Whether or not a student is considering a STEM major, chemistry is a subject that is likely to come up on their course list one way or another. Non-majors may be surprised to learn the relevance chemistry has to their desired career paths, but for students interested in STEM, studying chemistry is likely the perfect fit. Below, we explore the many reasons why students — regardless of background — should consider studying chemistry. For instructors, the factors below can be a fun way to set the stage for your students and help them understand how chemistry affects their daily lives. Why study chemistry? Because it can benefit students in many unexpected ways!
Real-World Chemistry Applications
Everything around and inside of us is a result of chemical reactions. From how our nerves fire and send signals throughout our bodies to how we digest food, to the products we regularly use (like plastics). While we can see chemistry in action in the macro, what makes chemistry so fascinating (and challenging to learn) is that, in reality, it’s functioning on an extremely microscopic scale: the literal atoms and their bonds that are the foundation of everything we see and touch.
To understand biology or physics, you must understand the principles of chemistry. While some scientific concepts feel easier to grasp because they happen at an observable level, chemistry is there in the background, driving the underlying processes that lead to observable phenomena. We can observe sugar dissolving into water, but to truly understand the process, we must explore beyond what we can see with the naked eye, all the way down to the atomic level.
That level of understanding has many benefits for its learners. In fact, those who understand chemistry are better able to understand the science behind common medical procedures, like vaccines. As a result, they typically have a stronger understanding of the many unseen ways in which the world works and can think critically about things such as personal (and public) health. With so much misinformation in circulation, having a strong understanding of chemistry can help learners separate fact from fiction.
Chemistry as the Foundation to a Student’s Career
Even if a student doesn’t pursue chemistry directly (though there are many reasons to do so), having a strong foundation in the subject can positively impact their performance in many other fields. Any STEM-related field will require at least general chemistry, if not organic chemistry and beyond. While this may make following a STEM career path seem daunting, chemistry can be a fun and exciting science to learn.
In fact, STEM-educated graduates are in high demand across many industries. Job growth in STEM fields is on the rise year-over-year, and often pays above median salaries due to the specialized knowledge and skills its pursuants are required to develop. Many industries seek out chemists for a variety of roles – whether working in chemical research or production, or applying chemistry knowledge and skills to other functions. Plus, chemistry graduates bring along many critical thinking skills developed from their studies that make them desirable as professionals, from robust analytical skills to traits like adaptability, perseverance.
STEM majors typically start with general chemistry and, over time, can take more specialized courses like organic, inorganic, and/or biochemistry. These courses take students deeper into the foundational concepts that power us and the world around us.
Students bound for a career in healthcare are likely going to take a General, Organic, and Biochemistry (GOB) combined course as part of their degree. This foundational knowledge is crucial for understanding health and the human body. These courses cover a lot of ground quickly, and while they can be challenging, students who can master the concepts will carry important knowledge and skills into their healthcare careers.
Non-majors headed for humanities degrees are required to study chemistry at the introductory level. Again, this is key for helping build strong analytical skills and a well-rounded education.
Suffice it to say, the value of studying chemistry spans a variety of industries, whether a student is working towards a career as a chemist, healthcare, or none of the above, the skills nurtured from studying chemistry (analytical, curiosity, organization, and determination) are sure to benefit them throughout the entire course of their life and career. When your students ask “why study chemistry?” remind your students: While chemistry may feel like an intimidating subject to master, with the right tools to help them learn, it’s more accessible than they might ever have imagined.
Looking for Chemistry Teaching Resources?
Follow us on Twitter to receive updates on the latest news in chemistry education research right in your home feed!