Chemistry is the fundamental science, for it sits between physics, of which it is one of the most complex and useful outgrowths, and the biological and geological sciences, which find their basis in it. By a common definition, chemistry is the scientific study of the composition and properties of matter and the investigation of the laws that govern them.
Classically, chemistry is divided into several subdisciplines. Organic chemistry deals primarily with carbon compounds; inorganic chemistry, with compounds of the other elements. Physical chemistry seeks to describe relationships between the chemical and physical properties of all substances. Analytical chemistry studies the analysis of the chemical composition of all substances. Biological chemistry pursues the chemistry of living organisms; at UNC-Chapel Hill biological chemistry is divided between the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition. At the borders of these sub-disciplines are many hybrid areas of study: physical organic, organometallic, bioinorganic and others; and at the interface of chemistry with other sciences there are active fields fueled by insights gained from two ways of thinking about things; for example, chemical physics, pharmaceutical chemistry, organic geochemistry and the extensive chemical problems in biotechnology. In all of these areas the chemist's approach may be theoretical, experimental or both.
All chemists have a common core of knowledge, learned through a highly structured sequence of undergraduate courses in which the content is divided into the classical subdisciplines. Toward the end of students' progress through their four years of undergraduate study, they may choose to gain additional concentration in one or more areas of chemistry through the courses selected to fulfill the chemistry elective requirement and undergraduate research.
Chemists are owners of companies. Chemists teach in high schools, two- and four-year colleges and universities, and in corporate training centers. Chemists work for large multinational companies as well as small companies. Some are specialized in their practice of chemistry, while others apply it in an interdisciplinary fashion. Individuals who pursue a chemical education discover that it provides a solid background for careers that can grow and change as the individual changes or as the marketplace changes.
If anything characterizes the career of a chemist, it is change. A chemistry degree is a powerful springboard, which can launch you into a fascinating and rewarding career. A chemistry graduate is prepared for immediate employment. A bachelor's level graduate in chemistry is able to assume a variety of positions in industry, government, or academia. Opportunities are also available to those who combine their undergraduate chemistry degree with advanced studies in other fields.
The more obvious positions for which a background in chemistry is important are those in chemical education, which may or may not include research at the undergraduate level, or laboratory research in the chemical industry and government. Those with a significant knowledge of chemistry are also employed in related professions, such as molecular biology and biotechnology, materials science, forensic science, hazardous waste management, textile science,or information management. While laboratory research is the traditional career of chemists in industry, not all chemists working in industry are active researchers. Some chemists do analyses and testing; some do research outside of the laboratory.
Other chemists are employed as executives who manage production facilities, businesses, research groups, or entire laboratories. A chemistry degree can also lead to work in areas such as law, sales, marketing, consulting, purchasing, health and safety, and environmental science. Because there are a multitude of applications of chemical principles and many specialties within the field of chemistry, there are many types of chemists. Students should become familiar with career options available to chemists and consider how to prepare for a future in chemistry. Proper preparation is an important factor in improving success in finding the best first job, and includes refining a general interest in chemistry into specific education and career objectives and planning how to achieve career goals.
This list of career areas is by no means exhaustive; however, it presents options available to those who obtain degrees in the chemical sciences.The following list represents a sample of career areas:
Agricultural Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Catalysis, Chemical Education, Chemical Engineering, Chemical Information, Chemical Sales and Marketing, Chemical Technology, Colloid and Surface Chemistry, Consulting, Consumer Products, Environmental Chemistry, Food and Flavor Chemistry, Forensic Chemistry, Geochemistry, Hazardous Waste Management, Inorganic Chemistry, Materials Science, medicinal Chemistry, Oil and Petroleum Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry, Pulp and Paper Chemistry, R&D Management, Science Writing, Textile Chemistry and Water Chemistry.