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Chemistry is the science of matter and the changes it goes through. While physics also deals with matter with a largely fundamental and general approach, chemistry is more specific by understanding the properties of atoms and molecules, and various chemical properties and structures, among others. While a bachelor’s degree covers the fundamental concepts of chemical and even biological systems (via biochemistry), a master’s in chemistry degree allows the student to conduct original physical, polymer, analytical, organic, inorganic, and biochemistry research. It also serves as a step towards pursuing a Ph.D. or gaining additional knowledge and experience for an industrial career. According to Data USA, the total degrees awarded in chemistry in 2020 was 21,951, growing at 0.541% and commanding an average wage of $111,355 across chemistry-related jobs. A typical program of master’s in chemistry emphasizes research and coursework. At the end of the program, there are comprehensive examinations and, sometimes, the submission of a research-based thesis. This guide contains detailed information on graduate education in chemistry.
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Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.
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The best online master’s in chemistry programs offer a fair balance of several aspects of the course, such as the quality of teaching, subjects covered, duration of the program, experience of the faculty, infrastructure, curriculum, and cost. Awarding the best online master’s in chemistry program to one, in particular, is therefore hard to accomplish. Some factors may be important for some students, while others are vital to other students.
However, based on all key aspects and factors that can peg a master’s in chemistry online program onto the ‘best list,’ we have prepared a Rankings Table:
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Traditional masters in chemistry programs offered by universities across the United States predominantly focus on two key areas – coursework and research work, and also have a fair amount of lab-related study. Online master’s in chemistry programs make do with a similar structure, where coursework is mostly through online learning, with live classes, video classes, online discussion groups, and online seminars or workshops. Much of the research work is also online, but the student’s presence is required for working in a lab, for practical sessions, and hands-on learning.
Master’s in chemistry programs are broken down into semesters or quarters. Each semester or quarter contains theory lessons, practical sessions, group discussions, research, etc., during the first year. The second year has very little to do with actual academics; it is spent mostly on research and writing a thesis based on that research. (Some universities offer a non-thesis option as well.)
The biggest advantage of studying online is the flexibility available for students and working professionals. Depending on their background and experience, interested students can study at their own pace, rearrange the order of study and revisit topics they may find hard to understand.
Choosing a chemistry education program is rather straightforward. There are two similar MS and M.Sc. programs and an MA program to choose from. Overall, the three degrees broadly offer similar subjects and courses, but each one is unique in its own right.
A Master of Science (MS) largely has two parts – coursework and research work. In most cases, both parts are equally emphasized and culminate in a research-based thesis being submitted. It must be noted that an MS is also a rather ‘hands-on’ graduate offering, with a fair amount of exposure in a lab and acquiring practical experience in one. To apply for the Master of Science, a student must have a bachelor’s degree in any science subject.
A Master of Science (M.Sc.) is pretty much identical to an MS. However, opting for this program would require the student to have a bachelor’s degree, specifically in chemistry. The M.Sc. is usually found overseas, in countries such as the UK, and is uncommon in the U.S.
A Master of Arts (MA), unlike an MS, is more theoretical. An MA usually does not require research or a thesis to be submitted at the end of the course but, in lieu, typically requires the completion of additional course credits.
Specializations equip the student with more teeth, strengthening their master’s. An MS in chemistry will require a student to pick a concentration from a plethora of options. While choosing a specialization, one must bear in mind what career path one chooses and what one’s interests are. For example, there is no sense in opting for say Medicinal, or Advanced Analytical Chemistry, if one is thinking of entering Petrochemicals.
Specializations and concentrations in chemistry education include, but are not limited to:
Medicinal Plant Chemistry
Curriculum and Skills Gained
The curriculum and syllabus of a chemistry education are made up of courses that are by and large similar to undergraduate chemistry courses. There are a few staple or basic courses, and several electives one could choose from. Overall, some of the online courses largely covered in graduate-level chemistry are:
Advanced Analytical Chemistry
Some of the electives students can pick from are:
Advanced Organic Synthesis
Advanced Instrumentation and Analysis
Organometallic Reaction and Structures
Chemistry of Elements
Energy and Environment
Science in Chemistry
By the end of the chemistry science degree, students will have developed the ability to understand and articulate complex concepts in the field and its subdivisions, such as Analytical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Biochemistry, and so on. They would also be able to read and evaluate scientific literature and make critical assessments and observations of scientific ideas. The knowledge graduates gained from their degree could be used to identify complex industrial and research problems, and examine ways and means of overcoming them, using rationale, dealing with consequences, and underpinning conclusions.
