Chemistry Advising Guide

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What is Chemistry?

Chemistry is the study of all matter.  Chemists study matter to learn how and why it has the properties it exhibits.  Perhaps most importantly of all, chemistry is a science in which nature is not only studied, but manipulated in such a fashion as to make things that have never before existed.   Chemistry is the central science; it is where all the other sciences – biology, geology, physics, and so on – intersect. 

The study of chemistry can be broken down into five main areas of interest:  Analytical Chemistry, Biochemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Physical Chemistry.  Study in the Chemical Sciences at the undergraduate level will include courses in each of these five areas in order to prepare the student for success at the next level.

Analytical Chemistry:  The study of materials to determine their elemental composition, their molecular structure, or the amount of an individual material in a complex mixture.

Biochemistry:  The study of the chemical reactions that occur as a part of life processes and the molecules which participate in them.

Inorganic Chemistry:  The broadest area of chemical study.  This area of chemistry concerns itself with the chemistry of all of the elements other than carbon, as well as how all of the elements other than carbon interact with carbon-based materials. 

Organic Chemistry: The study of molecules based upon carbon – which (despite carbon being a single element) constitute the overwhelming number of molecules and chemicals known.  If chemistry can be said to be the central science, then carbon must surely be the central element in nature.

Physical Chemistry:  This area describes in a qualitative and quantitative way both the macroscopic and microscopic properties of matter giving rise to energetic transformations between substances (reactions and other physical processes) and the bonding between atoms and molecules. 


Career Opportunities in Chemistry

An undergraduate degree in chemistry can be used as the springboard to higher education.  The ability to think critically, solve complex problems, and communicate information to others is of vital importance to students in graduate school, medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, etc.  Because chemistry is an applied science, courses in this field help develop these skills from the freshman to the senior level. 

An undergraduate degree in chemistry can the starting point of many wonderful opportunities.  Chemists work in any number of professional settings.  However, the five main areas of employment are industry, academia, government, the non-profit arena, and entrepreneurship.  

In industry, chemists are hired in the areas of research and development, quality control and regulation, support and communication.  Chemists are innovators – they create products.  Whether these arise out of need, interest, or saving money, chemists are the front line in development. 

Careers in sales and marketing are also among the job opportunities afforded to chemists.  In order to sell a product one must be able to communicate its advantages to an audience that may not always have a science background.  A chemist can both explain the technical aspects of a product as well as the impact it could have on the client’s need at hand. 

Although many chemists work in a laboratory setting, there are ample opportunities to pursue employment in other settings, including government and academia.  Communication of advancements through outreach and public relations, regulation of industrial processes, and management of information, are all areas open to chemists.  An interest in teaching and basic research can lead to a fulfilling career in academia both at the high school and higher education level.

Obtaining a background in the chemical sciences can open many doors.  Environmental firms, non-profit organizations, public relation firms, law firms, etc are just a few of the non-traditional employers.

More information on getting a job in chemistry can be found at the following link:


Salary Trends in Chemistry

According to data released by the American Chemical Society the median starting salary for inexperienced graduates with a bachelor’s degree was $39,500.  This rose to $55,000 for those obtaining a master’s degree and $75,750 with a Ph.D.   These jobs were primarily in academia, the chemical industry and other manufacturing entities.  (CEN.ACS.ORG, June 2, 2014).  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a mean annual wage for chemists of $73,480.   Unlike the data released by the American Chemical Society, there is no breakdown by degree status.  Pharmaceutical and Research and Development industries have the highest published employment and wages for this occupation. (

Unlike more vocationally-oriented majors, such as majors in business, engineering, or the health professions, A&S majors tend to study a greater range of topics outside of their immediate major area. This greater breadth provides an interdisciplinary perspective that complements the more linear education in the student’s major area. 

As a result, A&S majors are compatible with a wide-range of career options. A large 2012 survey of employers found that 81% of employers will consider any degree, so most employers do not require a specific degree. So A&S majors typically find post-graduate employment at rates comparable to more vocationally-specific degrees, Furthermore, longitudinal studies which have followed college graduates over time have shown that Arts and Sciences graduates' rates of salary growth often exceed those of more vocationally-specific majors. For example, a 2010 longitudinal survey of college majors after graduation found that:

“Occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth.

