What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Chemistry?

What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Chemistry?

Chemistry is the scientific study of compounds and elements, including their molecular structure, properties, behavior, and reactions when coming into contact with other substances. Chemistry is a rigorous and research-intensive field. Earning a master’s degree in chemistry can expand your professional options as well as qualify you for leadership roles and highly-valued specializations. This, in turn, can raise your earning power and place you on the front lines of a field brimming with innovation.

Key Takeaways

  • Students pursuing a master’s degree in chemistry will study the structure, composition, and properties of substances. They will advance their understanding of chemical properties and build on the skills and knowledge acquired throughout their undergraduate studies.
  • Popular majors for chemistry students include analytical chemistry, human nutrition, animal nutrition, biochemistry, chemical engineering, environmental chemistry, organic chemistry, and forensic chemistry.
  • The most common admission requirements for a master’s in chemistry degree are graduate record examination scores, a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or closely related fields, and sometimes, a score threshold and professional experience in the field.

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Chemistry masters can go into fields such as engineering, medical science, pharmacology, environmental science, food science, and much more. And because chemistry is a vital science in so many different professional areas, you could work in a wide range of settings from private companies and corporate R&D departments to government agencies and non-profit groups. As a master in chemistry, you could find yourself in high demand for a number of exciting opportunities.

Just getting started in the field? Check out our look at the chemistry major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in chemistry.

If you’re ready to earn your graduate degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Chemistry.

Or read on to find out what you can expect as a chemistry master.

Exploring A Master’s in Chemistry Degree

Since individuals from all over the world began researching the transformation of matter, the study of chemistry has origins that date back to antiquity. Chemistry has influenced everything in our surroundings. Everything we come into contact with, from our houses to offices, has undergone chemical modification.

Even better, not only do chemistry graduates have vast career opportunities, but they can make a huge impact on the field and create a better world.

Chemistry as the Best Science for Modern Living

Chemistry helps make the world safer

Unfortunately, accidents involving chemicals and other hazards are common in industrial settings. Chemistry knowledge is essential for handling life-or-death situations. By pursuing a profession in industrial management with a chemistry degree, you can aid in the prevention of such mishaps.

Chemistry helps produce new materials for everyday living

Chemists thoroughly understand material design by dissecting matter into its component parts. This knowledge can be applied to creating novel materials for various uses and industries.

Chemistry can help solve crimes

Forensic chemistry combines criminal justice and chemistry to identify criminals. Forensic chemists examine objects discovered at crime scenes to gather and document evidence.

Chemistry helps find treatments for diseases and illness

Understanding chemistry, especially as it relates to the human body and human health, can provide the answers for regaining health and well-being. Through their experience in fields ranging from biology to pharmaceutical development, medicinal chemistry contributes to the exciting discoveries in the field of medicine and new medical treatments.

Chemistry helps protect the Earth

Chemical reactions can impact the world positively or negatively. A chemical understanding of the world can provide antidotes to these hazards, whether chemistry is utilized to prevent or treat environmental concerns. Chemists play a crucial role in safeguarding the earth for today and tomorrow through monitoring and analyzing everything from climate change to water and air quality.

Making Master’s Degree in Chemistry Easier

A graduate degree in chemistry is one of the most challenging degrees to obtain. Rigorous research projects and topic progression are the primary cause of chemistry’s difficulty. Before fully understanding a topic, you really need to understand a few others.

Here are a few tips to make your master’s degree more manageable.

Employ Good Time Management Skills. Students who put off focusing on their studies until the last week before a test will fail. Chemistry failure is a guarantee when you cram. At the start of the semester, each student should create a study plan and stick to it.

Practice Active Reading. Students must learn how to engage in active textbook reading. It is much preferable to read a part and then quickly summarize it instead of reading and underlining because doing so is just stating, “this is essential, and I need to come back and understand it.”

Develop Problem Solving Skills. As students read, they should complete simple issues before progressing to more difficult ones. Instead of memorizing the answers, they should concentrate on the solutions’ ideas.

