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Chemistry, Food Chemistry

Study Field Outline

In chemical terms, substances are the elements and the compounds made up of these. Qualitative and quantitative analysis provides the knowledge and insights needed for the production (synthesis) of new, not naturally occurring substances.

The main branches of chemistry are

  • The inorganic chemistry, which deals with all the elements and their compounds, except for carbon.
  • The organic chemistry, which studies the carbon (organic) compounds, which are in the numerical majority.
  • Physical chemistry addresses the principles of chemistry, such as bonding theory, thermodynamics, kinetics and complex formation, and is based on methods originating from mathematics and physics.
  • This field is closely related to theoretical chemistry, which deals with the theory of chemical bonding, and the explanation and understanding of chemical processes resulting from the interaction between different substances and the transfer of electrons or processes to reaction surfaces.
  • Analytical chemistry is also an important branch of chemistry. This examines the chemical compounds and compound mixes on the basis of the type and volume of their components.
  • Growing significance attaches to macromolecular chemistry (polymeric chemistry), which deals with the synthesis of new plastics.

Applied chemistry opens up the use of chemical knowledge for many areas of human life. This involves developing methods for the large-scale production of plastics and man-made fibres, mineral fertilisers, or pesticides. Applied chemistry overlaps and intersects with process engineering/chemical engineering in many areas.

Further branches of chemistry include, for example, biochemistry that provides a bridge from organic chemistry to biology and is being offered in independent degree programmes at ever more institutions, to geochemistry that concerns itself with the chemistry of the soil, the Earth surface, etc. and thereby has links with the geosciences/Earth sciences, and agricultural chemistry which has points of contact with the agricultural sciences. Pharmaceutical chemistry forms the link to pharmacy. A new branch is to be seen in ecochemistry, which develops methods for detecting and identifying environmental chemicals in ecosystems and provides a basis for evaluating chemical environmental risks. Other subject areas include building chemistry, nuclear chemistry, electrical chemistry, textile or detergent chemistry.

Business chemistry serves as an interface between chemistry and business. The degree programme offers a profession-orientated combination of studies in natural sciences and business administration. These interdisciplinary degree programmes qualify graduates for a wide range of different career fields in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry as well as in consultancy companies.

Food chemistry deals with the chemistry of foods and their composition in terms of ingredients, with changes caused by storage and processing, and methods of analysing and testing purity and quality and of detecting and identifying false products (forgeries and fakes); this field also studies numerous additives, tobacco products and cosmetics. Finally, it also covers consumer articles like food packaging. clothing items, toys, domestic cleaning agents, household deodorants and insecticides in domestic residences. Food chemistry should not be confused with food technology, which involves technical procedures for the production and processing of foodstuffs, or with dietetics (nutrition science), which is devoted to the study of human nutrition from physiological, economic and other perspectives. Independent university degree programmes in food chemistry end with a state examination and are governed by the education and examination regulations of the federal states (Länder). Besides these options, food chemistry may also be studied as a major within degree programmes in chemistry or pharmacy.

While university studies concentrate primarily on the scientific principles and methods of chemistry and their applications in the chemical industry, the more engineering-focused degree programmes in chemistry offered at universities of applied sciences aim to provide graduates with the qualifications needed for working independently in laboratories as well as in industrial production and operations sectors.

Employment Opportunities

Chemical scientists primarily work in the chemical industry, for paint, lacquer and varnish manufacturers, in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry as well as with the manufacturers of fertilisers and pesticides/pest control products. They will also find employment opportunities with

  • adhesives manufacturers,

  • manufacturers of washing and cleansing agents (detergents),

  • manufacturers of fire-protection/proofing agents,

  • companies in the food and beverages industries,

  • companies in the building materials and cement industries,

  • companies in other industries, especially paper, glass, ceramics, mineral oil, electroplating and many more,

  • producers of laboratory equipment and articles,

  • higher education institutions and research facilities,

  • chemical examination offices.

Employment is also to be found with the authorities responsible for enforcing environmental protection legislation. Many chemical scientists are self-employed working as freelance specialist evaluators and chemical consultants.

Food chemists mainly work in the food testing agencies and in the food and beverages industry. Besides these areas, opportunities are also to be found in agricultural research institutes and as sworn experts.

Studies at Universities


Modules deliver the mathematical and natural sciences principles of chemistry in subjects like general, organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, biological chemistry, plus mathematics and physics for chemical scientists, technical chemistry/engineering chemistry, biochemistry, macromolecular chemistry and theoretical chemistry, toxicology, spectroscopic methods, safety and security, law. Majors and specialisations may be chosen in accordance with the students' special interests, e.g. in theoretical chemistry, biochemistry, quality assurance, radiochemistry, environmental or water chemistry or from the teaching offered by other departments, such as materials research, structural biology, toxicology or chemical information. Cross-disciplinary modules cover topics like ethics, foreign languages, business management, patent law.

The food chemistry degree programme has a strong analytical orientation and also considers biological and microbiological methods as well as aspects of food law.

Studies at Universities of Applied Sciences

Practical experience/internships:

No pre-study internships usually required. Practical phases of varying length are completed during the studies.


Modules in the following subjects, mathematics/applied mathematics, physics, physical chemistry, general, analytical, organic and inorganic chemistry, biochemistry and biology as well as – at technical higher education institutions - technical chemistry/engineering chemistry, polymer chemistry and biochemistry, analysis engineering, fluid mechanics/fluidics, instrumental analytics, mechanical and thermal process engineering, process simulation.

Students can build their own profiles through numerous elective modules or majors/core study areas in fields like environmental chemistry/environmental technology, plant engineering, chemical/biological process engineering and processes, food and consumer protection, nuclear chemistry. Complementary modules include business management.

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