The Different Areas of Chemistry

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The Different Areas of Chemistry

Chemistry Majors

Chemistry is the branch of science that deals with the study of matter composed of atoms and molecules, their properties, composition, structure, behavior, and interactions among constituents of matter. From the sodium hydroxide in soap to the calcium in toothpaste, we can see chemistry’s presence in our day-to-day activities. Since chemistry encompasses a diverse spectrum of studies, scientists dedicate their education to specialized fields of chemistry.

What are the Main Branches of Chemistry? 

Compared with other academic subjects, many students perceive chemistry as a more complex science due to the many fields of study. Experts typically breakdown chemistry into 5 main branches: Physical Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry.

1) Physical Chemistry 

This branch of chemistry deals with the relationship between the compositions and physical properties of matters, along with the changes in matter. When working in this branch of chemistry, scientists may study concepts such as the formation of molecules, behaviors in liquids, solids, and gases, and the effect of temperature. Specific sub-fields of physical chemistry also include:

  • Chemical Kinetics: the study of chemical reaction rates
  • Thermochemistry: the study of thermodynamics which deals with heat in a chemical system
  • Surface Chemistry: the study of chemical processes at the surfaces of materials
  • Photochemistry: the study of chemical reactions in the presence of light
  • Spectroscopy: the study of electromagnetic radiations and their relationship with atoms and molecules
  • Electrochemistry: they study of chemical changes involving the movement of electrons between the electrodes

2) Organic Chemistry 

Organic chemistry is the study of the structure, properties, composition, reactions, and preparation of carbon-containing compounds. Organic compounds are all around us: the acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin, the acetone in nail polish remover, or even the hydrogen peroxide in mouthwash. They are central to the economic growth of the United States in many different industries such as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Whether developing new plastics, medicines, foods, or fuels, organic chemistry college majors enjoy a diverse spectrum of career opportunities.

3) Inorganic Chemistry 

This area of chemistry deals with the study of all elements and compounds except hydrocarbons and their derivatives. Inorganic compounds include minerals found in the Earth’s crust and non-living matter. Chemists can apply the concepts from inorganic chemistry throughout every aspect of the chemical industry, including catalysis, materials science, pigments, surfactants, coatings, medications, fuels, and agriculture.

4) Biochemistry 

This area of chemistry deals with the study of the structure, composition, and chemical reactions of substances found in living organisms. Biochemistry combines biology with organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry and deals with issues such as the fundamental changes that take place in diseases. Moreover, the concepts in biochemistry make up the chemical basis of heredity and how living organisms consume energy from foods.

5) Analytical Chemistry 

Analytical chemistry is the process of isolating specific compounds, identifying the compounds, and determining how much of the compounds are in a product. Scientists and doctors use analytical chemistry in many different areas of science.

For instance, a doctor may use analytical chemistry to determine the amount of cholesterol in a patient’s blood or even identify an unknown compound at a crime scene. More importantly, analytical chemists focus on also improving the existing analysis techniques while subsequently developing new methods.

What are the Applied Branches of Chemistry?

Chemistry isn’t restricted to only five fields. Aside from the five main branches of chemistry, experts specialize in areas that are combinations of the main disciplines. Some applied branches of chemistry include:

  • Food Chemistry: the study the various biological constituents of food
  • Ocean Chemistry: also referred to as Marine Chemistry, this area focuses on the study of chemical processes in oceans
  • Astrochemistry: the study of chemical reactions in outer space
  • Environmental Chemistry: an interdisciplinary science that includes atmospheric, aquatic and soil chemistry
  • Nuclear Chemistry: the sub-division of chemistry concerned with changes in the nucleus of elements, which are sources of radioactivity and nuclear power
  • Industrial Chemistry: the study of chemistry in its industrial applications especially to processes in manufacturing and the arts and to commercial production of chemicals
  • Geochemistry: the study of chemical systems in the geological environment

Why Should College Students Pursue a Chemistry Degree?  

Chemistry plays an enormous role in day-to-day life since it affects almost every aspect of human existence in some way: the food we eat, the vitamins we consume, or even the clothes we wear made from nylon or polyester. As a result, college students pursuing a chemistry degree have a plethora of career options. A chemistry background proves helpful for the advanced study of biochemistry, endocrinology, physiology, microbiology, and pharmacology. Thus, a bachelor’s degree in chemistry is ideal for students planning careers in health professions such as pharmacy, dentistry, optometry, medicine, or veterinary medicine.

Furthermore, chemists are not just confined to the lab because most trained chemists end up in non-traditional chemistry careers due to the transferable skills developed from studying chemistry, including logical thinking, communication, creativity, analysis, data collection, and observation. These critical skills are highly desirable to employers in all sorts of sectors.

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