For the money one would spend for a master’s in chemistry, it would be a good idea to check if the program in question is accredited, as well as accepted industry-wide. Several online degree programs are accredited, which should always be preferred over ones that do not have any accreditation. Accreditation adds extra value to the degree, making it easier for graduates to seek jobs, in addition to endorsing the extent of their knowledge on the subject or any sub-division of chemistry. For example, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) issues standards and ensures compliance with Forensic Chemistry Programs’ standards.
More information on accreditation is available in the Accreditation Guide.
Timeline for graduation
The timeline for graduation from online master of science in chemistry programs is largely fixed at a standard 2 Years. However, depending on the university, faculty, concentrations, online courses, seminars, discussions, lab and research work, etc., a university may allow the student to complete the graduate study within up to 5 Years. There are almost no colleges that offer a part-time program, as the course can be quite demanding, requiring a tight schedule, and a good deal of course and research to be undertaken. Although chemistry studies bring with it the flexibility of time and location, the duration of the program is directly related to the pace at which the student progresses in each course, whether or not they have picked writing a thesis or chosen the non-thesis option, and any on-campus requirements of the university as well.
In general, admission requirements for entry into graduate-level chemistry are not many. The basic requirements are the Application Form and Transcripts, along with References and/or Essays. An undergraduate degree is also required to have been completed in almost all cases. As for GPA, most universities will admit students with a GPA of 2.75 and above but require GRE scores not older than five years.
Free Chemistry Education Programs
A free chemistry degree is virtually non-existent. Since studying the subject requires a well-trained and experienced faculty of chemistry teachers, and a reasonably strict instruction schedule, most offerings are usually paid and not free. Of course, there are enough courses that can give students a leg-up on the subject and help them in their professional studies, but these too do not award a complete degree in chemistry.
Several sites offer hundreds of courses in their main menu, related to chemistry. Many of these sites have free and paid content and issue a ‘Completion Certificate,’ which may or may not be of value for jobseekers. Here are a few to check:
Open Culture – Open Culture has online courses from several leading universities. There are video lessons as well as audio lectures that can be downloaded for offline use. Most of the catalog contains free courses.
Khan Academy – The popular Khan Academy offers online classes and courses in chemistry taught by excellent faculty, but most of them are suitable for basic to intermediate studies. While it is hard to assess each course’s true depth, the portal’s chemistry library does a decent job of breaking the subject down, which could help with graduate studies.
Future Learn – Future Learn also offers chemistry courses based on different sub-topics of the subject. While some of these may be free, most come with the requirement of a subscription to the site.
Coursera – There are some 129 results connected with chemistry on Coursera; some are free courses, most are paid. These courses may be useful for studying specific topics but are far from being an entire graduate program.
How to Pay for Chemistry Online Master’s
Graduate education is, more often than not, an expensive affair across the United States. Data USA reports that the median in-state public tuition for university education in chemistry costs $7,369, growing at 2.13%, and median out-of-state private tuition costs $36,000, growing at 2.71%. To keep costs in check, graduate students should explore avenues and options for external funding.
Some available options to pay for master’s in chemistry programs are:
Universities sometimes allow students to break down the cost of tuition into equated, incremental, or deferred payments for a master’s program.
Scholarships & Grants
Several universities offer a scholarship or grant either from a bursary or in association with an organization. There is a fairly good chance for the tuition to be completely waived, or at least partly funded.
Teaching or Research Assistantships
In return for working as a Teaching or Research Assistant at a university, students are offered rebate tuition or a stipend that could help them balance costs. Of course, the student’s background should be suitable for such posts, and they should be willing to spend hours teaching/researching and pursuing their studies at the same time.
Working professionals should check with their employers for schemes they may have for higher education. Many companies offer to sponsor or reimburse the tuition fee for a graduate degree, in exchange for a stipulated duration of mandatory service.
FAFSA is a viable option to fund chemistry education programs. Students should check to see if they are eligible for financial aid, through a FAFSA application.
More information on financial aid is available on the Best Financial Guide.
Scholarships for Online Graduate Students of Chemistry
Before enrolling for chemistry graduate studies, it is recommended for students to check for available scholarships and their eligibility to apply for them. A Scholarship is based primarily on academic performance, past or planned research, and recommendations from professors. Here are a few scholarships for students to explore:
The SCGSR offers outstanding US graduate students of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) supplemental awards through benefits and stipends of some $5,000. Application Deadline: May 05, 2023.
