What Can You Do with a Chemistry Degree?

Last updated June 5, 2024

If you’re considering a chemistry degree, you likely enjoy thinking about scientific problems, conducting experiments and learning how things work on the molecular level. A solid grasp of mathematics is also crucial when pursuing a chemistry degree. To excel, you must be dedicated to the scientific method, willing to test theories through cutting edge research and excited about making connections through different fields of chemistry and beyond.

Whether working in a laboratory or pursuing a career in education, a chemistry degree equips you with the knowledge and skills to make meaningful contributions to our constantly changing world. 

Students with a solid understanding of chemistry at the molecular level can pursue various careers, including pharmaceutical development, environmental science and more. Chemists play a crucial role in advancing materials, medicines, cosmetics and forensic science, as well as developing technologies across all industries.

Let’s dive deeper into how you can use your chemistry degree, opening doors to different career paths.

What is a chemistry degree?

Chemistry is a scientific field that delves into the composition, structure, properties and transformations of matter. A fundamental science that forms the basis for various scientific disciplines and practical applications. 

Chemistry plays an important role in understanding the behavior of atoms and molecules and in the synthesis of new compounds. Its significance extends to biology, physics, environment and material science. For instance, through the development of energy-efficient batteries and sustainable fuels.

Whether your passion lies in developing life-saving drugs, creating environmentally friendly materials or skincare products, or exploring the wonders of nature, a chemistry degree is the key to contributing to that progress. In medicine, for example, chemistry is essential in the development of new therapeutics, including life-saving pharmaceuticals. Chemistry allows you to understand how biomolecules work, so that better therapeutics can be designed and synthesized. This degree can help you unravel complex problems and contribute meaningfully to our society.

Begin your journey at Furman!

A Bachelor of Science in chemistry can prepare you to create new things, solve global challenges and discover new knowledge about the materials we interact with daily. To make a difference, consider pursuing a chemistry major at Furman University.

What can you do with a chemistry degree?

A chemistry degree opens doors to countless career options. Chemistry encompasses a broad array of areas with profound impacts across society. Chemists can specialize in different areas, such as synthesizing new compounds or using chemistry to study physical and biological phenomena. At Furman, you are introduced to different subfields (analytical, biological, inorganic, organic and physical chemistries) along with even more specialized fields (materials, chemical biology, environmental chemistry, etc.). Our classes are designed to create a solid foundation for success and expose students to modern instrumentation and techniques, helping you achieve your goals at Furman and beyond. 

Through this exploration, you will have the tools necessary to decide what you want to do with a chemistry degree. Many of our students head to graduate school in chemistry or related scientific fields for Master’s and Doctoral degrees. These degree paths allow students to pursue further training in their desired field of chemistry. We also have students graduate from Furman and head towards allied health fields (medical school, dental school, physician assistant programs, etc.). Students also directly enter the workforce, utilizing their chemistry skills. And the public school system is always in need of great high school chemistry teachers, which this degree will prepare you for!

Whether employment as a chemist starts after earning a B.S., M.S. or Ph.D., there are numerous career opportunities. Chemists are hired at pharmaceutical, energy and personal product companies, to name a few. Others (particularly with a higher degree) can be hired at National Laboratories (ex. Oak Ridge National Lab) or Government Labs (ex. Food and Drug Administration). Students can also use the ‘soft skills’ developed during the major (such as critical thinking, teamwork and data management) to transition to other technical career paths. 

Research and development

  • Pharmaceutical research: With your chemistry degree, you have a few career paths to choose from in pharmaceutical research. Pharmacologists study the interactions of drugs within the body, while formulation scientists work on creating the best delivery systems for medicines. Medicinal chemists design and synthesize compounds for therapeutic benefits, while analytical chemists focus on quality control for pharmaceutical safety and effectiveness. Scale-up chemists refine the process so that large amounts of the compound can be made and delivered to pharmacies for patient use.
  • Materials science: Materials scientists study how materials are structured and how their properties affect usefulness. They help create new materials, from plastics to superconductors, which can change technology. Scientists design materials with specific properties for various industries, such as aerospace, electronics and renewable energy. A degree in chemistry is crucial for this job, and materials scientists typically work in industries or laboratories focused on creating innovative products.

