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.
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.
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 is coming soon. Check back in for this and other updates!
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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