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Chemistry Major Guide for 2008-2009

What is Chemistry

Chemistry is the central science that deals with understanding the atomic and molecular basis of all forms of matter. The science uses observation of phenomena to better understand the constructive and destructive forces needed to modify matter. A principal part of that understanding is defining how atoms are held together to make molecules from the simplest diatomic molecules to the huge complex macromolecules of living systems such as proteins and nucleic acids. Many tools are brought to bear on this issue including the observation of changes induced in matter, spectroscopic measurements, and sophisticated calculations.
Various themes can be used to focus on special aspects of the science. Thus, courses are offered in particular areas such as analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry.
Analytical chemistry investigates the composition of a substance to identify it or its components. It often employs many sophisticated electronic devices to improve quality control in manufacturing, carry out forensic and environmental investigations, and assess the quality of materials.
Inorganic chemistry is the study of elements other than carbon including metals and the molecules in which they occur such as the hemoglobin in blood. Molecules containing metals play an increasingly important role in modern industrial chemistry as catalysts to make new materials economically.
Organic chemistry explores the nature and behavior of molecules based on carbon. Learning to unite carbon atoms has led to many new materials including miracle drugs, lubricants, adhesives, and the myriad of polymers that provide advanced materials for countless applications.
Physical chemistry details the fun­damentals of atoms and molecules and provides detailed information about attractive and repulsive forces, bonding and related phenomena, energy changes in reactions, etc. It provides insights which allow a deep understanding of chemical phenomena.

Career Opportunities in Chemistry

Chemistry contributes to society in many ways which provides numerous possibilities for careers. Professional chemists can work as technicians or researchers in industry developing or improving products, analyzing materials, synthesizing new compounds such as pharmaceuticals, solving other problems or they can pursue technical sales, management, or administration of the business. In government laboratories chemists are responsible for monitoring the environment, defining standards for foods, drugs, and other consumable chemicals, evaluation of patents, and assisting with chemical aspects of laws and regulations that protect society. Chemists serve the public more directly in hospitals and medical laboratories and as teachers at all educational levels.
Chemistry provides an excellent preparation for other professions including medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, law, business, and the applied sciences.

Salary Trends in Chemistry

Salaries earned by chemists are dependent on degree level and on whether they are employed in industry, government, or academe. According to the most recent survey by the American Chemical Society, the overall median salaries by degree are the following: 
BS, $59,000
MS, $68,500
Ph.D., $85,200

Industrial salaries are the highest for all degrees; academic salaries are the lowest.  Industry employs 55% of chemists; academe, 24%; the remainder are employed by government and service companies.
The average annual salary increase for the past decade has been 3.4%, which compares favorably with a decade average consumer price index of 2.5%.

High School Preparation

It is highly recommended that students take at least one year of high school chemistry. Since university physics is a prerequisite to the major, a course in high school physics is also recom­mended.
The quantitative nature of many chemical endeavors requires a solid mathematics background. High school preparation should include as much mathematics as possible, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and, if available, calculus.

How to Major in Chemistry

To major in chemistry, a student should enroll in Chemistry 120–130 (or 128–138) and Math 141–42 during the first year. A student should declare the major by meeting with Professor R. M. Magid and requesting a chemistry faculty advisor assignment.

Requirements for Chemistry

The minimum requirements for the B.S. degree with a major in chemistry in the College of Arts & Sciences are as follows:
Chemistry 120–130 or 128–138
Mathematics 141–142 or 151–152

Physics 221–222, 135–136, or 137–138

Chemistry 240, 310, 319, 350–360, 369, 471–481 or 473–483, and 479, plus 10 hours of additional work in chemistry at the 200-level or above that includes at least one laboratory course or lec­ture/laboratory course; up to 6 hours of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 410–420 or 401–402 or Geology 460 may be applied to the 10-hour requirement.

The Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree certified by the American Chemical Society is a more demanding degree. The required courses are described in the sample curriculum section.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

Students interested in co-op opportunities should see Professor J. L. Adcock in Buehler 501.

Highlights of Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry offers two B.S. degrees. The B.S. degree with a major in chemistry is a traditional liberal arts degree intended primarily for students who have career objectives in fields such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, business, education, etc. With the proper choice of mathematics, physics and chemistry courses, it is also suitable for students planning careers in chemistry.
The Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree is intended for students who plan to make chemistry their career and requires a high concentration of mathematics and experimental chemistry.  This program is certified by the Committee on Professional Training of the American Chemical Society. 
Both the B.S. degree and the B.S. in Chemistry degree are available as honors degrees with completion of appropriate courses.
Since the two degrees provide for various career goals, students should choose a faculty advisor in the Department of Chemistry at the earliest opportunity.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

"Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education website ( or the Ready for the World website ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. 
Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad.  Visit the Programs Abroad Office website ( for information on study abroad opportunities.

Learn more about UT's Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today's world.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
Chemistry 120-130 or 128-138 8
Mathematics 141-42 8
English Composition 6
Social Science 3
Foreign Language 6
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Chemistry 230, 240 5
Chemistry 350 (or 358)-360 (or 368) -369 8
Mathematics 241 and either 231 or 251 7
Physics 135-136 or 137-138 8-10
Foreign Language or General Electives 6
Junior Year Credit Hours
Chemistry 310-320 6
Chemistry 319-329 3
Chemistry 473-483 6
Chemistry 479(WC)-489 4
Humanities 6
Social Science 3
Senior Year Credit Hours
Chemistry 400, 406 (OC), 430, 439 8
Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 401 4
Chemistry Elective 3
Upper Level Distribution 6
Non US History 6
General Electives 6
GRAND TOTAL (minimum) 126

For More Information

Department of Chemistry
552 Buehler Hall
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-1600
(865) 974-3141
Fax: (865) 974-3454



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.