Chemistry (BSc)

Chemistry is a fundamental and exciting discipline, and one that plays a significant role in many areas of science and in everyday life.

This BSc degree is designed to give you a broad education in chemistry and, in addition, to supply you with a wide range of research, mathematical and computational skills, with practical training an essential element. The programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and is suitable not only for students who want to progress to a career in chemistry or related disciplines, but also those who wish to use the framework of knowledge and skills obtained in a wider context, such as in business or administration.

Key facts

UCAS CodeF100
Duration3 years
AccreditationsRoyal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
Typical places availableThe School typically has around 170 places available
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives around 600 applications
Scholarships and bursaries
Typical A level offerAAB including grade B in Chemistry. Ideally at least one other science or mathematical subject. General Studies and Critical Thinking are not accepted for entry.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerWBQ core will be accepted in lieu of one A-level (at the grades specified above), excluding Chemistry
Typical International Baccalaureate offer34 points to include 10 points in total from Higher Level Chemistry and another science or Mathematical subject. Chemistry is to be at least 5 points within this total.
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Specific admissions and selection criteria for this degree programme can be found online.

Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course.
QAA subject benchmark


Academic School
Admissions tutor(s)

Dr Thomas Tatchell , Admissions Tutor

    The course structure is very flexible with all Cardiff's Chemistry degree programmes sharing a common first and second year. Transfer to the BSc Chemistry with Industrial Experience programme is possible at the end of year one or two. Transfer to an MChem programme is also permitted, subject to achieving an average mark of at least 55% in each of the first two years.

    Year one

    The programme in the first year is designed to stimulate your interest in Chemistry whilst giving you a sound foundation upon which to build in later years. There are five core chemistry modules based around the three principal areas of the subject, but also including coverage of key skills for chemists. 

    These are complemented by a range of optional modules, which are reviewed and updated regularly. These allow you to exercise choice over your studies and extend your breadth of experience.

    You may also take optional modules in other disciplines, such as Biological Sciences, Physics or Modern Languages.

    Year two

    In the second year you will take more advanced modules that allow you to practise and consolidate your new skills by applying them to a wide range of problems. These include:

    Year three

    The sound basis provided over years one and two is consolidated in the final year with core modules. 

    You will also be able to choose from optional modules that reflect the research strengths of the School.

    A substantial research project is also undertaken in the final year.

    The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

    The Cardiff School of Chemistry provides an outstanding and stimulating environment for chemical education. The undergraduate programmes reflect, and are fully embedded in, the research strengths of the School, with, for example, substantial final-year projects that are fully integrated into research groups. The degree programmes are designed to enable students to achieve their maximum potential by providing the required teaching, laboratory and other facilities, and pastoral care.

    Teaching is undertaken through a series of lectures, tutorials, workshops and practical classes. All of these are supported by material hosted on our intranet system, Learning Central.


    The major part of the teaching provided by the staff is through lectures, typically 10-12 lectures per week, each of 50 minutes duration. The subject matter is supported in various ways according to the nature of the topic, by slides, computer presentations, overhead transparencies, handouts and course summaries.

    Laboratory work

    The second major part of teaching consists of the practical classes, again typically averaging about 10-12 hours each week. In the first year, the emphasis is on basic techniques and simple but accurate recording of observations. These skills are taught by practical demonstrations and supported by a range of e-learning resources available free to all students and readily accessible. Self-tests allow you to gain an insight into a whole host of differing practical techniques, and to correct your mistakes, before actually attending the laboratory sessions. There are also electronic resources that help you to understand the theory and practical application of spectroscopic techniques. In later years, laboratory work progresses towards substantial experiments requiring careful planning, analysis and interpretation of results, and reporting to a professional standard. Practical work is integrated into each core module in the first two years, and this provides experience in all the main laboratory procedures and techniques across Chemistry. The training through the various years is designed progressively to extend your level of proficiency in practical chemistry, so that you are ready to undertake your independent research project at the end of your degree.

    Information technology

    Cardiff makes good use of information technology (IT) in its Chemistry degree programmes. Undergraduates are taught how to use the latest software and molecular modelling packages and it is expected that in the later years all submitted work should be professionally presented. Facilities to enable this are provided in the form of well-equipped computer suites.

    Small-group teaching

    Tutorial classes in small groups are given in all years spent in Cardiff to allow practice in the material presented in lectures, discussion and analysis of the lecture material, as well as the development of communication skills. These sessions are delivered by three allocated staff members, one specialist in each of the areas of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. The same three tutors will generally remain assigned to each group throughout your degree. One of these tutors will also be designated as your personal tutor, and with all staff operating an open door policy, students can always approach staff with any problems that they may have academic or otherwise.

    Research project

    All chemistry degree programmes in Cardiff have a major element of independent, supervised research. In the final year of the BSc programme, you will join a research group working in your preferred area of chemistry, and be allocated a topic to investigate. You will work under the guidance of a internationally recognised expert in the field, and present the results of your work both orally and in writing. This has in the past occasionally led to undergraduate students being co-authors of published papers.

    As a graduate chemist, you can expect a wide range of career options. Many of our graduates join the chemical industry, while others enter academic or government establishments. Some use the logical and practical training of a chemistry degree to enter marketing, sales, management or finance. Further possibilities are in scientific journalism and publishing. Others become teachers or use their skills in environmental conservation, clinical and forensic laboratories and in quality control throughout the manufacturing industry.

