Advice on Chemistry degree courses

(56 Posts)
loveisenough Sat 25-Aug-18 22:30:17

My DS is currently studying A Levels in Chemistry, Biology and Maths and thinking about doing a Chemistry degree although he isn't totally sure. I wondered if anyone has practical experience of chemistry or other chemistry-related degree courses, would you recommend particular courses and is it better to go for a course with a placement - some are five year courses!

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ErrolTheDragon Sat 25-Aug-18 22:47:45

I'm out of date ( my chemistry degrees are over 30 years old now). It probably depends on what sort of career they might follow after, and - to be blunt - what their academic potential is. Research type jobs - both in academia and industry - generally require a PhD, so if that's the aim then a placement year probably isn't appropriate, and not sure whether integrated masters makes sense in that context or not.

loveisenough Sat 25-Aug-18 23:26:59

Thanks for the reply. He’s really not sure what he would like to eventually do but I can’t imagine him doing more study following ungergraduate degree. He has looked at integrated Masters courses and also at Chemical engineering courses but the entry grades are pretty high.

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SweatyFretty Sat 25-Aug-18 23:37:26

What sort of grades are we looking at?

loveisenough Sat 25-Aug-18 23:53:45

He’s hoping for AAA or AAB

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ErrolTheDragon Sun 26-Aug-18 00:11:14

Ok, those grades should get him a place on a good course - lots to choose from. Has he been on any open days and formed any opinions? Lab work is, of course, particularly important in chemistry so the facilities do matter.

thejeangenie36 Sun 26-Aug-18 00:28:20

4 year Integrated Masters are generally reckoned to be more prestigious than 3 year Bachelor's in the Sciences.

Having a placement year can add significantly to employment prospects. York has a 4 year Integrated Masters where the final year involves a placement (so not 5 years). (Don't know the requirements).


thejeangenie36 Sun 26-Aug-18 00:36:38

By the way, your DD should really be going to open days / taster days to work out if Chemistry is for him. I did Chemistry A Level and work quite closely with a Chemistry department at a University, and the degree is not like A Level in terms of the skills required. It's a very mathematical subject with an emphasis on analysis and problem solving. The students also work bloody hard! Lots of contact hours and early starts in the lab.

thejeangenie36 Sun 26-Aug-18 00:36:57


WalkingToMordor Sun 26-Aug-18 13:31:58

Ds is part way through a Chemistry degree. It is flipping hard work with a huge number of contact hours and masses of work outside of lectures, tutorials and labs. Not for the faint hearted. It is very different to school chemistry ( to the annoyance of some students). On his course he has found it advantageous to have A level Physics for the physical chemistry modules whereas his lack of A level Biology has not been an issue. Lots of students with A level Biology have chosen the drug development type modules which he has avoided but there is no way to avoid physical chemistry!!!

He looked at loads of universities. At most chemistry is not oversubscribed so with those grades your ds would get offers from the vast majority of places. The most oversubscribed places we found were Imperial and UCL (Oxford has a 3 to 1 ratio but it won't be on your ds's list). Ds really loved York and Warwick but there are lots of universities offering chemistry who would rip his arm off to get him with AAA. Different universities organise their options in various ways so check that carefully.

A year in industry can be useful but lots of ds's friends have got summer placements instead which is fine. Good luck!!!

loveisenough Sun 26-Aug-18 14:55:02

Thanks everyone for your replies, all really useful points. DS now wishes he took Physics rather than Biology although I still think it's a useful combination with Chemistry. I don't think he would struggle too much with the physical chemistry component, and he particularly likes Chemistry because of the maths so more of a shift towards that at degree level also should be fine for him.

He hasn't been to any open days but planning to in September, I think the reality of having to choose courses means he put it off during the last round of open days. He has only just turned 17 during the summer holiday and so in some ways University seems a long way off even though it isn't!

Any more thoughts greatly appreciated.

OP’s posts: |
ErrolTheDragon Sun 26-Aug-18 15:20:02

Where's he planning to look at? Presumably he's found the typical offers online so he's looking at some appropriate to his predicted grades. Another useful filter is, of course, what sort of environment he likes - big city/smaller town/campus etc.

loveisenough Sun 26-Aug-18 15:37:10

At the moment quite a variety of places - Swansea, York, Exeter, Reading, Leicester, but I don't feel like he's really thought about it enough yet, hence this thread grin

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titchy Sun 26-Aug-18 16:14:46

Actually that's a pretty good selection, not wildly varied at all! Small cities, decently ranked, at a guess offers ranging from AAA to BBB which is sensible!