Another longitudinal study concluded that:

"Employment across educational fields is almost identical for individuals aged 35-44, and beyond age 45, humanities graduates actually have higher rates of employment than those in other fields. After age 45, humanities and social science majors’ salaries overtake those of counterparts in other fields."

Finally, A&S majors have on average the highest rates of increase from starting to mid-career salary, with Math, Philosophy, International Studies, Physics, Political Science, Chemistry, and Journalism all scoring in the top 10 among all majors in rate of salary growth to mid-career.


High School Preparation

The most important thing a student can do to prepare themselves for success in chemistry in college is to take challenging courses in the sciences, including chemistry, physics, biology and math, each year of high school.  Take advantage of opportunities to shadow local scientists in industry or academia.  As with all areas of study, communication and leadership skills are also important.  Get involved in activities that will allow mastery in those areas.


How to Major in Chemistry

Our curriculum is designed for students seeking a liberal education, as well as for those requiring more specialized training and skills. These courses provide the necessary foundation for students planning careers as chemists and biochemists, for those interested in furthering their education through advanced degrees in chemistry, biochemistry, and related sciences, as well as for those in other professional fields.

Two basic curricula are offered for chemistry majors: 

  1. The American Chemical Society (ACS) certified degree program in Chemistry is available for those students seeking technical positions in chemistry, as well as for those planning to attend graduate school, or
  2. A Biochemistry track is available for students strongly interested in the interface of chemistry and biomedical or biological sciences, especially for students anticipating going to graduate school in medical sciences, biochemistry, biophysics, or other life sciences.

Students pursuing a degree in Chemistry must satisfy all core requirements for the College of Arts and Sciences and complete a minor in another discipline.


Course Requirements for a Degree in Chemistry


ACS Certified Track

A minimum of 40 semester hours in Chemistry beyond the CH 132 and CH 132L course level as listed below:

CH 131, 131L     General Chemistry I + Lab              3, 1 hours
CH 132, 132L     General Chemistry II + Lab             3, 1 hours
CH 150               Intro to Computer Chemistry          2 hours
CH 265, 265L     Introductory Analysis + Lab            3, 1 hours
CH 201, 201L     Organic Chemistry I + Lab              3, 1 hours
CH 202, 202L     Organic Chemistry II + Lab             3, 1 hours
CH 301, 301L     Physical Chemistry I + Lab              3, 1 hours
CH 302, 302L     Physical Chemistry II + Lab             3, 1 hours
CH 401, 401L     Interm Inorganic Chemistry + Lab   3, 2 hours
CH 440               Biochemistry I                                 3 hours
CH 465, 465L     Instrumental Analysis + Lab            3, 2 hours
CH 492               Seminar I                                         1 hour
CH 394/494        Directed Studies                              4 hours

Mathematics: Two semesters of Calculus (MA 125, MA 126) are required.

Physics: Students are to select one of the following options. Option 1: PH 201 and PH 202; Option 2: PH 114, PH 115, and MA 227; Option 3: PH 114, PH 115, and PH 201 with approval of the physics department chair; Option 4: PH 114, PH 115, and PH 202 with approval of the physics department chair. 


Biochemistry Track

A minimum of 39 semester hours in Chemistry beyond the CH 132 and CH 132L course level, as listed below:

CH 131, 131L     General Chemistry I + Lab                 3, 1 hours
CH 132, 132L     General Chemistry II + Lab                3, 1 hours
CH 150               Intro to Computer Chemistry             2 hours
CH 265, 265L     Introductory Analysis + Lab               3, 1 hours
CH 201, 201L     Organic Chemistry I + Lab                 3, 1 hours
CH 202, 202L     Organic Chemistry II + Lab                3, 1 hours
CH 300, 301L     Physical Chemistry for                       3, 1 hours
                            Life Sciences + Lab     
CH 301, 301L     Physical Chemistry I + Lab                 3, 1 hours
CH 302, 302L      Physical Chemistry II + Lab               3, 1 hours
CH 440                Biochemistry I                                   3 hours
CH 441                Biochemistry II                                  3 hours
CH 443                Lab Studies in Biochemistry              2 hours
CH 465, 465L      Instrumental Analysis + Lab              3, 2 hours
CH 492                Seminar I                                           1 hour
CH 394/494         Directed Studies                                4 hours 

Electives: In addition to these courses above, a student must choose one (1) other 300/400 level chemistry, physical science, or life science course (no less than 3 hrs) with prior approval of their advisor and department chair to satisfy the degree program requirements.

