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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

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

The BASICS: Chemistry

  • Department: Chemistry
  • Degrees offered: Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Honors Bachelor of Science, Honors Bachelor of Arts
  • Minor: Learn about the chemistry minor
  • Graduate program: Master of Arts, Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy. Learn about our chemistry grad programs.

Chemistry is often referred to as “the central science” due to its pivotal role in science and technology. Chemistry majors study the properties, composition, structure and changing of matter. It's like understanding the language of atoms and molecules, the tiny building blocks of everything.

Job prospects for chemists are excellent, with typical unemployment rates for chemists about half the national average. A chemistry degree has many real-world applications and will prepare you for careers in forensics, medicine, biotechnology and nanotechnology, electronics, agricultural and food science, oceanography and environmental science. The degree also makes a strong background for graduate school and medical, dental or pharmacy school.

Fun fact: Our medical school acceptance rate is 67 percent, well above the national average of 40 percent!

Chemists often work jobs that interface with other science and engineering disciplines in a broad range of industries that include pharmaceuticals, batteries, solar cells, biotechnology, forensics, polymers, food and semi-conductors. Chemistry graduates can even go on to careers at wineries and breweries, like some of our Team Science alumni!

Want to know more about what chemists do? Check out research happening right here at OSU, where our own chemists' work covers the following realms:

  • Analytical chemistry
  • Computational chemistry
  • Materials chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry
Check out our department's research
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 PROGRAM: Studying chemistry at Oregon State

The Department of Chemistry offers both Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degrees to undergraduates. You'll design your studies to fit your academic interests by choosing one of ten options to broaden your knowledge and skills, enhance career preparation and amplify opportunities for employment. Your option includes 9-10 courses in applied areas.

The B.S. degree program is divided among two tracks: Track 1 and Track 2. Track 1 offers two options that are approved by the American Chemical Society and lead to ACS certified degrees in Chemistry. Track 2 options are structured to provide a chemistry major with a second area of expertise.

The B.A. degree is designed for those interested in obtaining a broader background in liberal arts, including a foreign language.

Explore the B.S. degree

Track 1 chemistry options

The B.S. degree Track 1 provides the most complete chemistry, physics, and mathematics background and the most extensive laboratory experience. This track is ideal for students seeking a graduate degree in chemistry or a related field. Track 1 chemistry options 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.”

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

Track 2 for the B.S. degree consists of a core of chemistry courses plus a combination of 8 to 11 courses centered around the option you choose. 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 to enhance preparation and opportunities for employment in specific career paths. Track 2 coursework also provides a strong foundation for continuing your education in graduate school, whether in chemistry or another related area.

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 to 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.

Learn more about your chemistry curriculum

Wondering what kind of classes you'll take? Your chemistry major includes in-depth curriculum, including courses like:

  • General Chemistry of Living Systems
  • The Chemistry of Colors
  • Environmental Chemistry
Chemistry courses

Want to know more about coursework requirements? Use the OSU Catalog to learn more about:

  • your typical sequence of courses
  • what pre-requisite courses you'll need
  • your major's core curriculum
Chemistry course requirements

What does your four-year course load look like as a chemistry major? Check out this sample plan for one example of how to map out your academic journey.

Chemistry major: sample plan

WATCH: Meet a chemistry major

Meet Alice, a third-year chemistry major at Oregon State’s College of Science. Alice points to undergraduate research as one of the main reasons she chose OSU. Another reason: The many different experiences our College has to offer!

The EXPERIENCE: Hands-on opportunities

What makes a chemistry degree from Oregon State better? One big reason: Our hands-on learning experiences! Science is often a competitive career field — these experiences give you the real-world skills to support your future goals.

Undergraduate Research

This is your chance to see up close what it means to be a scientist. Don’t just study science in the classroom — get in a lab and contribute to it, working alongside world-class faculty!

Learn why undergraduate research is better here


Practice your science in a professional setting. An internship with a real-world employer is the perfect opportunity to experience what your future career in science could look like.

Learn about amazing internship opportunities

Study Abroad

Our students’ work spans the globe! Immerse yourself in another culture to gain a global perspective in your studies.

Take your science studies around the world


Here’s your chance to discover like-minded communities of peers who share your interests! Come together and engage in meaningful ways.

Connect with a club and more members of Team Science

The SUPPORT: Learning resources for science students

Team Science is here to help you thrive. Our student support is another reason we always say, "science is better at Oregon State." You'll have access to a huge array of support services and resources designed to thrive both in and out of the classroom. Here are some places to get started:

Student resources

At OSU, support comes in a LOT of forms — here's where to start. From our Science Success Center to health and wellness resources, connect with the support you need to thrive as a college student.

Check out our student resources page

Learning Assistant (LA) Program

Love learning in smaller, collaborative group settings? Our Learning Assistant Program combines small-school attention with big-school resources. Your LA group replaces traditional lecture formats with active learning strategies, maximizing the way you engage with your STEM courses.

Explore our Learning Assistant Program

Tutoring Centers

Our tutoring centers are welcoming, friendly spaces where peer and faculty mentors offer guidance and share study techniques to help you grasp course materials and improve your academic performance.

Learn more about our science-focused tutoring centers


Chemistry advisors are all faculty members in chemistry and engaged in research as well as teaching. Meeting with your advisor will help you make the most of your academic journey and help keep you on track to graduation.

Visit the department's advising page

And of course, you can always reach out to our student Peer Advisors at with questions, as well! Our Peer Advisor team is friendly, helpful and can share their first-hand knowledge of the Oregon State experience.

The PAYOFF: Careers in chemistry

What jobs can you get with a chemistry degree?

With a chemistry degree from OSU, you’ll be able to embark on a number of career paths.

Here are just several examples of career pathways our chemistry alumni have followed:

  • Product Development Engineer | Chevron
  • Doctor of Emergency Medicine | Adventist Health
  • Internal Medicine Resident | Vanderbilt University
  • Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine Specialist | The Oregon Clinic
  • Aircraft Maintenance Officer | U.S. Air Force
  • Lead Brewer and General Manager | Ancestry Brewing
  • Cellar master | NW Wine Co.
  • Forensic Scientist | Oregon State Police
  • Principal Python Machine Learning Engineer | Capital One Banking
  • Senior Chemistry Manager | Nike
  • Scientists | Duke Environmental Analytical Chemistry Laboratory; Los Alamos National Laboratory; Schrodinger
  • Graduate students | UC-Berkeley; ETH Zurich; University of Southern California; Scripps Institute of Oceanography

The PROOF: Successful chemistry 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.

Download Chemistry brochure 2022 (PDF)