As the science of matter, chemistry is often what links other fields of science. Being the central science, chemistry plays a key role in medicine, food science, forensics, materials engineering and environmental science, to name only a few.
Among other things, chemistry students learn about transformations of energy, the structure and behaviour of atoms and molecules, and the processes involved in the making and breaking of chemical bonds.
In Australia, the academic syllabus is also often complemented by a robust laboratory component, in which students will gain hands-on experience and professional skills required of a practising chemist. Beyond developing fundamental knowledge of chemistry and chemical handling skills, performing experiments will hone skills such as problem-solving, project management, time management, collaboration and science communication.
Chemistry in Australia
The university chemistry experience in Australia is superb. Working alongside chemistry experts, students have the opportunity to apply their learning to a broad range of tasks and industry-relevant experiences. Australian universities are typically equipped with the latest scientific instrumentation – and these world-class facilities are open not only to researchers but undergraduate students too.
The highly social Australian culture creates a warm and welcoming learning environment for everyone. Most institutions provide dedicated opportunities to welcome and assist international students. There will be many opportunities to connect with other students, both domestic and international, to access extra support, and to learn additional skills which may be useful in a graduate’s future employment.
Chemistry courses in Australia are accredited by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI). When a course is accredited by the RACI, this affirms that the course addresses several broad outcomes for the student, including (but not limited to) understanding scientific thinking, investigating and solving qualitative and quantitative problems in chemical sciences, but also taking personal and social responsibility. The objective of accreditation is to ensure that graduates have the skills and knowledge necessary to be a practising chemist.
As the professional society for chemists in Australia, the RACI’s connections between academic, research, government and industry employers ensure that RACI accredited courses give a solid start to any career in chemistry. The current list of accredited courses can be found at raci.org.au/education/university-course-guide.
A degree in chemistry allows graduates to develop a wide range of competencies, opening the door to an array of careers. A chemistry graduate may choose to seek work directly in the field of chemistry. This can involve work in commercial laboratories or research & development positions. Many chemistry graduates choose to step outside of the laboratory, taking up positions in areas such as consultancy, sales and teaching. Science writing, intellectual property law and government policy are among other areas in which a chemistry degree will be useful.
We would like to give special thanks to Associate Professor Chris Thompson, Associate Professor Gwen Lawrie and Associate Professor Daniel Southam for their invaluable contributions to this article.