Do you want to study Chemistry at University?

5th November 12

Yvonne studied A Level Chemistry at DLD College London  

What A Levels will I need?

First off it should come as no surprise that you’ll definitely need a good grade in Chemistry A Level. Also due to the high level of mathematical content in any Chemistry degree, Maths is not only desirable, but required by many of the best universities in the country. On top of that, many institutions ask that you have another scientific A Level, particularly Physics, as there is quite a lot of crossover between Chemistry and Physics.

Many potential students are surprised by the sheer range of Chemistry related degree subjects available. As well as straight Chemistry, there are degree courses in Medicinal Chemistry, Quantum Chemistry, Chemical Physics, Chemical Sciences, Biomolecular Science, Chemistry with Maths and Chemistry and a Modern Language, to name but a handful.  Some universities offer three and four year degree course. Some will let you take a foundation year if your A Levels are not up to scratch. Some universities like Cambridge or UCL do not have a pure Chemistry degree as such, rather they have degree courses like Natural Sciences, where you will study a broad range of sciences and be able to specialise in chemistry related streams as you progress. Some universities even offer their students to option of staying on past their undergraduate degree to gain Masters qualifications as standard. So do your research.

The Complete University Guide 2013 listed the following universities as the best places to study Chemistry in the UK:

University of Cambridge

Cambridge can ask for the best grades, and they will offer you A*AA at A Level. An A* in Chemistry and an A in Maths are essential. For any of their science degrees, Cambridge require you to have at least two science A Levels and a Maths A Level, and a great deal of students who apply are encouraged to have three sciences.

University of Oxford

Oxford University boasts the biggest Department of Chemistry in the western world and will demand the best results, so expect to be offered A*AA. The A* must be in a science or Maths. While the A* doesn’t necessarily have to be in Chemistry, but you will be expected to have an A in the subject. Other scientific A Levels and Further Maths are not essential, but are desirable.

Durham University

Durham will offer you A*AA at A Level. These grades must include Chemistry and Maths, and further science subjects are desirable. Durham University claims the highest employability in the UK with over 95% of their graduates finding employment within six months of graduating.

University of St Andrews

Scotland’s oldest university will probably offer you AAA at A Level. You will definitely need an A in Chemistry, and applicants with strong science qualifications may be given preference.

Imperial College London

Imperial College will ask you for three As at A Level. You will need to have Chemistry and Maths and at least one other A Grade. Your final A Level doesn’t have to be in a science or Maths subject.<?p>  

So once I’m there, what can I expect?

Hard work, and lots of it. I hope you like working in a lab, because you will be spending a great deal of time there. Chemistry is one of the most demanding university courses, and if you are not prepared to put the hours in, you will not succeed. You will have one of the busiest schedules at your university, with hours of lectures, subsidy lectures, tutorials, workshops, and lab practical work to occupy your time during the normal working day. And if that is not enough, this is not the sort of degree where you can cram all of your exam study in the night before the big test. You will be expected to put an awful lot of independent study time in and be prepared to read around the subject on your own time.

Your degree course will culminate in your dissertation at the end of your third or fourth year. Your dissertation will most likely take the form of an extended practical in one of your core modules.

The workload is demanding, and the schedule tough, but most students find the course varied, interesting and entertaining, and once you get into the swing of the timetable, you’ll not think twice about it.

What skills will I develop?

This depends on what sort of Chemistry you study of course. But as a rule, as well as an incredibly in depth knowledge of your specialty area, your mathematical, analytical and problem solving skills will be incredible.

What will my career prospects look like?

Tremendous. Last year there were not enough Chemists being produced for the jobs on offer.  The range is incredible. You could decide to work directly in the chemical industry for pharmaceutical, petrochemical, or agrochemical companies. There is ample career opportunity in the food and drink industry, working for energy research companies, or in health and medical organisations. Depending on what you specialised in at university, you may find work as a forensic scientist, a chemical engineer, a toxicologist or a clinical biochemist. The employment opportunities are wide, varied, and numerous.

Good luck!

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