Mathematics: Two semesters of Calculus (MA 125, MA 126) are required.

Physics: Students are to select one of the following options. Option 1: PH 201 and PH 202; Option 2: PH 114, PH 115, and MA 227; Option 3: PH 114, PH 115, and PH 201 with approval of the physics department chair; Option 4: PH 114, PH 115, and PH 202 with approval of the physics department chair.


Special Programs, Co-Ops, Internships

Once a student has had the opportunity to engage in independent research with a faculty member, he/she is encouraged to consider opportunities domestically if not internationally (see below – Study Abroad Opportunities).  Be it a co-op, an internship, or an experience abroad, these opportunities are an important aspect of the chemistry experience.  The summer, as a rising senior, is the ideal window to pursue opportunities such as these.  Each year the department of chemistry is solicited for capable and qualified students to pursue opportunities within their organization.  Students are encouraged to register through Career Services as well as be attentive to what is posted throughout CHEM and forwarded electronically.


Study Abroad Opportunities

Depending on the scientific interests of the professor with whom a student does research, and the nature of the project, opportunities often arise to study abroad in the laboratories of collaborators at overseas universities.  When they arise, these opportunities are usually fully funded by the research professor or hosting institution.  Several recent USA chemistry majors have undertaken summer research in the UK and in Germany.

Studying abroad is an exciting and meaningful experience that will contribute to your academic and personal development.  Participating on a study abroad program can be one of the most profound decisions of your college life, and can lead to many new and interesting opportunities.  It can help develop your critical thinking skills, sense of independence, and confidence.  When you depart on your study abroad program, you will go with excitement, trepidation, and uncertainty about the world and your place in it.  When you return home, your deep connection and affection for your host culture will be overwhelming, and will only be matched by a newfound respect and appreciation for your home.

Study abroad is the opportunity for USA students to spend time in a different country while earning credit towards your degree through taking classes, interning, volunteering, and more.  There are many different types of study abroad available to you at USA. They include faculty-led programs, international exchange programs, and direct-enroll and affiliate programs. 

Students on faculty-led programs will travel as a group led by USA professors and take classes in various locations. All courses taken on these programs are USA courses and offer USA credits that will apply to your degree. International Exchange programs are partnerships with specific universities around the world with which USA has a special, reciprocal relationship. Students enroll directly at the host university, and students from the host university attend USA. USA affiliate programs allow students to enroll at a partner university or program through a third-party provider. GPA requirements vary by program.

You should think of the Study Abroad Office as a one-stop shop for information related to your study abroad experience. The Study Abroad ( team is excited to assist you as you navigate through the process of choosing a program, and will help you from the advising stage until you return from your program.  You can get started by coming to meet with an advisor during Walk-In Advising hours. During an advising session, you can gain general information about the many programs available, how the application process works at USA and general guidance on where to begin.

Be sure to visit the OIE Study Abroad website at to begin your research.  The website contains information on how to get started, financing your program, and a comprehensive list of pre-approved study abroad programs and partners. While researching a passport or visa programs, consider the following: eligibility requirements, location, course offerings, and costs.  You should also meet with your faculty advisor for assistance in selecting a program based on courses related to your degree.

Studying abroad can be one of the highlights of your university career, giving you wonderful and challenging experiences that will allow you to grow both academically and professionally. Where will you study abroad?


Academic Plan

Four year sample academic plans for a degree in chemistry have been put together for students to use as a starting point for the development of their own unique academic plan.  These plans are based on the level of mathematics proficiency of the in-coming first-semester student at the University of South Alabama.  As with all model curriculum, plans changes may be made as a student progresses through the degree.  However, it is important to remember that changes may result in a delay in graduation. 

To see sample plans for the ACS track chemistry degree, please click here. To see ssample plans for the Biochemistry track chemistry degree, please click here. Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.

For additional information, visit the University of South Alabama Bulletin.


For More Information

Please feel free to stop by the main office (CHEM 223) and/or contact the department chair or secretary at (251) 460-6181 with any questions about our program.

You can find us on campus at:

Department of Chemistry
6040 USA Drive South
Mobile, AL 36688-0002
Phone:  (251) 460-6181
Fax:  (251) 460-7359

Department website