The Chemistry Major 2013-14

UCSC researchers are well known for their work on ribosomes.

Chemistry occupies a key position in the modern sciences. Ultimately, most phenomena in biology, medicine, geology, and the environmental sciences can be described in terms of the chemical and physical behavior of atoms and molecules. Because of the wide appeal and utility of chemistry, UCSC offers many lower-division courses, differing in emphasis and style, which meet diverse needs. Students should also note the numerous upper-division course offerings and select those most suitable to their academic interests. The curriculum in chemistry exposes the student to the principal areas of modern chemistry, including organic, inorganic, biochemistry, and physical chemistry. The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students who plan to end their formal education with a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree as well as those who wish to go on for an advanced degree. The UCSC chemistry B.A. or B.S. graduate is well prepared to pursue a career in chemistry or an allied field.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • B.A.; B.S. with concentrations in biochemistry and environmental chemistry; M.S.; Ph.D.; undergraduate minor
  • Several undergraduate research scholarships and scholarly meeting and conference travel awards are available to eligible chemistry students.


A degree in chemistry opens the door to a wide variety of academic careers. Some UCSC graduates are working as researchers in industry, in areas such as food, textiles, medicinal drugs, and petroleum. Others have entered government service, as research chemists in the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, or law enforcement crime laboratories. Fields such as patent law, commercial development, and scientific writing are open to graduates. Many chemistry majors go on to university graduate programs across the nation to prepare for careers in research, teaching, or both. The degree in chemistry also provides a strong disciplinary background in preparation for a career in the important area of science teaching in high school. A major in chemistry is also an excellent beginning for one of the many opportunities in the health sciences.

High School Preparation

Prospective chemistry majors are encouraged to get a solid foundation in high school mathematics; familiarity with algebra, logarithms, trigonometry, and analytic geometry is particularly recommended. Students who take chemistry at UC Santa Cruz will begin with either Chemistry 1A or Chemistry 1B. Both courses will require a solid background in high school chemistry, and it will be part of a rigorous sequence in which introductory college-level material is distributed among Chemistry 1A, 1B, and 1C.

Transfer Preparation

Prospective transfer students should complete the following UC-transferable course work prior to transfer.

  • one year of single-variable calculus
  • one year of general chemistry
  • one year of organic chemistry

Students who plan to take the above courses at a California Community College should reference to determine which courses are transferable to UCSC.

Entering with these preparatory courses complete allows you more time to take advantage of the excellence our programs offer: specialized upper-division course work tailored to your interests, lab and field courses that teach research techniques that can help you both start a career or continue your education, and opportunities to participate in community internships and faculty-mentored independent research.

The Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) will not provide transfer students with enough mathematics and science courses to allow them to complete the program at UC Santa Cruz in two years. Prospective transfer students should visit the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs web site at for further information (see the More Information section). In addition, please see the Lower-Division Requirements section below.

Lower-Division Requirements

To qualify for a chemistry major students must complete the following courses, or their equivalents, with a grade of C or better:

  • CHEM 1A, General Chemistry
  • CHEM 1B, General Chemistry
  • CHEM 1C, General Chemistry
  • MATH 11A, Calculus with Applications OR MATH 19A, Calculus for Science, Engineering, & Mathematics
  • MATH 11B, Calculus for Science, Engineering, & Mathematics OR MATH 19B, Calculus for Science, Engineering, & Mathematics
  • MATH 22, Introduction to Calculus of Several Variables

Academic Advising

Academic advising is available from Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs. Academic advising concentrates on class scheduling and degree requirements, while faculty advising provides guidance on career paths, graduate school, and study strategies. The Undergraduate Affairs web site at, contains detailed information about the degree programs, sample schedules, transferring credit, placement exams, faculty research, and opportunities in the Physical and Biological Sciences majors.

More Information


Undergraduate Affairs
Physical and Biological Sciences
142 Jack Baskin Engineering Building
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-4143

See Also