Which degree?

How do you decide which degree course is right for you?

Before you decide to study any subject, you should find out what the course will involve by reading university prospectuses, contacting admissions tutors or speaking to someone already doing a similar course. You can then make an informed decision about whether that course is right for you. Even courses with the same or similar titles can vary a lot between different universities, so make sure you find out about each individual course.

To help you narrow down the options, we have some key tips and answers to common questions about studying chemistry. 

Compile a shortlist of chemistry departments using our list of questions and the following resources:

  • UCAS provides course details, entry requirements and allows you to register to start the application process.
  • Individual university websites and prospectuses provide general course information. Departmental homepages have more detail including employability and destinations reports which are useful to read. 
  • Discoveruni provides information to help you choose a course, entry requirements, job prospects, student satisfaction levels from the national student survey and teaching quality.

Once you’ve done this it’s always best to try to visit the universities on your shortlist.

BSc or MChem/MSci?

Most universities now offer both BSc (Bachelor of Science) and MChem/MSci (Master of Chemistry/Science) degree programmes. MChem and MSci degrees have exactly the same status as each other; these courses simply have different names at different universities.

The first two years of an MChem/MSci course are usually identical to those of the BSc course at the same institution and students then take different routes in year 3 or 4. In general, the additional year in an MChem/MSci course contains a greater quantity, and more advanced material, than in a BSc course. The entry requirements for the MChem/MSci courses are generally a little higher than those for the corresponding BSc courses.

Still not sure?

If you’re unsure which to choose, don’t worry as most universities allow transfers between BSc and MChem/MSci courses, usually up to the end of your second year. However, if your predicted grades satisfy the higher requirement, you would be well advised to enrol on the MChem/MSci course – it is easier to move down to the BSc than to move up to the MChem/MSci.

Accredited degree programmes

The Royal Society of Chemistry accredits bachelor and masters degrees that meets a specific professional standard. Accredited programmes are a sign that specific criteria and the requirements of the chemical sciences profession, employers and students are being met. They also satisfy the academic requirements for Chartered Chemist (CChem) and Chartered Scientist (CSci) in the UK and internationally.

Single or combined honours degree?

Combined/joint honours degrees teach chemistry alongside a complementary subject, such as French, mathematics, management or business. These degrees can vary in the proportion of chemistry taught, so check course details carefully. 

Single honours chemistry degrees do not only teach you chemistry, with most universities offering the opportunity to study other subjects as optional modules. They usually offer greater flexibility, as combined honours degrees can have less scope for optional modules and may also be less likely to offer industrial placements. 

Ultimately, the choice between a single or combined honours degree is one of preference, as both will produce proficient chemists with crucial transferable skills. The key consideration is whether you are enthusiastic and committed to both chemistry and the complementary subject and these choices supports your future goals.

If you’re interested in studying a ‘chemistry with…’ or ‘chemistry and…’ course, it’s important to consider how this might affect your future career options. Many jobs within the chemical and pharmaceutical industries will only be available to graduates who have spent a considerable amount of time in teaching laboratories developing their practical skills. Search the UCAS site to learn more about university courses and entry requirements.

University courses with industrial experience or placements

A number of UK university chemistry degrees include a year working in industry. This allows you to:

  • Gain valuable experience working on interesting projects in an industrial environment
  • Opportunity to develop new skills
  • See what it’s like to work as a scientist and understand how the science you are learning can be applied to the real world around you. 
  • Help you to make an informed decision about what type of career you are interested in
  • May even lead directly to a job after you finish your degree
  • Students are usually paid by industry during their placement year.

Even if you already know you would like to be a chemical scientist, work experience is essential because:

  • Companies and universities look very highly on students who have the enthusiasm and commitment to take the time to complete a work placement.
  • Your application for the next stage of your career will stand out – your CV will be stronger, your skills and experience can be used in interviews and you should be able to get a job reference.
  • Graduates are more likely to be employed if they already have work experience, or may be offered a role by their placement company. 

We produce a guide for universities to industrial placements which explains what we consider makes a successful placement for an accredited degree and also includes some ideas to help you find a placement.

Chemistry with a year abroad?

There are lots of degree programmes in chemistry and related subjects that involve a year at a university abroad. You could spend the year in Europe, the US or even Asia or Australia.

The first two years of these courses are normally spent following the appropriate chemical science programme in a UK university and acquiring any language skills you might need while abroad. You will then spend the third year studying abroad. During this year you will follow the syllabus of the host university and will be assessed before returning to the UK for your final year.

Part-time and distance learning courses

A wide range of personal circumstances and preferences means that not everyone can study full time. Luckily, there are a variety of part-time and distance learning courses available providing a range of training and learning opportunities. You can search for part-time courses on UCAS, or consider the Open University

Degree apprenticeships

If you’re not sure about university then consider whether a degree apprenticeship would be suitable. They are currently only offered in England and Wales but the numbers are growing. They enable university study and the invaluable on-the-job training typical of an apprenticeship, without having to cover the cost of tuition. Learn more about degree apprenticeships

University graduates

Accredited chemistry degrees

More than 360 degree programmes at over 60 universities are currently accredited by our well-established and respected accreditation system.

GOING TO UNIVERSITY

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Routes into university

Explanation of the general entry requirements to study chemistry at university and what you can do if you do not have the necessary qualifications.

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Which university?

Ideas on what to consider when you are choosing a university to study chemistry.

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Student finance

Find out how much university is likely to cost, where to apply for student finance and ideas on additional sources of income.

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Gap year

Ideas on what you can do, what you can gain and what to consider when thinking about taking a gap year.