Environmental science

  • Environmental analyst: As a chemistry degree graduate, you can play a crucial role in protecting the environment by working as an environmental analyst. These professionals work on the front lines of conservation efforts, analyzing environmental data to evaluate the state of our ecosystems and identify environmental challenges. Environmental analysts play a crucial role in preserving our planet by testing water quality, measuring air pollutants and studying soil contamination. Their findings inform policy decisions and initiatives for sustainable resource management and pollution control.
  • Green chemistry: The green chemistry industry strives to create sustainable and environmentally friendly chemical processes and products. Chemists in this field aim to reduce or eliminate hazardous substances, energy waste and pollution by designing cleaner production methods and developing eco-friendly materials. The innovations from green chemistry benefit the environment, ranging from sustainable energy solutions to biodegradable plastics.

Healthcare industry

  • Clinical chemistry: A chemistry degree can lead to a career in clinical chemistry. Graduates can be employed to analyze patient samples, like blood and urine, to provide crucial data that assists healthcare professionals in making accurate medical diagnoses. Clinical chemists ensure the precision and reliability of diagnostic tests, playing a direct and essential role in patient care. By contributing to accurate and timely identification of health conditions, chemistry graduates significantly impact healthcare outcomes and patient well-being.
  • Forensic chemistry: Forensic chemistry is a field where science meets the justice system. Forensic chemists specialize in analyzing and interpreting evidence from crime scenes, including bloodstains, drugs and toxic substances. They use advanced analytical techniques to uncover crucial clues to help solve criminal cases and bring justice to the victims. Their work goes beyond the laboratory, as they often testify in court as expert witnesses. Graduates in chemistry can play a vital role in solving mysteries and assisting law enforcement, making forensic chemistry a rewarding and meaningful career choice for those passionate about science and justice.

Education and academia

  • High school teacher: With a chemistry degree, you can inspire the next generation by becoming a high school chemistry teacher. By sharing your passion and knowledge, you can help students appreciate science and understand the fundamental principles of chemistry. Teaching allows you to have a lasting impact on young minds and contribute toward nurturing future scientists and informed citizens. It’s an enriching career path for those who want to ignite curiosity, promote scientific literacy and contribute to the educational development of students.
  • Research scientist: In academic institutions and research laboratories, research scientists are involved in cutting-edge experiments and investigations that push the boundaries of chemistry. They explore new materials and compounds and decipher complex molecular interactions, thus playing a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of the natural world. Their work fuels innovation and inspires the future generation of scientists. This career path allows chemistry graduates to significantly contribute to scientific progress and pave the way for transformative discoveries.

Create the next big innovation with your chemistry degree

Obtaining a chemistry degree can equip you with the necessary skills to tackle global challenges related to health, security, energy independence, and more. You will gain experience in critical thinking, data analysis, quantitative reasoning, and team building. You will also learn to use instrumentation that is usually only found in large universities, chemical companies and government labs.. We will also mentor you in writing and speaking about your science. Developing these skills is the gateway to making meaningful and world-changing contributions.

Chemistry degrees at Furman

At Furman, we focus on meaningful research and impactful teaching. Our summer research program lets undergrads work with award-winning faculty and cutting-edge technology to tackle global health, security and energy independence challenges. 

Furman offers three areas of study in chemistry: chemistry, biochemistry and environmental chemistry. We are located in the Charles H. Townes Science Center, which houses multimedia classrooms, research and computer labs, the Sanders Science Library and study lounges to support students and faculty. 100% of our chemistry majors conduct research in laboratories fully equipped with modern instrumentation and technology, providing them with an experience that prepares them for an advanced degree or a career in STEM.

The perspectives and thoughts shared in the Furman Blog belong solely to the author and may not align with the official stance or policies of Furman University. All referenced sources were accurate as of the date of publication.

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