Chemistry, Pharmacy

Chemistry is the natural science that studies the structure, properties, composition and the nuclear transmutation of substances.

The study field at a glance

Substances in the chemical sense are the elements and the compounds composed of them. Scientific analysis provides insights that can be used to synthesize new, non-naturally occurring substances. Classical chemistry is concerned, for example, with organic and inorganic compounds, with thermodynamics or the course of chemical reactions. Increasing importance has been attached to macromolecular chemistry (polymer chemistry), which deals with the synthesis of new plastics.

In the area of application, chemistry is essential, for example, in pharmacy, food chemistry or the chemical industry.

Offered courses

Study programs in the field of chemistry can be divided into the following categories:

  • Classical Chemistry courses impart scientific and practical knowledge to study chemical substances. A possible specialization is molecular or polymer chemistry.
  • Applied chemistry makes chemical knowledge useful in many areas of human needs. This is achieved by the development of methods for the large-scale production of synthetic materials and fibers, mineral fertilizers or pesticides. There are numerous transitions to process engineering and chemical engineering (3.2.22).
  • Pharmacy deals with pharmaceuticals and medical devices, their development, manufacture, testing and quality assurance. It also covers measures to protect patients and care for the population, as well as providing appropriate information to health professionals. Also commercial and legal aspects are included in the study. Only after passing the state exam may pharmacy graduates work as pharmacists. But there are also undergraduate pharmacy courses that do not lead to the state examination.

Pharmaceutical technology deals with the technology of pharmaceutical production.

  • Food chemistry deals with the chemistry of foods and their ingredients in terms of composition, changes in storage and processing, and analytical methods for testing for purity and quality. It also deals with additives, tobacco products, cosmetics and consumer products such as food packaging, clothing, and household cleaning and care products.
  • It should not be confused with food technology, which deals with technical processes of food production and processing.
  • The independent university degree in food chemistry concludes with the state examination. In addition, there is the possibility to study food chemistry as a focus within the study programs chemistry or pharmacy.
  • Chemistry is also reflected in many interface studies. In the natural sciences, e.g. biochemistry, which is a transition from organic chemistry to biology; geochemistry, which deals with the chemistry of the soil, the earth's surface, etc., or pharmaceutical chemistry. A relatively new area is ecochemistry, which develops methods for the determination of environmental chemicals in ecosystems and basics for the estimation of chemical environmental risks. Other disciplines are agriculture, construction, nuclear, electrical, textile or detergent chemistry. Chemical engineering combines scientific and technical knowledge. And a non-scientific interface degree course is the economical chemistry located between chemistry and economics.
  • While university studies focus on the scientific foundations and methods of chemistry and its applications in the chemical industry, the more technically oriented and application-oriented course of study at colleges of higher education will enable them to work independently in the laboratory, as well as in production and operational engineering.

Contents of the course

In the bachelor’s program Chemistry, modules teach a basic mathematical and scientific education in subjects such as general, organic, inorganic and physical chemistry, analytical chemistry and biological chemistry. There are also mathematics and physics for chemists (such as experimental physics), technical chemistry, biochemistry, macromolecular and theoretical chemistry, chemical engineering, toxicology, spectroscopic methods, safety and law. The emphasis is placed according to the professional interests, e.g. in Theoretical Chemistry, Biochemistry, Quality Assurance, Radiochemistry, Environmental or Water Chemistry, or from the curriculum of other disciplines such as materials science, structural biology, toxicology or chemistry information. Interdisciplinary modules are available on topics such as ethics, foreign languages, business administration and patent law.

In the specialization study, profiling or specialization in the core subjects (inorganic, organic, physical chemistry), theoretical chemistry, biochemistry, environmental chemistry, environmental technology, plant engineering, polymer chemistry, chemical / biological process engineering, textile chemistry, nuclear chemistry, materials science or chemistry are applied.
In the pharmacy study basics of the chemistry, the pharmaceutical biology, the human biology, the physics, the physical chemistry, the dosage form doctrine as well as the pharmaceutical analysis are mediated. In the undergraduate studies, a period of eight weeks must be completed under the direction of a pharmacist during the non-event periods. The first and second exam sections of the state examination are completed during university studies. The third one has to be taken after completing the practical training.

Students of Pharmaceutical Engineering acquire interdisciplinary knowledge in Chemistry and Pharmacology, in Biology and Pharmaceutical Technology. In addition, there are engineering subjects such as operating and mechanical engineering. Legal and business subjects round off the studies.

The degree program in food chemistry has a strong analytical character and also takes into account biological and microbiological methods as well as food law aspects. In addition to special lectures and internships, students must complete a twelve-month practical training in a chemical or food-chemical research institute after completing the first state examination.

Admission criteria & study application

About half of the bachelor's degree programs in chemistry are admission-free. Some universities require a several-week internship as a preparatory course to the studies. Those pharmacy degree programs, which have the state examination as the goal, are nationwide admission restricted. Here you can apply via the website hochschulstart.de.

Possible careers after graduation

Chemists work primarily in the chemical industry, in manufacturers of paints and varnishes, in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry as well as in manufacturers of fertilizers and pesticides. In addition, they find employment with adhesives manufacturers, manufacturers of detergents and cleaners, manufacturers of fire retardants, in the food and beverage industry and the building materials and cement industry. Also companies of other branches of industry come into question, in particular the paper, glass, ceramic, mineral oil, galvano industry and the like. Other potential employers include manufacturers of laboratory supplies, colleges and research institutes and chemical investigators. There are also job opportunities for authorities involved in enforcing environmental legislation. Many chemists work freelance as appraisers, experts and in an advisory capacity.

Fields of activity of pharmacists are in particular: public pharmacies, hospital pharmacies, medical service of the Federal Armed Forces, health insurance funds as well as the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. Increasingly, pharmaceutical companies also consider companies as employers who are involved in the biotechnology and genetic engineering-based development and production of pharmaceuticals. Employment opportunities also exist in public authorities, institutions and administrations such as the European Commission, the Council of Europe or the World Health Organization. In addition, there are fields of activity in science (higher education, research institutions, examination offices), in medical laboratories, in specialist journalism and in the field of consulting.

Pharmaceutical engineers find employment in the pharmaceutical industry and in supply companies that supply raw materials or technical equipment such as machinery and equipment. They work in the food or cosmetics industry, in planning and consulting firms, but also in the fields of environmental protection and waste management.

Food chemists work mainly in the field of official food control, in the food and beverage industry, the cosmetics industry and in food research. In addition, there are employment opportunities at agricultural research institutes and as sworn experts.

Incidentally, the majority of chemists with a master's degree immediately begin their doctoral studies, which is expected in particular in industry and research.