Choosing the Right School When Seeking a Master of Chemistry Degree

Choosing the best university can be challenging; you must consider the setting, the caliber of the faculty, and whether the program will prepare you for your desired profession. American universities might differ significantly in how they evaluate their students, the techniques they employ, and the duration of the courses. There is no standard master’s degree, so look for one that fits your learning style, future career goals, and area of specialization.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Chemistry?

Carolyn Bertozzi, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, and a top-ranking influencer in the field of chemistry, shares an excellent story with us that showcases the dynamic atmosphere in which chemistry grad students often work:

The reality is that the discoveries are not really made by me. Those discoveries are made by my students and postdocs in the lab. And usually, if I'm lucky, when they get their first hint of a discovery, they immediately come running to my office and show me the data. Nowadays with COVID, they'll text me and email me, but some of the big moments of that type that I remember were, for example, the first time one of our so-called bioorthogonal reactions worked on living cells. That was kind of a big moment, and the student, I knew she was doing the big experiment and it was a big question, would it work? And I knew she was doing the experiment that week, but I wasn't sure exactly when. And all of a sudden one afternoon, she just kinda threw the door open to my office carrying her ice bucket with tubes in it in one hand, and the data printed out on the other hand. And she was covered in sweat 'cause she had run into my office from a different building on campus. And Berkeley has a hill, so she had run up from the bottom of the hill to the top of the hill where the chemistry buildings are, soaked in sweat and she just looked at me with her big eyes and she said, 'It worked!'” – Carolyn Bertozzi

Our full interview with Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi

Dr. Bertozzi’s anecdote highlights the core elements of experimentation and discovery that make chemistry such an exciting field. As a chemistry master, you’ll have a chance to dive into a specialization like organic chemistry, chemical engineering, or biochemistry, just to name a few. With the right specialization, you could become part of a field brimming with opportunities to explore and innovate.

Learn more about Carolyn Bertozzi and other top experts in chemistry today!

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How Can I Qualify To Get a Master’s Degree in Chemistry?

There is no specific entrance exam for gaining admission into a chemistry master’s program, though some programs may require you to complete a Graduate Record Examination (GRE). If the GRE is needed, your program may either require a general exam, or a GRE specific to the subject of chemistry. Some programs may require you to meet a certain scoring threshold while others may merely require that you complete the exam. These requirements will vary from one chemistry master’s program to the next.

If no GRE is required, the primary requirement for gaining eligibility into a chemistry master’s program is completion of a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited undergraduate school. While programmatic accreditation is not specifically required in this field, most regionally-accredited graduate schools will require that your bachelor’s degree be granted by a regionally-accredited college or university. It’s also worth noting that if you plan to parlay your chemistry master’s degree into a career as a Professional Engineer (PE), your undergraduate and graduate degree must have been earned from a program which has been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET).

Some colleges may offer bundled bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, where you could earn your advanced degree in one continuous five-year program. This option could save you time and money if you already know that you’ll be pursuing your advanced degree. However, the accelerated pace of such a program may make this a challenging way to earn both degrees. Find out if your school offers this bundling option and ask about eligibility requirements. But be sure you’re up to the added challenge!

For any additional questions about eligibility, refer to your intended program and learn more about application requirements and any additional requirements such as work experience, academic performance thresholds, and referrals.

If you’re still working on building your qualifications, check out our look at the chemistry major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in chemistry.

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What Kinds of Advanced Chemistry Degrees Are There?

Though the bachelor’s degree is a basic threshold for many jobs in the chemistry field, your ability to compete with other candidates and advance in your role will likely demand an advanced degree. Depending on your career goals, a master’s degree might be sufficient, though a role in post-secondary education or research would likely also require you to earn your doctoral degree. Consider these advanced degrees as you weigh your professional goals:

  • Master of Chemistry (MA or MS): A master’s degree in chemistry takes two or three years to complete and 30-45 credits, depending on the program and specialization. In a master’s program, you will dig deep into advanced topics in the field, and work within a specialization, such as neurochemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, or pharmaceutical chemistry. Some programs allow for multiple specializations, and most require some kind of lab or professional experience, as well as a research project or thesis. With a master’s degree in chemistry, you qualify for advanced and high-paying roles in careers such as chemical engineer, biochemist, food scientist, agricultural scientist, and materials scientist.
  • PhD in Chemistry: A PhD in chemistry is the highest level degree you can earn in the field. This terminal degree will typically take three to five years to complete, and requires a combination of advanced coursework, a research project and dissertation, comprehensive exams, and lab or instructional work. At this level, you will already be well into your specialization area. Therefore, you may need to determine where to earn your doctoral degree based on how each school ranks for your specialization. Your PhD will qualify you for an array of high-level professions, including biochemist, director of research, or postsecondary teacher.
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What are Some Popular Chemistry Specializations?

