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Why Chemistry?

Why Chemistry?

The work of chemists is challenging, exciting, rewarding and fun! Having a chemistry degree in hand can open many doors, including:

Academic Institutions

You might work as a teacher in high school, a professor in college, or researcher in a university,

Federal, State, and Local Government Agencies

  • Food and Drug Administration as a medicinal, analytical or biochemical chemist
  • Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies as a forensic or analytical chemist
  • Department of Agriculture as an agricultural, biochemical, environmental, or analytical chemist
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a physical, environmental, inorganic or organic chemist
  • Patent Office as a patent researcher or lawyer
  • National Science Foundation as a science writer and editor
  • Department of Energy as an industrial and engineering, materials, or environmental chemist
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a geochemist

Chemical Industries

Chemists produce everything from plastics and paints to pharmaceuticals, foods, flavors, fragrances, detergents, and cosmetics.

Health-Related Fields

Chemistry graduates are well-prepared for medical, veterinarian, dentistry, nursing, podiatry, optometry, or pharmacy school.


Some chemists also work as business owners, technical librarians, consultants, art conservators, or even investment bankers.

Chemistry and Your Career: Questions and Answers published by the American Chemical Society (permission authorized August 11, 2008)

Here is what some recent chemistry majors have to say:

  • Emily Sahadeo ’14

    Why did you choose chemistry as a major? What got you hooked?

    After taking general chemistry, I wanted to delve deeper into the different fields of chemistry that were only briefly talked about in the more general material. I thought the basics were very interesting, and I wanted to learn more and get a better understanding of the more specific disciplines. What got me completely hooked on chemistry was getting into the lab and actually doing experiments, and also that there were so many different things I could choose to study after undergrad. I also found the professors in the chemistry department to be very helpful and knowledgeable - they were incredibly helpful, both inside and outside of class.

    With what I learned in class and with help from my professors, I have been able to secure two internships in the chemistry field for the past two summers. I did some research through an internship with a Department of Energy lab, and I am currently doing an industrial internship. My classes, coupled with these internships, have completely assured me that chemistry was the right choice for me. 

    What activities are you involved in on campus?

    I am a member of the women’s rowing team, the Cater Society of Junior Fellows, the John S. Toll Science Fellows, the American Chemical Society, and Gamma Eta, Washington’s chapter of the Gamma Sigma Epsilon national chemistry honor society. I am also involved with the Office of Academic Skills where I am a Peer tutor for General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry.

    What do you want to do after you get your degree?

    I have a few different paths that I am considering. I am definitely applying to graduate school because I would like to pursue higher education in the chemistry field. However, I also am thinking about finding a job in industry and working for a year or two before going back to graduate school. I also may try to get a job teaching high school chemistry, because I really enjoy teaching, tutoring, and helping others learn chemistry.

    Is there anything memorable you would like to share with our prospective students?

    Washington College is a great place to study chemistry. In the small, liberal arts environment you get to know the professors in the chemistry department very well, which is great when you are ready to apply for internships and when you need help with anything outside of classes. Some memorable moments for me have been getting accepted into two internships for the past two summers, both of which I could not have landed without letters of recommendation from my professors. Also, the chemistry department is very involved in the community, and we frequently get to interact with local students through clubs like the American Chemical Society and Gamma Eta - we do chemistry demonstrations and organize labs for local elementary and middle schools. Those experiences have been great for me, especially since I am considering teaching in the future. 

  • Jessica Magdeburger ’13

    Why did you choose chemistry as a major? What got you hooked?

    I first got hooked in high school, but I was unsure whether I wanted to continue with chemistry in college. I knew I wanted to go the premed route so I signed up for freshman Honors General Chemistry. Professor Sherman was amazing, and I loved how the labs were really original and exciting. For example, in one of the labs, we worked with fireworks and learned how the different colors were produced. After that year I was hooked and wanted to continue on with chemistry as a major. I love how diverse the field is and how the chem department at WAC directed us to expand our knowledge and take courses in every field.

    What activities were you involved in on campus in your four years?

    I played varsity field hockey for two years, joined Alpha Chi Omega and served as the Vice President of Recruitment, I was an online sports broadcaster, club lacrosse, the secretary for gamma sigma epsilon (Chemistry Honor Society), tri-beta (Biology Honor Society). I also enjoyed watching athletic events like lacrosse games and hanging out with good friends.

    Do you feel well prepared with a chemistry degree?

    WAC offered a very diverse background in chemistry, from physical to advanced organic. I feel that in whatever field I end up in, whether it be research or medicine, my chemistry background will put me at an advantage and help me to be successful. 

    Is there anything memorable you would like to share with our prospective students?

    I remember walking up to the chemistry floor my junior year on the first day of classes and walking past Dr. Amick’s office. I took his organic chem class the year before but it was a large class so I didn’t think he would have remembered me (I liked to sit in the back). I walked past and he shouted, “Miss Magdeburger, how are you doing?” I just remember thinking this was really awesome that the professors knew me well enough to not only remember me but how I did in their course, and be happy that I did well. I think that level of support and encouragement will always set WAC chemistry apart from programs at other colleges and larger universities.