Why Study Chemistry
Chemistry is an incredibly fascinating field of study. Because it is so fundamental to our world, chemistry plays a role in everyone's lives and touches almost every aspect of our existence in some way. Chemistry is essential for meeting our basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, health, energy, and clean air, water, and soil. Chemical technologies enrich our quality of life in numerous ways by providing new solutions to problems in health, materials, and energy usage. Thus, studying chemistry is useful in preparing us for the real world.
Chemistry is often referred to as the central science because it joins together physics and mathematics, biology and medicine, and the earth and environmental sciences. Knowledge of the nature of chemicals and chemical processes therefore provides insights into a variety of physical and biological phenomena. Knowing something about chemistry is worthwhile because it provides an excellent basis for understanding the physical universe we live in. For better or for worse, everything is chemical!
The Central Science
Studying chemistry also puts one in an excellent position to choose from a wide variety of useful, interesting and rewarding careers. A person with a bachelor's level education in chemistry is well prepared to assume professional positions in industry, education, or public service. A chemistry degree also serves as an excellent foundation for advanced study in a number of related areas. The list of career possibilities for people with training in chemistry is long and varied. Even in times when unemployment rates are high, the chemist remains one of the most highly sought after and employed scientists.
What Do Chemists Do?
The behavior of atoms, molecules, and ions determines the sort of world we live in, our shapes and sizes, and even how we feel on a given day. Chemists who understand these phenomena are very well equipped to tackle problems faced by our modern society. On any given day, a chemist may be studying the mechanism of the recombination of DNA molecules, measuring the amount of insecticide in drinking water, comparing the protein content of meats, developing a new antibiotic, or analyzing a moon rock. To design a synthetic fiber, a life-saving drug, or a space capsule requires a knowledge of chemistry. To understand why an autumn leaf turns red, or why a diamond is hard, or why soap gets us clean, requires, first, a basic understanding of chemistry.
It may be obvious to you that a chemistry background is important if you plan to teach chemistry or to work in the chemical industry developing chemical commodities such as polymeric materials, pharmaceuticals, flavorings, preservatives, dyestuffs, or fragrances. You may also be aware that chemists are frequently employed as environmental scientists, chemical oceanographers, chemical information specialists, chemical engineers, and chemical salespersons. However, it may be less obvious to you that a significant knowledge of chemistry is often required in a number of related professions including medicine, pharmacy, medical technology, nuclear medicine, molecular biology, biotechnology, pharmacology, toxicology, paper science, pharmaceutical science, hazardous waste management, art conservation, forensic science and patent law. Thus, a chemistry degree can be effectively combined with advanced work in other fields which may lead, for example, to work in higher management (sometimes with an M.B.A.), the medical field (with a medical degree), or in the patent field (possibly with a law degree).
It is often observed that today's graduate, unlike the graduate of a generation ago, should anticipate not a single position with one employer or in one industry, but rather many careers. You will be well prepared for this future if, in your college years, you take advantage of the opportunity to become broadly educated, to learn to be flexible and to be a creative problem solver. Knowledge and skills gained in your college courses may be directly applicable in your first job, but science and technology change at a rapid pace. You will keep up and stay ahead if you graduate with the skills and self-discipline to pursue a lifetime of learning. Since chemistry provides many of these skills and is a fundamental driver in the business and commerce sector of our society, chemists and biochemists are likely to remain in continual demand.
A bachelor's degree in chemistry is also an ideal pre-medicine degree. Medical schools do not require a particular college major, but a chemistry background will be helpful in the advanced study of biochemistry, endocrinology, physiology, microbiology, and pharmacology. Chemistry is also an excellent major for students planning careers in other health professions such as pharmacy, dentistry, optometry and veterinary medicine. All of these professional programs require chemistry for admission. Most require at least one year of general chemistry and one year of organic chemistry, both with laboratories. Many students have found that having a chemical background gives them a distinct advantage in these professional programs.
Whether your goal is to become a surgeon or a research scientist, a teacher or an information specialist, you should examine chemistry as a college major. It isn't for everyone; but those students who do choose chemistry usually find it as interesting as it is challenging, and they always take great pride in the degree they earn as undergraduates.