What is Chemistry?

Chemistry is the study of molecules, their formation from atoms, and their transformation into new molecules. Chemistry seeks to understand and control the reactions that cause these transformations. Chemistry’s breadth results from the diversity of molecules, which range from the simple two- to three-atom molecules of the earth’s atmosphere to the incredibly complex molecules and molecular structures of living things.

Students who like to invent and enjoy thinking in quantitative and mathematical terms may be interested in chemistry. Likewise, students who can break complex questions into a series of less complicated questions that can be answered through experimentation should consider the chemical sciences. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees in Chemistry and the Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Biochemistry. The BA’s requirements are somewhat less restrictive than those of the BS. The BA is a good choice for students interested in medical, dental, law, or business school. Students interested in graduate work in chemistry or biochemistry may pursue any of the three degrees.

General Major Information

How Can I Tell If I Would Like Chemistry?

Students with an interest in studying and understanding the natural world and both natural and synthetic materials might enjoy Chemistry. It is also a good fit for people who like to think quantitatively and analytically, perform experiments, and solve problems. Students seeking more flexibility in their coursework tend to select the BA in Chemistry, while students who wish to choose more Chemistry-based electives tend to select the BS. The Biochemistry major may have particular appeal for students who prefer an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating topics such as molecular biology and genetics.

What Are Potential Topics Within This Major?

Although the following list can provide students with topics that may be covered in this major, look at the UCSB catalog and consult with the Undergraduate Department Advisor for more detailed information about requirements and course offerings.

Inorganic/Analytical Chemistry
Materials Chemistry
Organic Chemistry
Physical Chemistry
Theoretical and Computational Chemistry


To learn more about whether you might enjoy this major, check with a peer in the Career Resource Room for details on:

- Focus 2 to explore college majors and careers.

- The Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment that compares your interests against six broad categories of work. This assessment helps match your interests and suggests potential careers to explore.

What Can I Do To Make My Major More Marketable?

  • Pursue relevant work, internship, volunteer, and/or research experience.
  • Choose a complementary minor.
  • Specialize in an area; take courses in related fields.
  • Develop your computer skills.
  • Learn a foreign language.
  • Study abroad.
  • Join professional associations.
  • Get involved in student clubs.
  • Participate in community organizations.
  • Seek out leadership positions.
  • Research specific prerequisites for different positions.
  • Network with others in fields that interest you.


General Career Information

What Are Some Possible Career Options?

Note: On its own, your major does not dictate what your job will be. The following list provides only a handful of possibilities. Chemistry majors with a strong liberal arts background may pursue career options in hundreds of fields. Depending on experience, specialized coursework, and possible graduate study, options include:

Chemical Market Research
Chemical Engineer
Chemical Sales
College or University Professor
Criminalist – Forensics
Government Service
Laboratory Technician
Patent Examiner
Regulatory Chemist
Technical Writer
To learn more about these and other occupations, please visit:
O*Net Online
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Come visit the Career Resource Room to see our vast collection of career books and resources.

See what other UCSB alumni are doing with their major on LinkedIn


Graduate and Professional Schools
This is a comprehensive website that provides information about where graduate programs are offered throughout the nation.

This is a database to help find where graduate programs are offered throughout the U.S.

Come to the Career Resources Room to view the CHOICES lab version of graduate schools.

Experience Search Strategies
A leading job site for Chemistry Professionals. Lists Chemistry Jobs, Chemical Engineering Jobs and other chemistry related positions.

Science Careers
Database of science career resources ranging from jobs, advice, programs, grants and current news in the science industry put on by the journal Science.
Click on the fields that interest you for related job listings.

Chemical Engineer
Check out their Employment Center where job seekers will find many job opportunities in the ChemE field.

Engineering Central
All types of engineering jobs, including chemical engineering.

When you join LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.

UCSB Career Services “Job Links” section 
Check out job links in the following categories: Local/CA, National, International, Industry Specific, UCSB Careers By Majors and Diversity.

Professional Associations

American Institute of Chemical Engineers
Access to over 40,000 chemical engineers and the technical information they have to offer.

American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society is a self-governed individual membership organization that consists of more than 158,000 members at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry.

American Association for Clinical Chemistry
AACC is an international scientific/medical society of clinical laboratory professionals, physicians, research scientists and other individuals involved with clinical chemistry and other clinical laboratory science-related disciplines.

American Chemistry Council
The ACC website represents the leading chemistry companies in the country providing articles on all fields in the chemistry industry.

American Institute of Chemists
The AIC engages in a broad range of programs for professional enhancement through the prestigious Fellow membership category, awards program, certification programs, meetings, publications and public relations activities.

UCSB Resources

UCSB Library - Chemistry & Biochemistry
Davidson Library subject guide for chemistry and biochemistry. Research assistance, subject guides, and useful resources compiled by your friendly librarians.

UCSB Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Website for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC Santa Barbara.

Career Resource Room

UCSB General Catalog

UCSB Minors