Online PhD in Chemistry

Online PhD programs in chemistry are designed for students who want to establish careers within academia or research. Graduates typically go on to pursue post secondary teaching positions in the chemistry field or become chemists in charge of studying substances and reactions. Typically, chemistry doctoral programs give students the opportunity to choose a specialization that interests them. Common concentrations offered by doctoral programs in chemistry include analytical chemistry, materials chemistry, and biochemistry. Regardless of the concentration chosen, students will take classes in areas like the principles of chemistry, physical chemistry, statistics, and organic chemistry. They will also complete research seminars and laboratory components, which will give them the opportunity to apply what they have learned in a hands-on setting.

When pursued online, all Ph.D. chemistry course work is completed over the Internet. Students will complete assignments and research on their own time, after which they will submit them via a Web portal. At many universities, online chemistry students will never need to attend class in a physical classroom. However, some chemistry doctoral programs require students to visit the physical campus for a couple of days as part of a residential symposium. This gives them the opportunity to network and discuss research with their professors in person. To determine whether your university requires campus visits, you can call the admissions department or ask your chemistry instructors.

About Online PhD Programs in Chemistry

Once enrolled in online PhD programs for chemistry, students will take classes that teach them about chemistry theory, particle interaction, and the application of chemical principles. They will also learn a little about biology and physics, as both are related to the study of chemistry and chemical processes. Students that do not have a strong background in mathematics may need to take classes to strengthen those skills as well. Finally, students will also take classes that hone their research and writing skills, as they will need to write reports on a frequent basis. Laboratory requirements, while not always part of online doctoral degree programs in chemistry, are sometimes additional components of the chemistry Ph.D. curricula. Below are some examples of classes that chemistry Ph.D. students may take. The list is derived from the University of Virginia‘s chemistry Ph.D. program.

Year One:

  • Organic Chemistry. This class studies the chemistry of carbon compounds and the theories behind them.
  • Advanced Physical Chemistry. A look into quantum mechanics, this class looks at chemistry from a physics perspective.
  • Molecular Spectroscopy This class studies nuclear magnetic resonance and the theories behind molecular resonance.

Year Two:

  • Advanced Biological Chemistry This class provides a detailed look at biochemistry by examining proteins, nucleic acids, and molecular interactions that take place inside living organisms.
  • Materials Chemistry. As a combination of organic, inorganic, biochemical, and other fields of chemistry, this class learns about creating and analyzing materials.
  • Analytical Chemistry. Within this course, students will conduct experiments to learn about the technology used to analyze molecules and their processes.

Prior to graduating, chemistry students usually complete a dissertation. Dissertations are thorough research projects into a specific area of chemistry. Example topics include the function of nucleic acid, bonding mechanisms, and the synthesis of chemical products. Students will take classes to prepare them to write their dissertations. Once they have completed the research paper, they will defend their dissertations in front of faculty members.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Chemistry

The most successful chemistry students are those who are well-rounded in multiple science fields. Chemistry is not isolated from other aspects of science, and graduate course work in the field therefore requires knowledge of other sciences, like biology and physics. The ideal chemistry graduate student has an interest in conducting research and gaining laboratory experience. Chemistry Ph.D. degrees are best for students who wish to become chemists or college-level instructors. Those students who only want to become laboratory technicians may benefit from only pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree, rather than a Ph.D. degree.

Online doctoral degree programs can take up to eight years to complete, so students who enroll should be prepared to spend a lot time on their degrees. In addition, online classes require students to be self-motivated and organized. Students who struggle with time management or who need a lot of structure to be successful may benefit from traditional programs. Some online programs may require students to meet laboratory requirements through schools or other institutions in their areas, so access to a laboratory environment may be necessary. Students that do not live near a facility may need to fulfill the laboratory components in another way, and are encouraged to discuss alternatives with their instructors.

Application & Admission Requirements

Applicants to online PhD programs in chemistry should have at least a bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related science field. Students who have a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field may need to complete prerequisite classes before applying. Typically, students need to have maintained at least a 3.0 GPA, although GPA requirements may vary depending upon the university. Experience with laboratory technology is beneficial, although not always required. In addition to submitting transcripts, students will also need to furnish resumes, personal statements, GRE scores, and recommendation letters. Essays and interviews may be required as well. In some cases, a university may ask students to send examples of past research or laboratory work.

Career Options & Job Market

Students who graduate from online chemistry Ph.D. programs can go on to establish careers as post secondary instructors. Post secondary instructors are responsible for teaching college-level classes in chemistry concentrations. They typically earn around $62,050 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Another possible career choice is that of a chemist. As chemists, chemistry graduates can use their skills to help develop products and substances within this field. According to the BLS, chemists earn around $67,790. With a doctoral degree, chemists can advance into management positions as well. However, keep in mind that salary figures and advancement opportunities will vary.

Where to Find Information

  • American Institute of Chemists This is a professional association dedicated to providing publications and news about the chemical sciences. It also provides award programs for recognition within the field.
  • American Chemical Society This society promotes networking and professionalism within the chemistry field by holding meetings, conferences, and educational opportunities.
  • American Association for Clinical Chemistry This is a professional association for medical chemists that promotes advocacy and research within the field.

How to Get Funding

Professional associations and societies like those listed above offer chemistry students the opportunity to apply for financial programs like grant programs, scholarship programs, and fellowships. Many private companies and organizations offer aid opportunities as well. Local governments provide scholarship funds and savings plans for students that meet a variety of criteria as well. In addition, the federal government has multiple aid programs for graduate students. Listed below are opportunities that chemistry Ph.D. students can pursue.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. With a maximum loan amount of $20,500, this program gives Ph.D. students financial assistance at a fixed interest rate of 6.8%.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. This is a need-based loan for full-time students. The average amount awarded is $3,500 at a fixed interest rate of 5%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. All accredited universities participate in federal aid programs, but many schools also offer campus-based financial assistance. Check with your school's financial aid office to learn more.

Essential Advice

  • Take science and laboratory class work as an undergraduate student. This will prepare you for future graduate studies in chemistry and will make you stand out as a doctoral candidate.
  • Choose the chemistry specialization that interests you. Doctoral degrees can take up to eight years to complete, so you want to study something that will hold your interest despite the length of the program.
  • Ask students and faculty members about earning a doctorate in chemistry. They should be able to give you a clear idea on what to expect from chemistry Ph.D. programs.
  • Admissions offices are there to help you. If you have any questions about the application process or about the programs themselves, don't be afraid to give them a call to ask.