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Which degree?

How do you decide which degree course is right for you?

Before you decide to study any subject, you should find out what the course will involve by reading university prospectuses, contacting admissions tutors or speaking to someone already doing a similar course. You can then make an informed decision about whether that course is right for you. Even courses with the same or similar titles can vary a lot between different universities, so make sure you find out about each individual course.

To help you narrow down the options, we have some key tips and answers to common questions about studying chemistry. 

Compile a shortlist of chemistry departments from the following resources:

  • Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website provides course details and allows you to register to start the application process.
  • University websites and prospectuses provide general course information, while departmental homepages have more detail.
  • Unistats provides information on entry requirements, job prospects, student satisfaction levels from the National Student Survey and teaching quality.


Once you've done this it's always best to try to visit the universities on your shortlist.

BSc or MChem/MSci?

Most universities now offer both BSc (Bachelor of Science) and MChem/MSci (Master of Chemistry/Science) degree programmes. MChem and MSci degrees have exactly the same status as each other; these courses simply have different names at different universities.

The first two years of an MChem/MSci course are usually identical to those of the BSc course at the same institution and students then take different routes in year 3 or 4. In general, the additional year in an MChem/MSci course contains a greater quantity, and more advanced material, than in a BSc course. The entry requirements for the MChem/MSci courses are generally a little higher than those for the corresponding BSc courses.

Still not sure?

If you're unsure which to choose, don't worry as most universities allow transfers between BSc and MChem/MSci courses, usually up to the end of your second year. However, if your predicted grades satisfy the higher requirement, you would be well advised to enrol on the MChem/MSci course – it is easier to move down to the BSc than to move up to the MChem/MSci.

Accredited degree programmes

The RSC accredits degrees as satisfying the academic requirements for Chartered Chemist (CChem) and Chartered Scientist (CSci). The accreditation criteria can be found here. We accredit at Bachelor and Master’s level in the UK and internationally.

Should I study a single or combined honours degree?

Combined/joint honours degrees teach chemistry alongside a complementary subject, such as French, mathematics or business. These degrees can vary in the proportion of chemistry taught, so check course details carefully. 

Single honours chemistry degrees do not only teach you chemistry, with most universities offering the opportunity to study other subjects as optional modules. They usually offer greater flexibility, as combined honours degrees can have less scope for optional modules and may also be less likely to offer industrial placements. 

Ultimately, the choice between a single or combined honours degree is one of preference, as both will produce proficient chemists with crucial transferable skills. The key consideration is whether you are enthusiastic about both chemistry and the complementary subject, and whether you have a strong commitment to the second subject.

If you’re interested in studying a ‘chemistry with…’ or ‘chemistry and…’ course, it’s important to consider how this might affect your future career options. Many jobs within the chemical and pharmaceutical industries will only be available to graduates who have spent a considerable amount of time in teaching laboratories developing their practical skills. Search the UCAS site to learn more about university courses and entry requirements

Chemistry with a year abroad?

There are lots of degree programmes in chemistry and related subjects that involve a year at a university abroad. You could spend the year in Europe, the US or even Asia or Australia.

The first two years of these courses are normally spent following the appropriate chemical science programme in a UK university and acquiring any language skills you might need while abroad. You will then spend the third year studying abroad. During this year you will follow the syllabus of the host university and will be assessed before returning to the UK for your final year.

Lecture notes     © Shutterstock

University courses with industrial experience

A number of UK university chemistry degrees include a year working in industry. This offers the opportunity to gain valuable paid experience working on interesting projects in an industrial environment, and may even lead directly to a job after you finish your degree. It can also help you to decide the type of career you are interested in. Students are usually paid by industry during their placement year.

Work experience can be extremely useful to you in your future career. As well as helping you make more informed career decisions, you will be given the opportunity to develop new skills. It will also make you more attractive to prospective employers. A good placement can provide a great opportunity to see what it's like to work as a scientist and to learn new skills. It can also give you an insight into how the science you learn in school and beyond can be applied to solve problems and meet demands in the world we live in. Even if you already know you would like to be a chemist, work experience is still a good idea because:

  • Companies and universities look very highly on students who have the enthusiasm and commitment to take the time to complete a work placement.
  • Your application for the next stage of your career will stand out – your CV will be stronger, your skills and experience can be used in interviews and you should be able to get a job reference.
  • Graduates are more likely to be employed if they already have work experience, often because they are taken on by the company that gave them the placement. Companies like to employ people they know they can trust.    

We produce a guide for universities to industrial placements which explains what we consider makes a successful placement for an accredited degree and also includes some ideas to help you find a placement.

Undergraduate summer research bursaries

Here are some useful links to find out more about other bursary options:

 Part-time & Distance Learning Courses

A wide range of personal circumstances and preferences means that not everyone can study full-time. Luckily, there are a variety of part-time and distance learning courses available providing a range of training opportunities.

Please note, these courses are not necessarily recognised or accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Did you know?

14,000 people are directly employed in the chemicals sector in Scotland (excluding the education sector) and up to 70,000 people in total

Researcher (internship)

Jonathan Gellette

I’m currently studying for my Masters in Chemistry (MChem) and completing my 1 year industrial placement at Procter & Gamble.
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