A PhD program in Chemistry can equip you with a range of professional skills and advanced knowledge in the field. With a doctorate in chemistry on your resume, you’ll be able to find prestigious jobs in research labs, industry, academia, or government.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of chemists and material scientists is$79,760, and jobs are estimated to grow by6% over the next decade, in line with growth prospects for all professions.
Which of the best PhD programs in Chemistry is right for you?
Read on to learn about the best programs, including essential information like tuition, acceptance rates, and whether you can get a degree online or not.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been ranked first in the nation for Chemistry, so it’s no surprise that this is one of the best PhD in Chemistry programs. The program is flexible because students can choose courses based on their long-term research goals.
Courses include: Principles of inorganic chemistry, crystal structure refinement, and heterocyclic chemistry.
Stanford University is one of the world’s leading research institutions with innovative and flexible programs. This chemistry PhD program is world-class with a cross-disciplinary approach, collaborating with various other departments and institutes.
Courses include: Advanced inorganic chemistry, organic polyfunctional compounds, and chemical principles.
Caltech’s Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering is renowned for its large number of faculty members conducting leading research in chemistry, biochemistry, and chemical engineering. This chemistry doctoral program aims to develop students’ creative and original research abilities.
Harvard University’s faculty in the Chemistry and Chemical Biology division includes several Nobel and Welch Award laureates conducting research in various areas of interest in chemistry. In this PhD program for chemistry, students can pursue interdisciplinary research in various institutes and research centers in the Boston area.
Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences emphasizes interdisciplinary thinking that is adaptive, flexible, and practical in the context of the modern world. This chemistry PhD program aims to provide students with a strong foundation in chemistry and valuable exposure to research projects important to wider society.
Courses include: Organic chemistry, physical/analytical chemistry, and biological chemistry.
Yale is one of the most acclaimed universities in the world, with a diverse student population, including 22% international students from a total of 115 different nations. This flexible PhD chemistry program allows students to choose their areas of study based on their research subjects rather than maintaining a rigid course list.
Courses include: Fundamentals of transition metal chemistry, bioinorganic spectroscopy, and organic structures & energetics.
The chemistry department was one of the University of Chicago’s first departments to be inaugurated and currently has a strong faculty in organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry, as well as interdisciplinary studies. This is also one of the most flexible Chemistry PhD programs in the country, allowing you to study from different departments as well as giving you the freedom to choose your areas of study.
Courses include: Complex chemical systems, chemical biology, and chemical dynamics.
Princeton University’s prestigious Frick Chemistry Laboratory encourages faculty and students to conduct collaborative and interdisciplinary research in the field. This doctorate degree in chemistry encourages students to pursue individualized studies and conduct original research in specific areas of chemistry.
The University of California was founded with a vision for a better future and is well-known as a pioneer in various areas, including diversity and free speech. This graduate program offers three concentrations: physical chemistry, synthetic chemistry, and chemical biology.
Courses include: Chemical kinetics, coordination chemistry, and organic reactions.
Cornell’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology has a history of discovery and innovation and boasts Nobel laureates as well as National Academy Members among its faculty. The TATP (Teaching Assistant Training Program) is an integral part of this PhD program, and a satisfactory performance in this program is a mandatory part of the doctorate.
Courses include: Engineering general chemistry, principles of organic chemistry, and physical chemistry of proteins.
Financial aid: Teaching assistantship, research assistantship, fellowships, grants, stipend, and health insurance.
Acceptance rate: 10.7%
Location: Ithaca, New York
What Do You Need To Get a PhD in Chemistry?
To be admitted as a PhD candidate, you’ll generally need a master’s in chemistry or a related field. As part of the application process, you’ll typically need to submit academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a personal statement or research proposal.
Other documentation may be required depending on the program you want to apply for, so check the requirements with the admissions office.
Most PhD in chemistry programs involve a mix of coursework, which may cover chemistry courses and related sciences, and a research thesis or dissertation.
