We are all matter, our surroundings are matter, we consume matter, and we produce matter. Matter makes up the world as we know it. And therefore, it is important to study it. We need to develop a good understanding of the composition, reactions, and properties of matter to fuel our current and future civilization.
And we achieve this by studying chemistry. It is a branch of natural sciences that provides us with awareness about all of this and so much more. As a result, we can manipulate our surroundings to constantly improve our way of life.
There is no question that chemistry is a very coveted major, and if you are drawn to it but want to familiarise yourself with its requirements, this is the article for you.
Is Chemistry Hard?
Chemistry is certainly a hard subject. The majority of people find chemistry to be difficult due to its cumulative, interconnected, and extensive syllabus, and its demand for strong mathematical, analytical, and critical thinking skills.
Chemistry is considered to be quite difficult by an overwhelming number of chemistry majors. What could be the reason for this? Is it because chemistry is genuinely one of the most difficult subjects or could it be in part due to the decaof vilification? Let us investigate this.
To start off, chemistry as a subject is structured in such a way that it keeps building off complex concepts on basic theory. While this basic theory is not extremely complicated, it requires its fair share of reasoning and analytical thinking. A good amount of people fail to follow along right from the start and when the time comes to apply these principles at more advanced levels, they are completely lost.
Topics such as moles, nomenclature, and solubility are all very puzzle-like and demand you to think deeply. You cannot allow yourself to be lax here. If you let that happen, you might as well bid farewell to the possibility of comprehending any future chemistry. And you cannot get away with just relying on memorization because ultimately, comprehension is the key here.
Being a logic-driven subject, chemistry tends to create problems for a lot of people. The key to succeeding in chemistry is that you do not just accept the facts imparted to you, you understand them. When the logic behind phenomena adds up for you, you can then actually get around to wrapping your head around the exceptions.
And these exceptions are another reason why chemistry is so frustrating. There are set rules. All reactions belonging to given categories follow a fixed process—aside from certain reactions that occur under certain conditions for certain compounds. It might not sound troublesome here, but when you have to keep track of a barrage of such exceptions, chemistry can begin to feel tough.
A good portion of the subject is like this. You base a lot of your experiments on your imagination until you have some sort of perceivable proof. This is not easy, to say the least.
Chemistry is hard enough on its own, so when you add other fields of study like mathematics into the mix, you find the difficulty increases significantly. It does not help those mathematical concepts are considered hard enough by themselves. If your algebra is iffy, you will struggle to form a properly balanced chemical equation which is your gateway to the rest of chemistry.
However, even though it was mentioned earlier that you cannot rely on your memory to get you through chemistry, it does not mean rote learning is not a requisite. There are hundreds of elements a chemist must commit to memory and numerous substances that you should remember the properties of.
Moreover, there is not just one single discipline of chemistry but several fields branching from it: organic, physical, and inorganic among others. That is obviously not an easy task.
And while the general properties are common for all the elements, they vary significantly in terms of the branch you are focussing on. Physical chemistry tends to deal with a combination of physics including heat, energy, equilibrium, etc. This is wildly different from what organic chemistry plays around with: compounds with carbon-carbon covalent bonds.
In that sense, other sciences also get involved while you are studying chemistry. You have to know physics concepts for some and then train your brain to think the way you would while studying biology. For another topic, you will find yourself completely reorienting yourself to solve problems mathematically.
Is Chemistry a Hard Major?
In the previous section, we already established chemistry as being one of the hardest subjects. Similarly, chemistry is also a very hard college major. Huge workloads, challenging exams, complex projects, and lab requirements combined make chemistry a difficult major.
When you have a demanding and challenging subject like chemistry, it must be taught by instructors who are not just experienced in their course content, but someone who can properly explain the material. In order to ensure intricate concepts are imparted efficiently and in a clear manner, a professor who is equipped to deal with all sorts of students should be the one in charge.
However, that is not the case. A lot of universities lack good professors. So instead of someone easing the process for them, students find themselves more confused than before.
On the students’ end too, serious hard work is required which goes on to increase the pressures of chemistry as a major. Aside from the typical lengthy lectures in class, you will also have to perform practical work side by side; spending extensive hours in the laboratory.
Normally, students feel excited about practicals, but more often than not, it turns out to be rather tedious. It takes a lot of practice to get the right results and honing of skills to handle the equipment. In addition to that, you will also have to transcribe your observations in lab reports appropriately.
Students also have to set time aside for self-study. Chemistry is a subject where have to master several complex concepts as well as memorize a good chunk of facts, properties, theorems, and exceptions. Only frequent repetition will allow you to retain them. There might be degrees where you can slack off but not if you are a chemistry major.
The coursework itself involves a lot of other areas such as maths, physics, and biochemistry. They are all hard enough as standalone, but integrating them with chemistry increases the difficulty level of your studies by a notch.
All in all, we can conclude that chemistry is, in fact, not an easy degree. On the contrary, chemistry is one of the hardest degrees and you will have to put in the due work to succeed in it.
What is the hardest thing in Chemistry?
The hardest thing in chemistry is the study of physical chemistry. This is because, in addition to basic chemistry, you must apply principles from mathematics and physics to arrive at results. Not everyone has an aptitude for this.