The S-STEM funds higher education institutions, which in turn award scholarships to select eligible graduate students. Interested students should enquire with the Institution’s Office for the availability of this program and application requirements. Application Deadline: Varies.
American Chemical Society (ACS) offers students studying Chemical Sciences or Chemical Technology, renewable scholarships of $5,000. Underrepresented minority students who want to enter the field of chemistry too are eligible to apply. ACS awards over $1,000,000 in scholarship funds to 300+ students every year. Application Deadline: March 01, 2023.
Distant Learners and students of online master’s programs should check to see if they are eligible to apply for the ‘Get Educated Online College Scholarship’ of $1,000. Application Deadline: March 15 & October 15 every year.
FAQs about MASTERS Programs
Frequently Asked Questions
What is MA in chemistry?
The Master of Arts or MA is a more theoretical professional science degree. It does not necessarily mandate the submission of a thesis at the end of the graduate study.
What is MS chemistry?
The Master of Science or MS is a more practical and research-oriental professional science degree that lays equal emphasis on coursework and research work, usually culminating in a thesis to be submitted.
Is it possible to graduate in chemistry online?
Yes, it is certainly possible to graduate in chemistry online. However, one must ensure that the program they choose is credible and accredited for their degree to be recognized by the job market.
Are there on-campus classes that I will have to attend?
Broadly speaking, no – students usually do not have to attend offline, on-campus classes, as most of the instruction takes place online. However, some physical presence could be called for in exceptional cases, especially for practical or lab sessions and/or while doing research.
How much does an online master’s cost?
Based on the choice of university, duration, specialization options, and the program in general, the cost of an online master’s varies from $6,500 to $35,000 and more.
Will I get a job with a master’s I obtained online?
Certainly! Accredited online master’s degrees are as good as standard, traditional ones, and offer the same chances of a good career as the latter would.
Is a master’s in chemistry worth it?
Just by being a subject of science, a master’s has enough and more potential to start a new career, advance the present one, or enter the exciting world of research. Graduates with a master’s often go on to get good jobs and high pay packets.
What can you do with a master’s in chemistry?
There is a whole wide range of options for a master’s graduate to choose from. While taking up teaching is a respectable and well-paying job, one could also complete a master’s and join the industry to solve complex materials and substances, opt for research, try one’s hand at inventions, discoveries, and innovations, or go on to work in fields such as physical chemistry or biochemistry as well.
A completed master’s degree in chemistry, along with the chosen concentration, can determine what sort of role would be suitable for a graduate in the job market. One could become a chemistry teacher in community colleges and other educational institutions, or pursue one’s research interests in the subject. There are many opportunities in a host of other settings as well, where graduates can take up jobs as Data Scientists, Research Scientists, Researchers, and Chemists, or even opt to work in Forensic Science or Applied Chemistry.
Here are a few from the many possible work settings:
Since Chemistry is a relatively vast subject that one can break down and specialize in, most institutes, industries, and governments look for certification and/or a license, along with a degree. Many universities tie-up with independent agencies to assess and evaluate their programs based on certain criteria and are approved to be in a nationally recognized list of chemistry programs if these criteria are met. There are several certifications and licensing options for online masters in chemistry graduates, one of them being the American Chemical Society Certification.
It is best to check for a license or certificate that will make an individual’s chemistry online degree complete, and one that is specific to their chosen field or career. For example, working with pharmaceutical companies or petrochemical companies may require the candidate to be certificated from agencies/bodies approved by these companies. Licensure also varies depending on the state in which the candidate works, and the nature of the job.
Chemistry may sound like a confined subject, but in reality, it is a vast one, spanning several sub-fields and industries. Since much of chemistry development is based on research, it is essential to interact with other scientists in this or relevant fields and be part of the chemists’ community. After graduation, joining a community of fellow professionals, peers, and faculty members allows one to access ideas, theories, laboratories, research papers, and much more – enhancing knowledge while keeping you up to date with periodic trends and the latest in chemistry. Tap into journals, attend live and online Seminars, find out where the next workshops will take place, and more, though some of these:
American Chemical Society (ACS): American Chemical Society is a go-to portal for students and professionals of chemistry. The site offers a wealth of information apart from showcasing events, exploring careers, and working with chemistry forums and communities.
Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC): Royal Society of Chemistry is a membership-based online resource with chemistry-related journals, books, communities, and events.
ChemSpider: Associated with RSC is ChemSpider that defines itself as a ‘free chemical structure database providing fast text and structure access to over 100 million structures from hundreds of data sources’.
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