To earn your doctorate in chemistry, you typically also need to participate in seminars, pass oral and written exams, and complete a teaching assistantship.
Preparing for a Chemistry Doctorate Program
A PhD in chemistry is a technical, relatively-difficult advanced degree, so it’s important to prepare well to get the best results. Ahead of commencing, or even applying for the program, familiarize yourself with the latest developments and research in the field.
It can be a good idea to join professional associations, take advantage of other networking opportunities, and seek out extra-curricular activities in the field. Practical experience can also be very valuable, so try to work in a lab if possible.
Things To Consider When Choosing a Chemistry PhD Program
There are a range of chemistry doctorate programs offered by different institutions and covering several different concentrations. Before choosing the right program for you, it’s important to carefully consider your interests, passions, and career goals in order to decide on your preferred area of study.
From there, look for strong programs in this discipline with renowned faculty specializing in your area of interest.
Other key factors to consider include the following:
Mode of delivery: on-campus, online, or hybrid
School location, accessibility, and affordability to live in the area if you’re planning on studying on campus
Program costs, including not only tuition but also fees and other expenses
Financial aid options
Why Get a Doctorate in Chemistry?
A PhD in chemistry is one of the most in-demand and highest-paying PhDs. Graduates with a PhD chemistry are highly employable, with most finding roles in private industry. According to Duke University, from their 242 candidates, 118 were employed in business/industry, and Boston University also tells us that most PhD Chemistry holders are employed in the private sector.
The benefits of studying for a doctorate in chemistry include:
High level of prestige
Many chemistry PhD programs are fully-funded or offer access significant to financial aid
Wide range of job prospects in academia, research, and management
Access to senior leadership positions and opportunities to manage research projects
Jobs you can land with a PhD in Chemistry include:
The tuition for a PhD in chemistry can range from $10,000 to $70,000 based on various factors, with public schools being much more affordable than private schools. On top of tuition, you also need to consider other expenses, such as fees, study materials, and living expenses. However, many chemistry doctorates offer scholarships, grants, and even full funding.
For most programs, you’ll take around five years to complete a chemistry PhD when studying full-time. However, it can take up to seven years or even longer in some cases.
What Skills Do You Gain When Doing a Ph.D. in Chemistry?
You’ll build a range of advanced skills as part of a PhD in Chemistry program, most notably:
Critical thinking skills
Mentoring and teaching skills
PhD in Chemistry FAQs
How Long Does a PhD in Chemistry Take?
A PhD in Chemistry takes five years to complete on average, though the duration can typically be anywhere between three and seven years.
Which Field of Chemistry Is Best for a PhD?
There is no single field that is best for a PhD in Chemistry. The best option for you will depend on your preferences, interests, and career ambitions. Common specializations include organic, inorganic, physical, analytical, and computational chemistry.
What Can You Do With a PhD in Chemistry?
A PhD in chemistry is typically considered the most advanced degree in this scientific field and opens up a range of positions in academia, research, and the private sector. Positions for graduates with PhD doctorates include lecturers, professors, research leaders, environmental scientists, and materials scientists.
Is It Hard To Get a PhD in Chemistry?
Given that chemistry is a highly technical field and a PhD is an advanced degree, it’s not surprising that a PhD in chemistry is an in-depth, involved, and relatively-challenging degree. There’s no denying that you’ll need a background in the field and a certain degree of dedication to earn your doctorate in chemistry, but it’s certainly not impossible with some hard work and a little passion!
A PhD in chemistry is a valuable, advanced degree that opens up a wide range of career prospects, including senior-level positions in research, industry, and academia. There are a number of high-quality PhD programs in chemistry offered by renowned institutions across the country, covering a range of disciplines and including both on-campus and online programs.
Be clear on your areas of interest and career objectives, do your research to choose the best program for you, and you can’t go wrong!
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.