WalkingToMordor Sun 26-Aug-18 16:44:22

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that lack of physics would be an issue - if it was the universities would ask for it!! Maths is definitely useful, though.

Looks like you have a nice selection there. You might consider adding Southampton to it ( offer was ABB a couple of years ago and they ran some interesting options). Leeds and Sheffield are also higher up the league tables for chemistry than Reading or Swansea (although Swansea's position by the sea is pretty cool!). Perhaps have a look at Manchester to get an idea of a city university?

Don't want to sound horrible but if your ds is AAA/AAB standard he can do better than Reading or Swansea, unless he has a great desire to go there. Chemistry is always in Clearing, often at very good universities, so he won't be risking anything by aiming high. Reading and Swansea will still be available to him if his results aren't quite what he hoped for. At the moment two weeks after results day, places like Manchester, Leicester, Loughborough, Sheffield and Southampton are still in Clearing ( as are Swansea and Reading).

The open days are really important. Ds started out being adamant he wanted to go to a smaller campus university but ended up choosing a city one instead. You really do get different vibes at different universities. I thought the nicest staff we met were at Southampton and Warwick.

loveisenough Sun 26-Aug-18 17:17:03

WalkingToMordor - no it was a good point about Physics but I think he will enjoy that part of a degree smile

Yes on reflection quite a good selection, thanks for the other suggestions though, we really must get organized with open days.

Interesting to know that about Chemistry places in clearing, I haven't even thought of looking at that this year.

Thanks again everyone, I knew I'd get some good advice on here!

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BagelGoesWalking Sun 26-Aug-18 17:38:06

A good friend of my DD has a place at Exeter to study Biochemistry. She's been an A* student all the way through her school years and could have tried Oxbridge. She also looked at Nottingham and Leeds, I think.

veggiethrower Sun 26-Aug-18 19:12:16

I went to York and loved it (several years ago...) Still have contact with people there - it's an excellent department, excellent for teaching and good facilities.
I never thought I would go there when I put it down on my UCAS form - was interviewed very early and absolutely loved it straightaway and none of my other choices came anywhere near! So that was that.
Also look at Warwick, Bristol, Imperial, UCL.
York also do natural sciences now - looks very interesting and if he isn't sure, it's a way of keeping options open. Or NatSci at Cambridge or Durham?

veggiethrower Sun 26-Aug-18 19:14:06

ah...just seen he's on for AAA/AAB - so not enough for Cambridge.

AlbusPercival Sun 26-Aug-18 20:21:47

No physics not impossible, I don’t have a level but by the end specialised in phys chem, maths a level invaluable there.

I did 4 year integrated with a placement year. Highly recommend the placements if likrky to want to go into industry after

Watto1 Sun 26-Aug-18 20:26:13

My chemistry degree was a 4 year course with a placement year. It was over 20 years ago now but I was told by my first boss after graduation that it was the experience of a year in industry that got me the job.

Jenijena Sun 26-Aug-18 20:32:38

I would aim for a chemistry degree with a placement option as the post university possibilities will be improved. Our student chemists seem to find interesting placements, and even if they don’t want to work in that area long term, it does allow them to know something they don’t want to do, if you see what I mean.

I’m not an expert but I believe there are placement years which contribute to the learning (ie they do academic work alongside/as part of the workplace work) and ones where the placement is separate to the degree requirements.

I would also echo previous posters: good universities really will be looking for highly qualified chemists. He definitely has a choice!!

WalkingToMordor Sun 26-Aug-18 23:34:21

York's labs looked brand new when we visited. Honestly they were the smartest labs we saw!!!!

Placement years are great but the option of them shouldn't be the decider for him because:
(1) there's hardly a surfeit of good chemistry graduates so he will get a job without one - ds's university doesn't offer it but their employment stats are excellent; and
(2) even if it is offered by the university, they cannot guarantee that every student who wants a placement will get one. It would be a shame to choose one university offering a placement year over one that doesn't only to find he doesn't end up with a placement anyway.

He should pick the university and course content that appeals to him the most. Happy travelling!

WalkingToMordor Sun 26-Aug-18 23:41:09

Oh just remembered something useful. Before ds applied the Royal Society of Chemistry had a "Meet the universities" event where we got to chat to staff from loads of universities. Don't know if they have done it again but worth looking into.

livingontheedgeee Mon 27-Aug-18 15:39:54

He could look at a Natural Sciences degree where he can play around with different modules to see what takes his interest. He can then specialise in the final two years.

Only downside is the A level requirement is generally higher - A*A*A in some places although I have seen AAA (sorry can't remember where).

Also, when we talked to Kings College they said you just apply to do a general Chemistry course for 2 years then can change between the different courses according to your areas of interest/expertise.

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