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Does Engineering Require Chemistry?

by Andrew Aarons

Most engineers end up with lucrative careers earning solid salaries, though salaries depend on the area of specialty for an engineer: structural engineering, chemical engineering, architectural engineering and so on. While engineering is a broad field, its subfields and specialties share a few key concepts. Engineering schools make chemistry courses mandatory, with more chemistry study required for chemical engineering than other branches of engineering.

Bachelor of Science

Most engineering schools belong to the faculty of science, which means most engineering students will study engineering as part of a Bachelor of Science program. All B.S. degrees have scientific requirements. As a science student, you’ll need to study biology, chemistry and math in order to fulfill the faculty requirements needed to graduate. Any B.S. degree might require a basic chemistry class, but engineering degrees often require more than one.


Getting into an engineering program will involve showing skill in the required and related courses at a high-school level. You’ll struggle with university chemistry if you haven’t taken any high-level chemistry courses in high school, and many admissions offices will look at your high school transcripts when deciding if you can enter an engineering degree. If you haven’t applied yet, work hard to get your chemistry and math grades up. Some schools may offer prospective admissions on the condition that you take summer courses to brush up on chemistry before starting your first term if your chemistry grades in high school were low.

Chemistry Courses

The specific chemistry courses that you’ll be required to take as part of your engineering degree vary from school to school. For example, the mechanical engineering program at Carnegie Mellon University must only complete two chemistry classes: modern chemistry and experimental chemistry. Cornell engineering students must take three or four chemistry courses, including a third-year chemistry course as part of the environmental engineering program. The University of Michigan’s mechanical engineering program also requires at least two chemistry courses, with electives in the third year for more.

Chemical Engineering

The exception to the rule in engineering programs is chemical engineering, which focuses on chemistry considerably more than other engineering programs. The chemical and biological engineering program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., requires chemistry courses in seven of its eight terms. Students must also use one of their three advanced electives on a chemistry course.

About the Author

Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.

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