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:
- Computational Chemistry
- Quantum Mechanics
- Medicinal Plant Chemistry
- Analytical Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Inorganic 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:
- Analytical Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Inorganic Chemistry
- Physical Chemistry
- Laboratory Safety
- Molecular Modeling
- Medicinal Chemistry
- Advanced Analytical Chemistry
The syllabus includes, but is not limited to:
- Bonding and Materials
- Advanced Spectroscopy
- Chemical Information and Communication
- Biochemical Systems
- Chemistry Properties
Some of the electives students can pick from are:
- Advanced Separations
- Bioanalytical Chemistry
- Advanced Organic Synthesis
- Advanced Instrumentation and Analysis
- Medical Biochemistry
- Organometallic Reaction and Structures
- Chemistry of Elements
- Chemical Education
- 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.