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Chemistry Major

At the forefront of curiosity-inspired research, innovation and education

Chemistry Major

At the forefront of curiosity-inspired research, innovation and education

A student working in a chemistry lab under the supervision of May Nyman

Undergraduate laboratory research experiences help chemistry majors develop technical and professional skills.

The Department of Chemistry offers both B.S. and B.A. degrees in chemistry. As a chemistry major, you’ll develop in-depth knowledge and analytical skills through foundational and advanced courses in organic, analytical, physical and inorganic chemistry in addition to extensive laboratory and undergraduate research experience. You can design your studies to fit your academic interests by choosing among 10 options to broaden your knowledge and skills, enhance career preparation and amplify opportunities for employment in areas such as electronics, biotechnology, high school teaching, environmental science as well as graduate study and professional programs in chemistry, medicine and healthcare. As a chemistry major, you are required to add one option, which includes 9-10 courses in applied areas. You will take a common core of about 25 courses in chemistry, chemistry laboratory, physics and mathematics in addition to a chosen option in the B.S. degree program. Track 1 chemistry options (Advanced Chemistry and Advanced Biochemistry) are approved through the American Chemical Society and lead to ACS certified degrees in Chemistry.

Meet a chemistry major

Careers in research

Chemistry students gain an extensive and well-rounded education through in-depth coursework, undergraduate laboratory research experiences to develop technical and professional skills, and outstanding advising and mentorship. Many graduates of the chemistry department have been accepted to top-tier graduate programs in chemistry and applied areas at, for example, UC Berkeley, University of Southern California, UCLA, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin- Madison, University of Texas-Austin, University of Michigan, and the University of Colorado.

Our broad range of options will help you tailor your education to meet your career objectives and interests. For example, students graduating with a B.S. in chemistry with an option in Forensic Science have graduated with M.S. degrees from programs at University of California Davis, UCLA, Pace University, the George Washington University and are now employed in forensic science labs around the nation.

Explore the B.S. Degree

The B.S. degree Track One is suitable for students intending to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry or a closely related area. It provides the most rigorous and complete chemistry, physics, and mathematics background and the most extensive laboratory experience.

Track 1 chemistry options (Advanced Chemistry and Advanced Biochemistry) are approved through the American Chemical Society and lead to ACS certified degrees in Chemistry. ACS approved programs ensure “a broad-based and rigorous chemistry education that gives students intellectual, experimental, and communication skills to become effective scientific professionals.”

Track Two for the B.S. degree consists of a core of chemistry courses plus a combination of 8 to 11 courses (30 to 36 credits) that defines the option. This track does not lead to a degree certified by the ACS.

These options are structured to provide a chemistry major with a second area of expertise. This multi-disciplinary approach is designed to enhance preparation and opportunities for employment in areas such as electronics, polymers, or biotechnology (materials science, chemical engineering, or biochemistry option), for careers in environmental science (environmental chemistry option), careers in forensic science (forensic science option), for graduate study in applied areas or professional schools (pre-medicine or business option), or for teaching in high schools (chemistry education option). The coursework for track two students provides a strong foundation for continuing education in graduate school in chemistry or related areas.

B.S. Degree Options

Track 1 chemistry options

The option with the strongest pure chemistry background, for students looking for career opportunities in a broad range of chemical industries or who have already chosen to continue on to chemistry graduate school for Ph.D.

The option for students with bio-oriented interests who are looking for career opportunities in places like the pharmaceutical or biotech industries. It is also excellent preparation for graduate school.

Track 2 chemistry options

The biochemistry option is designed for those interested in working in biotechnology areas, emphasizing elective courses in biology, biochemistry including lab and genetics. A strong option for students interested in pharmacy programs.

This option is designed for chemists interested in working in science management, science marketing and sales, or starting a small business. The business option reduces time to obtain a MBA degree at OSU. It is a good stepping stone for law school (patent law is a very lucrative career).

Chemistry teachers at the high school level are in strong demand! This option is designed to interface with the B.S. Education Double Degree and the M.S. in Science or Mathematics Education Teaching programs at OSU.

This option is designed for chemists seeking some background in engineering, but who don’t want to be engineers. Designed to offer selected chemical engineering concepts that may enhance career opportunities in areas such as electronics, polymers, and biotechnology.

The Environmental Chemistry option is a Track-Two option in the BS degree in Chemistry structured to provide a strong foundation for working in government, industrial or university labs studying the behavior of chemicals in the environment while emphasizing analytical skills. It is also suited to graduate education in chemistry or environmental chemistry. This option includes 11 courses in biology, microbiology, toxicology, environmental chemistry and health, soil science, and hydrology, including five advanced laboratory courses. Students have a choice of career supportive electives with an opportunity to explore minors in other areas.

A combination of courses designed to provide a chemistry major with a background in biology, biochemistry, and related areas and an emphasis in analytical chemistry that is appropriate for work in a crime lab or to pursue a graduate degree in forensic science.

This option is customized to include applied courses in a variety of materials areas to enhance career opportunities in areas including electronics, polymers, batteries and biotechnology.

The option is directed at students planning to apply to medical or dental school who also choose to have chemistry as a second career pathway.

B.A. Degree

The B.A. degree in chemistry includes a second language requirement and additional liberal arts courses (9 credits). It also includes 6–12 credits of approved career-supportive electives to allow students to choose courses in advanced chemistry or related disciplines to support their career goals.

The B.A. degree is helpful for chemistry students interested in a broad education that might include a foreign language and lead to international opportunities, especially if coupled with the International Degree Program at OSU.

What can you do with a Chemistry degree: Careers of our graduates

Lead Brewer and General Manager at Ancestry Brewing

Scientists at Duke Environmental Analytical Chemistry Laboratory; Los Alamos National Laboratory; Schrodinger

Doctor of Emergency Medicine at Adventist Health

Graduate students at UC-Berkeley; ETH Zurich; University of Southern California; Scripps Institute of Oceanography

Product Development Engineer at Chevron
Internal Medicine Resident at Vanderbilt University
Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine Specialist at The Oregon Clinic
Aircraft Maintenance Officer in the US Air Force
Cellar master at NW Wine Co.
Forensic Scientist for the Oregon State Police
Principal Python Machine Learning Engineer at Capital One Banking
Senior Chemistry Manager at Nike

Sample courses

Bioanalytical chemistry
Physical chemistry of materials
Environmental Transformation of Organic Compounds

Nathan Coddington standing outside Kidder Hall

"Everyone in my bioorganic chemistry lab helped me learn how to be a better scientist, how to be a more well-rounded person, and how to communicate and write.”

Nathan Coddington (Chemistry '18), studying dental surgery at the UCLA School of Dentistry

Meet our students and alumni

A love for science and marching band shapes chemistry grad's path towards medicine

As a senior in Honor's chemistry, Linus Unitan hopes the leadership skills he fostered at Oregon State will make him a strong candidate as he begins applying for medical school this spring.

Exploring the Options: Cindy Cedeño chose OSU for research opportunities

Cindy Cedeño, a chemistry major and graduating senior, transferred to OSU to pursue her passion for research.

Aspiring forensic scientist gets boost from research opportunities

Aspiring forensic scientist Madeline Bloom, an honors chemistry student, gets a huge boost from College of Science undergraduate research opportunities.

Oregon's top pre-med program meets the growing demand for doctors

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a surging interest in science and medicine, attracting a new generation of students to a career in medicine. Enrollment in the College of Science’s pre-med program at Oregon State University has also remained high, with numbers averaging 90-100 pre-med students annually since 2019.


Next steps

Download Chemistry brochure 2022 (PDF)