Chemistry is studied as part of a full time A Level study programme.
As well as developing excellent laboratory techniques, you'll gain specific knowledge in the traditional fields of organic and inorganic chemistry. As chemistry overlaps with other subjects, you'll pick up skills that are useful in biology and medicine, physics and engineering. Chemistry's also studied in an environmental and social context, so you'll gain awareness of its ethical implications and issues relating to environmental impact and sustainability.
Principally, you’ll develop strong mathematical/numerical skills. You'll also develop skills in analysis and problem-solving; time management and organisation; recording and monitoring data; and teamwork.
Chemists find work in the chemical and related industries, such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, petrochemicals, toiletries, plastics and polymers. However, those who have studied chemistry may enter many different sectors including the food and drink industry, utilities management, medical manufacturing and scientific research.
What is Chemistry about?
The three main branches of Chemistry: Physical, Organic and Inorganic are covered through six modules.
You are the stuff that stars are made of. Chemistry is the study of all chemical substances and how to change one chemical into another. The food you eat, the air you breathe, your own body, your mobile phone, the plants and streets around you are made of chemicals. As you want inexpensive products, chemistry helps to decrease economic costs, and as you want a safe environment, chemistry helps to decrease pollution by detecting the toxins, and by destroying them. Gone are the days that poisonous red lead oxide is used to colour cheese, or to sweeten cider; and now we do not put toxic arsenic in cosmetics; nor do we use lead in white paint, or make CFCs that destroy the ozone layer. These chemicals were used mostly out of ignorance, so with the development of new understanding in chemistry, a safer world is built.
If you like logical problems, and thinking hard – really using your brain – then Chemistry is for you. If you want to know what makes up the world around you, you are a natural chemist.
It is like seeing with new eyes all that is before you, within your food, on product labels, in cosmetics, in fuels, in the atmosphere, in the chemistry of life, and in the chemistry of the newest products.
Mobile phones are small because chemists developed more efficient batteries, and new pigments for the screens. Clothes are more light weight and colourful (or a darker black!) than those of our ancestors. Cars go more kilometres on a litre of fuel due to the study of chemical combustion.
Chemistry is also always helping us to develop new products and processes. In the car industry, for example, companies are working on fuel cells to power your car more efficiently, new fuels from plant material and new alloys to make vehicles lighter.
Who does the subject suit?
Chemistry is a concise subject that makes you think. Studying Chemistry would complement A Levels which are essay based, or that have a particularly heavy reading load, like Biology, History, Geography, English and Modern Languages.
If you study A Level Chemistry then you should be able to ask 'Why?' and get a good answer. You will find the first year of Chemistry explains chemical ideas mostly using words and some Maths, while the second year of Chemistry explains chemical ideas using Maths and some words, while broadening the topics studied.
The two year A Level chemistry is so concise that you could write revision notes on ten sheets of paper!
You will carry out practical work will be run almost every week. You will be trained to follow instructions, use the apparatus, and to measure precisely. The joy of practical work is that it illustrates and proves the theory. This practical work will be assessed. The assessment mark will not be part of the final mark, though practical skills will be tested in the written papers, and a separate practical grade will be next to your A Level grade.
What might the subject lead onto?
Each year more students are studying science subjects as they realise that science degrees generally lead on to higher incomes. More students are studying pure chemistry, or chemistry based subjects like medical chemistry, or environmental chemistry. If you want to join them then you must study chemistry at A Level, preferably with mathematics. A number of our own students have studied chemistry at university and went to gain PhDs.
AS or A Level Chemistry is particularly important if you want to study Medicine, Veterinary Science, Dentistry or Biochemistry at university. It is also appreciated by admissions tutors in many other subjects, including Law, due to its logical discipline. It is useful if you want to go on and study subjects such as Geology, Physical Geography, Engineering, or Material Science. Many chemistry graduates are also recruited by the financial companies in the City of London, and so start with high starting salaries.
Studying Chemistry will also help you with the pyrotechnics in Theatre Studies and if you want to train in Art Conservation, knowledge of Chemistry is necessary.