Undergraduate FAQ

Students interested in majoring in chemistry, or any science, should have a strong foundation in math and science in high school. Generally, students who take a college prep course in high school that includes 4 years of math and science will be adequately prepared for college chemistry. A good foundation in math that includes algebra, geometry, and trigonometry is critical for success in college chemistry. While taking calculus in high school is helpful, it is not necessary to succeed in freshman chemistry. The most important math skills for potential majors are the ability to set up algebraic equations from word problems, be able to manipulate exponentials, and know the basics of plotting data.

Students should take as much high school chemistry as possible to help ease the transition to college chemistry. High school physics and biology are also helpful.

Students who may consider going to graduate school in chemistry or taking a job as a chemist after completing their BS degree should pursue the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (BCH) degree, which offers both chemistry and biochemistry concentrations. The BCH degree is certified by the American Chemical Society.  This degree will provide students with the intensive chemistry knowledge expected by chemistry graduate schools and employers. Students interested in careers in chemistry should generally not follow the pre-health track. Since this track does not include advanced courses in inorganic, physical, and analytical chemistry, students with the pre-health major will not have all of the necessary prerequisites for graduate school and will be less marketable as chemists on the job market.

No, the chemistry department does not offer specific training in these fields. A degree in chemistry will provide excellent training for students interested in exploring careers in these and many other fields related to chemistry, however. Fields such as forensic science rely heavily on basic chemical concepts that are learned in the course of the chemistry curriculum. Students with chemistry degrees are well qualified to take jobs in these fields or may pursue advanced study in forensics, environmental science, or other areas upon completing their degree.

Any of the chemistry major tracks will provide adequate preparation for medical school. Chemistry majors from UA have typically been very successful in being accepted to medical school. The pre-health track (BS degree) was designed for students interested in medical school and fulfills all medical school requirements. Students in the BCH degree will need to take additional biology courses to satisfy medical school requirements.

Students pursuing chemistry degrees may want to minor in biology as preparation for medical school. Because the BCH track is more rigorous than the pre-health track (additional calculus, and more difficult physics and chemistry), medical school admissions committees may rank students with the BCH degree more highly than those in the pre-health track provided they have similar GPA and MCAT scores.

There is some overlap in the training of chemists and chemical engineers, but they are typically involved in different aspects of the chemical enterprise. Chemists typically are interested in how processes work and developing new understanding of chemical reactions and the structure of chemical materials. In industry, chemists typically work in developing new or improved materials. Chemical engineers tend to focus on the process by which chemical materials are produced. In industry, chemical engineers typically focus on developing efficient processes for manufacturing chemicals. Thus, engineers tend to focus on optimizing processes, while chemists work to develop new processes.

dual chemistry/chemical and biological engineering degree program is offered for students interested in both fields.

CH 117/118 is the honors section of freshman chemistry. It is a smaller section of freshman chemistry that provides a more intensive discussion of basic chemical principles than is possible in CH 101/102. This sequence is designed for students with a strong background in math and chemistry. This course is not recommended for students who have not taken high school chemistry. Students must be members of the University Honors Program or be eligible to take Math 125 (Calculus I) in order to be placed in this course.

It depends on which course. In the freshman level courses (101-118), the lab is an integrated part of the course and must be taken at the same time as the lecture. Quantitative Analysis (CH 223) is a combined lecture-lab course and both components must be taken at the same time. The organic chemistry labs (CH 237 and 338) and physical chemistry lab (CH 343 or 348) are separate courses from the corresponding lectures. The CH 237 lab should ideally be taken at the same time as the second organic chemistry lecture course (CH 232), although it is possible to take it later.

Similarly, the physical chemistry labs should be taken in the same semester as the lecture course. Because both the lecture and lab are only offered once a year, it is not advisable to wait and take the lab after completing the lecture, as you’re likely to forget many of the important concepts you learned in physical chemistry lecture.

Students may place out of CH 101 if they score a 4 on the AP chemistry exam and CH 101 and 102 if they score a 5. If you have placed out of both semesters of freshman chemistry, you would be eligible to begin taking sophomore level courses, such as organic chemistry (CH 231) and quantitative analysis (CH 223), in your first semester.

Based on our experiences with students in this situation, however, we would strongly recommend that you at least take one semester of freshman chemistry (102 or 117) before attempting sophomore-level courses. We have found that even very strong students who attempt to go directly into 200-level courses struggle due to the significant jump in expectations from high school, particularly when dealing with the other stresses of adapting to college life. Students are generally much more successful if they first take a semester of freshman chemistry to adapt to college-level chemistry courses before attempting the more challenging 200-level courses.

If you are unsure about which course to start, contact Dr. Kevin Shaughnessy, director of undergraduate studies, for further advice.

The organic chemistry lab is a separate course from the lecture. It is designed to be taken during the second semester of the organic lecture sequence (CH 232). This arrangement is different from schools where students take one credit hour of organic lab with each semester of the lecture. We offer a single two-hour lab course that is designed to be taken with the second semester of the lecture course. While it is possible for students to take CH 237 after completing CH 232, we don’t recommend taking a large break between completing CH 232 and taking CH 237, as you are likely to forget many of the important organic chemistry concepts learned in CH 232.

In addition, for chemistry majors, it is necessary to complete CH 237 before taking the second lab course (CH 338), which is only offered in the fall semester.

It is possible to take general and organic chemistry courses at community colleges. Students should ensure that the course is comparable to the UA version and will be accepted as transfer credit. For students seeking to fulfill the organic chemistry lab requirement (CH 237) will need to take 2 credit hours of organic lab.  This will require two courses at most schools.

While it is possible to take introductory chemistry courses away from UA, the department faculty strongly encourage chemistry majors to complete all chemistry courses at UA if possible. Experience has shown that in many cases students who complete their freshmen chemistry courses at community colleges and then begin taking organic chemistry at UA struggle. By taking all chemistry courses at UA, you ensure that you have the comprehensive background necessary to give you the best chance of succeeding in upper-level courses.

We would also encourage students to take math and physics courses at UA, but that is probably less important than taking your chemistry at UA.

The chemistry department offers the following courses that satisfy the writing requirements for graduation: Organic Lab II (CH 338, 2 hours), Physical Chemistry Lab (CH 348, 2 hours), Instrumental Analysis (CH 424, 4 hours), Biochemistry Lab (CH 463, 3 hours).

The College requires a total of 6 writing credits for graduation. Students in the ACS-certified chemistry tracks are required to take CH 338, CH 348 and CH 463 or 424, which fulfills the writing requirement. Student in the pre-health track may only take CH 338 and CH 463, which gives them 5 hours of writing courses. Students following this track will need to take an additional writing course outside of chemistry. Since writing courses must be 300- or 400-level courses, it is advisable to plan ahead so that you can take the necessary prerequisites. It is generally best to take the writing course in your minor if they are available.