When you ask chemists, teachers, and current undergraduate students, an overwhelming majority will say that physicachallengingmistry gave them the toughest time.
Why is it so tough?
Usually, students, who choose to study chemistry as an undergraduate do it because they enjoy it as a subject. Physical chemistry adds an aspect to it that they might not necessarily be good at—maths and physics. Mind you, the maths here is no longer basic algebra, it now includes calculus.
Already dealing with a taxing subject, when you start dealing with integrals to calculate entropy, you might feel overwhelmed. Calculus is decidedly hard by itself. When you apply calculus to chemistry, you are left with a complex and mind-boggling hybrid.
Is Chemistry or Biology Harder?
Chemistry is harder than biology. Students typically find chemistry harder since it is more logical and mathematica. At the same time, exacts more critical thinking from its students while biology, although not easy, is more memory intensive and there is relatively less understanding required.
Although, primarily what creates less trouble for you depends on what you are better at. Not to mention, your passion and interest can unsurprisingly make your preferred subject simply seem easier.
Being branches of science, both chemistry and biology are considered tough in their own right. To a great extent, you will need to have highly specialized knowledge which you do not learn in your everyday life. You will be learning new and rather complicated information which is crucial to your overall understanding of the degree.
Despite all this, chemistry will generally be more challenging for students.
As we have established earlier, there is a lot of maths involved in chemistry. A foundational topic, moles, revolves entirely around concepts from maths. Physical chemistry also requires math with a particular emphasis on calculus.
In chemistry, you will have many environmental and other conditions to keep track of, properties to keep up with, and exceptions to apply, and before long you will find yourself navigating through a labyrinth of a subject.
However, there is a small probability that if you cannot memorize lengthy but important subject material, then biology will be the more taxing one for you.
Regardless of whether you choose biology or chemistry, you will have to be dedicated and passionate about your studies in order to keep up with everything you learn.
Is a Chemistry Major Worth It?
If passionate about chemistry and willing to deal with the challenges of a rather difficult degree then a chemistry major is certainly worth it. However, if you are only pursuing a chemistry major for the financial benefits then you should rethink your decision.
If you are interested in the subject then pursuing a degree in chemistry is definitely worthwhile. You will get a chance to study something that is highly technical and interesting and will push your brain to its limits.
A chemistry major will not only help you acquire the necessary technical skills but also several soft skills. A strenuous major like chemistry will teach you how to manage your time effectively, deal with stress, and enhance your organizational and communication skills.
Speaking in terms of career prospects, chemistry majors are highly regarded in the workforce. A degree in chemistry will make you relevant in a number of fields including pharmaceutical, medical, government, cosmetics, forensics, quality control, research, education, and food industries.
However, the catch is that in a lot of instances, a standalone Bachelor’s in chemistry might not be sufficient to land you a high-paying job. Although getting a job would not be difficult, the salaries might be on the lower end of STEM majors. For instance, chemical and mechanical engineers may make several thousand more dollars than chemistry graduates.
To make yourself an attractive hire, you could pursue a Master’s or a Ph.D., however, do keep in mind that a Bachelor’s in chemistry is tough enough, and pursuing a postgraduate will be significantly harder.
However, chemistry is a good degree if you are going to follow it up by enrolling in medical school in the United States. Chemistry degrees are renowned for their fast-paced and challenging nature; features that are also present in medical school.
Do Chemistry Majors Need Math?
Chemistry majors need math to quite an extent. Chemistry majors require math for several topics such as stoichiometry, chemical equations, and analytical chemistry. However, chemistry majors do not need math to the same extent as other STEM majors such as physics and engineering.
In the first year of your degree, chemistry courses themselves do not involve maths further than algebra, basic arithmetic, and statistics. You have to deal with stoichiometry problems, balance chemical equations, and analyze graphs. This coursework is not very intense and can even be managed by someone who is mediocre at math.
As you progress, however, the maths gets tougher.
The minimum requirement for a chemistry degree is to study up to Linear Algebra. Prior to that, you will have studied multivariable calculus, differential equations, and vector calculus. Other than that, classes based on the chemicTotself will heavily utilize these concepts.
In order to give you a breakdown of the level of mathematics needed in the various branches of chemistry, we will discuss organic, analytical, and the dreaded physical chemistry.
Organic chemistry requires the least maths. It is pure chemistry aside from a few calculations in stoichiometry. The rest of it focuses on carbon compounds and their reactions and properties among other things.
Analytical chemistry, which quantifies matter, predominantly utilizes algebra and statistics. You will need it to figure out the chemical composition of an unknown substance or to prepare the right amount of materials for a reagent test. While the maths itself is not too advanced, it is present throughout.
Finally, you have physical chemistry, which involves quite a lot of advanced math such as calculus.
Chemistry is a wonderfully intriguing and thought-provoking subject but with a taxing degree program worldwide. It is obviously a lot of hard work and only students willing to put in the work should be encouraged to apply to it. You should fully acquaint yourself with the requirements of the major before applying to make sure you have the stamina for it.
However, if you are up for the challenge, want to push your limits, gain valuable skills, and learn something meaningful, an undergraduate degree in chemistry might just be what you are looking for!