Chemistry is an extremely broad field. Your specialization will depend in large part on your career goals. You’ll have an opportunity to focus on an area of chemistry that both interests you and connects to your intended professional field. You should have a strong sense of your intended specialization before you enroll in your master’s program. This is because specialization offerings may vary from one program to the next. You’ll want to be sure that your intended chemistry master’s degree program offers a focus within your area of study. The following are among the most popular chemistry specializations:

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Human Nutrition
  • Animal Nutrition
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Forensic Chemistry
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What Courses Will I Take as a Chemistry Master?

Your specialization will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a Chemistry major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Biochemistry and Statistical Methods. But you’ll also have the chance to choose from a wide variety of courses in the natural and earth sciences.

Common chemistry courses include:

  • Advanced Organic Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Structural Properties of Solids
  • Material Synthesis
  • Supramolecular Chemistry
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Green Chemistry
  • Systems Chemistry
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Is a Master’s Degree in Chemistry Worth It?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that your earnings will likely be higher in the field of chemistry when you earn an advanced degree. According to the BLS, chemists and materials scientists with a bachelor’s degree earn a median salary of $60,000 per year, whereas chemists and materials scientists with a master’s degree may earn a median salary of $71,000. One reason is because your advanced degree can qualify you for a variety of leadership roles and specializations, which can ultimately improve your career trajectory and increase your earning potential.

Career Outlook for Students with Chemistry Degree

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Degree Level: Master's

  • Location: The U.S. (Private Schools)
  • Avg. Cost of Degree*: $12,701
  • Avg. Expenses*: $17,586
  • Avg. Starting Salary*: $54,173
  • Avg. Salary after 4 Years*: $74,543
  • Avg. Cost Recoup Time**: 5 years
  • Job Growth: 1.96%
  • Number of Jobs: 1,370,100
  • * denotes ‘annually’
  • ** denotes ‘at 15% of annual salary’

Career Salaries

CareerJob GrowthAvg. Salary
Natural Sciences Managers4.87%$122,066
Physics Teachers, Postsecondary3.70%$90,850
Chemistry Teachers, Postsecondary3.48%$84,717
Environmental Science Teachers, Postsecondary3.80%$83,117

Average Career Salaries

Bottom 10%MedianTop 10%

Promising Job Markets

StateCost of LivingAvg. Salary
#2 North Carolina11% higher than average$88,998
#3 Michigan15% higher than average$84,969
#4 New York5% higher than average$99,845
#5 Ohio14% higher than average$81,585
#6 Missouri16% higher than average$78,913

Top Industries

IndustryAvg. Salary
Natural Sciences Managers$122,066
Physics Teachers, Postsecondary$90,850
Chemistry Teachers, Postsecondary$84,717
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What Are The Top Jobs With a Master’s In Chemistry Degree?

Chemistry majors are employed in a huge range of industries and areas, including private sector corporations, research labs, universities, and for the federal government. Whether you’re creating and perfecting a new material, developing medications, researching the chemicals in a local water supply, or investigating the biochemical processes that make life possible, a master’s degree in chemistry will improve your appeal to employers and provide more pathways to career advancement. Your advanced degree in chemistry can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:

Curious how far you could go with a master’s degree in chemistry? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!


Now that you know how to earn a master’s degree in chemistry, check out:

Check out the full list here and get started on your path to a Chemistry master’s degree.

And if you’re still shopping for the right college, be sure to bookmark our Resources on critical issues like Accreditation, Scholarships, Financial Aid, and more!

A master’s degree in chemistry is a great way to advance your career. Online grad school is also an increasingly popular and powerful way to advance your career and improve your salary potential. Online education is convenient, flexible, and accessible, making it the perfect option for working adults. Discover if online grad school is right for you with our pros and cons list.

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