-savvy, science-inclined student who also has a keen sense of observation and innovation.
  • A mind that is inquisitive and likes to know how things work.
  • A thinker who uses analysis and synthesis.

Career Opportunities with a Chemical Degree

Chemistry students pursue a degree at universities studying different types of molecules and their properties. They also learn about the industrial sector and the teaching profession. There are a number of possible career paths with a chemical degree.

Chemical Industry

The chemical industry is a common career path for chemistry majors to enter. Businesses that manufacture fertilizers, polymers, detergents, medicines, food additives, and other chemicals are categorized as belonging to the chemical industry. To create our everyday products, these companies use chemicals.

To get to the new products, these companies do a lot of research and development to create new chemical compounds and processes. New compounds are made in the chemical industry by chemical reactions. These processes are created by chemists in order to produce new substances. The physical and chemical characteristics of already-existing substances are another area of study for chemists.

Chemists carry out their experiments, collect data, and evaluate samples in labs. Tests or experiments are needed to find just the right mix of chemicals. Creating or purifying chemicals are often also necessary.

Pharmaceutical Industry

To work in the pharmaceutical industry, many students study in chemistry. To treat ailments, pharmaceutical corporations create medications. Natural or synthetic sources are used to make drugs. Herbs and plants are used as natural medicines. In a lab, synthetic medications are produced.

It takes time and effort to create new medication candidates. Potential pharmacological targets are discovered by scientists. Then, they seek out strategies to suppress or energize the target. Years pass during this process. When researchers discover a substance that may one day treat an illness, they must first determine whether it won’t damage others.

Prior to the FDA’s approval, scientists test the drug’s safety. The business manufactures the medication and sells it to patients upon approval.

Chemical Consulting Services

Some students major in chemistry to become consultants for chemical companies. Consultants provide advice and guidance to chemical companies without having to be locked into a long-term employment contract. There’s freedom in being a consult.

Chemical consultants will do a number of different things involving chemical materials. They can review projects and give suggestions on viability and process. They can also offer training programs to companies to train teams on new chemical processes, for example.

Teaching Chemistry

Chemistry majors can also go into teaching if they want to share their knowledge with younger students. They can teach students about chemistry.

Chem graduates can teach in high school, middle school, elementary school, private tutoring, or even online. You could also teach college-level courses.

Chemistry Lab Group Project
Chemistry Lab Group Project

New Chemical Technologies and Research

Research activities are at an all-time high right now, compared to earlier times. Numerous emerging technologies are now at various stages of development. Students who choose to major in chemistry are afforded the option to participate in research in its many guises.

It’s possible that they perform experiments in a laboratory setting. Chemists collaborate with other scientists to develop novel substances that have the potential to fundamentally alter our way of life.

Innovation and Gene Therapies

Numerous students and recent graduates frequent chemistry labs at universities. Due to the numerous scholarships offered, many of them decide to study chemistry. Aside from the government and commercial businesses, you could also obtain funding from other sources.

If you’re considering of majoring in chemistry, keep in mind that you’ll need to continue your education by earning a master’s or doctoral degree in addition to your undergraduate degree. Being a chemist requires more than a bachelor’s degree.

Is a Chemistry Major Worth It?

A chemistry major is well worth it and will prepare you for a career in science. You’ll learn how to solve problems and think critically. You’ll develop skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, decision-making, communication, teamwork, leadership, and creativity.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for a Chemist and Materials Scientist is $79,760 per year. Job opportunities are growing 6% every year too. 

What Schools Have the Best Chemistry Programs?

According to the US News Rankings, the Best Chemistry Programs are at these schools: 

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. California Institute of Technology
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of California–Berkeley
  5. Harvard University
  6. Scripps Research Institute
  7. Northwestern University
  8. Princeton University
  9. University of Chicago
  10. Cornell University

Depending on what type of career you want to pursue after graduating, you should consider choosing one of these schools. Some schools may have better specializations in chemistry than others. For example, some schools specialize in organic chemistry while others focus on physical chemistry.

But if you want to study chemistry, the 10 above are the best around the world to get a chemistry degree from.

Is Chemistry a Hard Major? Final Thoughts

Chemistry is a very hard major; it requires a lot of time and effort to complete a bachelor’s degree program. However, if you love science and enjoy learning new things, then you will find chemistry interesting and really enjoy the lab projects.

To learn more about other majors, check out these articles: 

Chemistry FAQs

Is Chemistry Major Difficult?

A major in chemistry requires challenging coursework, that much is true. Given the variety of areas it covers, chemistry is one of the most difficult majors. You must be familiar with mathematics, physics, biology, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.

Countless hours will also need to be spent in the lab, classroom, and your preferred study locations. Preparing for tests, quizzes, and exams will take up a significant amount of your time.

Is Chemistry Major Harder Than Biology?

Chemistry and biology are both equally challenging majors. Both require lots of reading, memorizing information, and solving problems. Which major is harder depends on who you ask. Most people would say that chemistry is harder than biology.

Many people believe that biology is easier to learn than chemistry. This is because most people can more easily relate to biological concepts. They know what living organisms look like and they can see examples. It’s more memorization than solving equations and problems in chemistry. 

Is Chemistry the Hardest Degree?

Chemistry is definitely one of the hardest degrees, but there are plenty of other degrees that are just as tough. To name a few, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. 

What is the Hardest Chemistry Class?

The hardest chemistry course is frequently regarded as organic chemistry. Atomic structure, bonds, processes, and reactions are all covered in organic chemistry. Additionally, it demonstrates how to construct molecules out of basic building blocks.

While physical chemistry focuses on atom-level behavior, organic chemistry is concerned with the structure and function of organic molecules. Both topics are closely related to one another and are regarded as crucial components of the broader science of biochemistry.

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Written by:

Chris Wood
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Stanford University. I’ve been working as a Software Engineer for the past 5 years. While working in this field I’ve had the pleasure of developing software in a wide variety of industries. I look forward to using my experience in order to find a role where I can utilize my creativity and passion for solving complex software engineering problems.