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Topic: How difficult is a chemistry major?  (Read 44910 times)

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Offline the.SUPERSTAR

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How difficult is a chemistry major?
« on: January 19, 2012, 01:14:30 AM »
I know every university/college is different regarding the curriculum to earn your BS or BA in chemistry but I just want to know generally how difficult it is.
For starters, I was absolutely terrible in Chemistry during high school and had no idea what to do during labs, but now that I'm a freshman in college, the idea of chemistry really fascinates me. Even though Chemistry is difficult, I plan to put in extra hours for this course to do well and earn my BA in chemistry.

But the question is how difficult is it? If I'm bad at math will I be doomed in later chemistry topics such as physical chemistry? How vigorous is the workload for the course and are the pay offs nice? Will I be able to get a nice stable job with a decent income typically in the New York area. I really want to major in chemistry but the workload and the amount of math just terrifies me.  :-[

Thanks. Any help would be appreciated!

Offline Dan

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2012, 06:42:51 AM »
In short:

I was absolutely terrible in Chemistry during high school and had no idea what to do during labs,

Not a good start

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but now that I'm a freshman in college, the idea of chemistry really fascinates me.

That's great, but might not be enough

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If I'm bad at math will I be doomed in later chemistry topics such as physical chemistry?

Yes

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How vigorous is the workload for the course and are the pay offs nice?

Workload is high, particularly if you are lacking a grounding in science. You will have to bring your basic science (in all areas including maths) up to standard - from what you say, this sounds like it will be a lot of work for you and may require private tuition on the side. If you are prepared to put in the time and effort and are highly motivated then you could do it.

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Will I be able to get a nice stable job with a decent income typically in the New York area.

Jobs opportunities in chemistry are not very good at the moment, there are several threads on this, for example:

http://www.chemicalforums.com/index.php?topic=54744.0
http://www.chemicalforums.com/index.php?topic=51256.0
http://www.chemicalforums.com/index.php?topic=49150.0

If you realistically plan to pursue a career in chemistry, geographical flexibility will make your life much easier.

A chemistry degree is a strong qualification though, and opens door for well paying jobs outside of science.
My research: Google Scholar and Researchgate

Offline Jorriss

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2012, 12:00:53 PM »
Depending on what you do, you may not need a lot of math if you can grind your way through the math in p chem (which is pretty basic too frankly).

Can you see objects 3 dimensionally in your head well?

Offline the.SUPERSTAR

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2012, 02:23:20 PM »
Thanks for the replies they are very useful. I'm going to have to think more about deciding whether or not if I should major in chemistry if math is not my strongest attribute.  :(

Offline Dan

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2012, 02:40:09 PM »
Think about it carefully. I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm just giving you my honest opinion - bear in mind that I went through the British education system, so things might be different. Our courses are narrower and you don't have many options, so I imagine it's more difficult to avoid areas you don't like.

The top universities in the UK will not usually take students for chemistry unless the have a qualification in maths or physics that proves their mathematical ability. I did know someone in Oxford doing chemistry with no maths/physics, I think their grades were exceptionally high in chemistry and biology. The University provided additional 1 on 1 maths tutorials for a year in order to compensate for it. The workload was high, but the student was successful.

It can certainly be done.
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Offline the.SUPERSTAR

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2012, 03:17:35 PM »
My college does offers different degrees in the chemistry field. One of the degrees requires no physical chemistry but rather biochemistry with math only up to Calculus II. I did some research online and biochemistry does not require much math as physical chemistry. Do you recommend taking this course if math is not my strongest subject?

Offline TheUnfocusedOne

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2012, 03:14:53 PM »
Physical chemistry can be very math intensive. To be honest, the skills you gained in Calc 2 will not be nearly enough to really have a firm understanding of the subject. IMO, an understanding in linear algebra, calculus of several variable and differential equations are essential to really getting what is going on. It is possible to learn the math through a pchem course, but it will obviously be more difficult than having those skills under your belt prior. I'm not sure you can get a degree in chemistry without taking a pchem course.

When it comes down to it, assess how much you like the subject. If you really love it, then the work might not be that difficult.

I don't think any of us are trying to tell you not to pursuit it, but since most of us have degrees in chemistry, we understand how hard it can be at times.
"Like most heavy metals, thallium is highly toxic and should not be used on breakfast cereal"

Offline zs3889

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2012, 08:36:30 PM »

A chemistry degree is a strong qualification though, and opens door for well paying jobs outside of science.

Would you care to provide some examples? I am graduating this year with a Chemistry BS, and I assume that I am going to search for a job after that.

Offline Dan

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2012, 02:13:26 PM »

A chemistry degree is a strong qualification though, and opens door for well paying jobs outside of science.

Would you care to provide some examples? I am graduating this year with a Chemistry BS, and I assume that I am going to search for a job after that.

Management consultancy, various positions in finance, accountancy, banking etc. Pretty much anything that requires a degree but not in any specific subject, because a chemistry degree shows that you have a range of skills and is generally thought to be one of the most challenging.

Talk to your university careers advice service (assuming you have one, I think all universities do). Most of my fellow students from university are not scientists by profession.
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Offline erma

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2012, 05:59:47 PM »
If you really like chemistry, you can do it! Think about it. Do you want to major in something you don't like as much, just because it's easy or do you want to work hard but major in what you like? Think about what kind of a profession you'd like to have. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? 10 years? Make sure you major in something you enjoy. Life is nicer when you love your job!  :)

Offline EricK425

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2012, 04:30:37 PM »
SUPERSTAR, I was in the exact same boat you are now and I encourage you to challenge yourself. I am earning my BS in Chemistry and have another semester left. I chose Chemistry because I wanted to challenge myself and not major in Recreation Parks and Tourism sciences; this degree initially seemed interesting but upon further research of course curriculum I thought I would be taking the "easy" way out of college. I am brand new to this forum and have been awakened to experienced chemists that say work is hard to find and doesn't pay well. I am undecided about what I would like to do with my degree; I enjoy doing research but I would also like to make a decent living. You need to realize what you want to do with your future. Back to the main point though, I think you should challenge yourself and go for it. Through the course of me earning this degree, I have faced many struggles with physical chemistry and advanced calculus courses but have thoroughly enjoyed them at the same time. I have been great at math my whole life until the collegiate level of calculus. You have potential energy (no pun intended) and you can convert that any way you want to and I just wanted to share my thoughts.

Offline MH

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Re: How difficult is a chemistry major?
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2012, 07:19:42 AM »
In my experience, it is only difficult if you slack and procrastinate. For the more difficult courses, find students you can tolerate being around and form study groups. Buy old copies of textbooks and work problems until you are confident that you know to solve anything that may be thrown at you. You can do it. I work full-time overnight and go to school during the day because I absolutely love chemistry. If you love it, you can do it.

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