11th August 13
Before I study Chemistry at University, what sort of A Levels will I need?
It shouldn’t be a shock to you that you will need an exceptional grade in Chemistry A Level. There is also a very high level of mathematical content in a Chemistry degree, so Maths A Level is more often than not required by universities as well. Many of the best institutions will require you to have at least one other scientific A Level as well. Physics is especially desirable, as there is a great deal of crossover between Chemistry and Physics.
Many potential Chemistry students are surprised to see such a wide range of Chemistry degree courses out there. Next to Engineering, Chemistry offers one of the most varied degree courses available to a university student. You can study Chemistry degree courses in anything from Biomolecular Science, Chemistry with Maths, and Chemical Sciences, to Chemistry and Physics, Medicinal Chemistry, Quantum Chemistry, and Chemistry with a Modern Language, to name but a few.
You can study a three or four year degree course. Some universities will offer you a placement year or a year studying abroad. Some will let you take a foundation course for a year if you’re a Level grades aren’t as good as they should’ve been. Some universities don’t actually offer a pure Chemistry degree, like Cambridge or UCL, rather they offer courses like Natural Sciences, where students study a broad range of science modules with the ability to specialise in more Chemistry related modules the further you go into your course. Some universities allow their students to graduate and then go straight into post graduate work on a Masters as standard. So there really is an incredible array of options available to you. It’s very important you do your research into where you want to go and what you want to study before you commit.
Where should I go and study?
Cambridge can and will ask you for A*AAA at A Level. The A* must be in Chemistry and you must get an A in Maths as well. Cambridge require any of their potential science students to get at least two Science A Levels and a Maths A Level, and a large percentage of applicants are encouraged to have three sciences and a Maths A Level.
Oxford University has the biggest Chemistry Department in the Western World and will accept only the best students. Expect A*AA at A Level, with the A* being in Maths or a Science. While the A* doesn’t have to be in Chemistry, you should get an A at A Level if you want to be accepted. While other Science A Levels or Further Maths are not mandatory, they are recommended.
A typical offer from Durham is A*AA at A Level. You must have Chemistry and Maths and one or two more Further Maths or Science subjects are a good idea.
Scotland’s oldest university offers a huge variety of Chemistry related degrees, but whichever you chose expect to be offered AAB at A Level. You will need an A in Chemistry, and while there are no other hard and fast course requirements, preference will be shown to applicants with more and stronger Science qualifications.
Bristol will expect AAA at A Level. That must include Chemistry and Maths. Other preferred subjects are Biology, Physics and Further Maths.
Once I’m there, what sort of things can I expect?
Like all science degrees, Chemistry is a lot of hard work. It’s very demanding, and if you’re not prepared to put a lot of work in, you should think twice about embarking on it. You will have one of the busiest timetables of any student at your university, and while you will spend the majority of your time working in a laboratory, you’ll also attend lectures, tutorials, subsidy lectures and workshops. And you will need to attend all of these, Chemistry isn’t a degree course where you can coast along and cram the night before an exam. As well as all the time spent in university itself, you will be expected to read widely around the subject in your own spare time.
Most Chemistry degree courses require you to complete some kind of dissertation as a final project at the end of your third or fourth year. This will more than likely be an extended practical from one of your core modules.
I hope we haven’t scared you, because while the workload is massive and the schedule is demanding, most students find that once they get into a groove they find the course really varied, interesting and highly rewarding. After a while you won’t notice how hard you’re working, it will be second nature to you.
What skills will I develop?
This is all dependent on which sort of Chemistry course you do of course, but in general, besides your in depth knowledge of your specialist area, Chemistry graduates have incredible analytical, mathematical and problem solving skills which are second to none.
What sort of job can I get at the end of my degree?
The career prospects for Chemistry graduates are incredible. Last year there were not enough graduates for all the jobs out there. You might find yourself working in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical or petrochemical industries. You could work for an energy research company, in the food and drink industry, or a health or medical organisation. Depending on your speciality you could be a chemical engineer, or a forensic scientist or a clinical biochemist.
A Chemistry degree really does open a lot of doors.