    In 2012, 89% of the School's graduates were in employment or further study within six months of graduation. Employers of BSc graduates included: GE Healthcare, Lafarge aggregates, Virgin Media, Wessex Water, Cardiff Council, and Aviva Technology. Career Destinations included: healthcare assistant, trainee chemistry teacher, health and safety assistant and trainee accountant.


    • Healthcare assistant
    • Trainee chemistry teacher
    • Health and safety assistant
    • Trainee accountant


    • Welsh Government
    • Environment Agency
    • European Commission
    • South Wales Police


    3 Year(s)

    Next intake

    September 2016

    Places available

    Typical places available

    There are typically 160 students admitted to undergraduate degrees in Chemistry each year.

    Applications received

    Typical applications received

    500-600 applications are received each year for undergraduate degree programmes in Chemistry.


    QAA subject benchmark

    QAA subject benchmark


    What are the aims of this Programme?

    The BSc Chemistry programme covers the essentials of the subject, and is suitable not only for those who wish to progress to a career in chemistry, but also for those who wish to use the framework of knowledge and skills obtained in the degree in a wider context – for example in teaching, in business or in administration.  It is a 3-year programme, and incorporates a research project worth 20 credits in the final year.  It may be extended to 4 years (BSc Chemistry with Industrial Experience) by intercalation of a year in industry, prior to the final year.  Students failing to satisfy the requirements for admission to Year 1 of the programme may be offered entry via a Preliminary Year (BSc Chemistry with a Preliminary Year).

    What is expected of me?

    Attendance at tutorials and practical classes is compulsory and will be monitored.  Students who are absent through illness, or other good reason, are required to inform the School Office of the circumstances on their return (a form is available for this purpose).  Unjustified absence for two successive tutorials or practical sessions will lead to receipt of an e-mail from the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and continued lack of attendance may result in eventual exclusion.

    Each 20 credit module is expected to correspond to 200 hours of study.  A substantial proportion of this time should be spent in independent study.  For example, in Year 1 most 20 credit modules consist of 33 hours of lectures, 30 hours of laboratory classes, 2 hours of workshops and 4 hours of tutorials, amounting to 69 contact hours in total.  The remaining time should be spent on background reading, making notes, completing assignments, etc.

    Students are expected to adhere to the Cardiff University policy on Dignity at Work and Study.

    How is this Programme Structured?

    This is a three-year programme.  Most compulsory modules are worth 20 credits, and run over the whole academic year.  Optional modules are usually worth 10 credits and last a single semester. 

    In Year 1 students take compulsory modules in Chemistry worth 90 credits, and optional modules worth 30 credits which may be in Chemistry or any other subject.  Students without A-level Mathematics must take CH2116 Mathematical Methods as one of their options; similarly students without A-level Biology must take CH3113 Chemical Biology as one of their options.

    Year 2 consists only of compulsory modules in Chemistry.  Modules in Years 1 and 2 generally incorporate both lectures and practical work.

    In Year 3 practical work constitutes a separate module, taken in the Autumn semester.  This is followed by a research project in the Spring semester (see below).  Students take a compulsory theory module in each branch of the subject (inorganic, organic, physical) and choose from a range of options.

    Will I need any specific equipment to study this Programme?

    Students do not need to provide any special equipment themselves.  The University will provide them at enrolment with a lab coat, a pair of safety glasses, a laboratory notebook and a molecular modelling kit.  Chemical drawing software (ChemDraw) is available on all university computers, and students will be able to download it to their own computers free-of-charge.

    What skills will I practise and develop?

    • Communication skills, covering both written and oral communication.
    • Problem-solving skills, relating to qualitative and quantitative information, with some extension to situations where evaluations have to be made on the basis of limited information.
    • Numeracy and computational skills, including error analysis, order-of-magnitude estimations, correct use of units and modes of data presentation.
    • Information-retrieval skills, in relation to primary and secondary information sources, including information retrieval through on-line computer searches.
    • Information-technology skills such as word-processing and spreadsheet use, data-logging and storage, Internet communication and the use of chemical drawing packages.
    • Interpersonal skills, relating to the ability to interact with other people and to engage in team-working.
    • Time-management and organisational skills, as evidenced by the ability to plan and implement efficient and effective modes of working.
    • Study skills needed for continuing professional development.

    In each of Years 1 and 2, students will take compulsory “key skills” modules, during which they will learn and practise some or all of these skills.  They will also receive training in CV writing, completion of application forms, and interviewing techniques, delivered in collaboration with the Careers Service.

    How will I be taught?

    A major part of the programme is delivered through lectures, typically 10-12 lectures weekly, each of 50 minutes duration.  These are supported in various ways, according to the nature of the topic, by slides, computer presentations, overhead transparencies, handouts and course summaries, some of which are provided on paper and some electronically through the virtual learning environment.

    The second major part of teaching consists of the practical classes, again typically averaging about 10-12 hours each week. In the first two years, some practical work is associated with most core modules, and this provides experience in all the main laboratory procedures and techniques across chemistry. In the Autumn semester of the Final Year there is more advanced practical work in a module arranged specifically for this. In the Spring semester of the Final Year students undertake a research project under the supervision, and in the research laboratory of a member of academic staff.  The student is expected to devote approximately 12 hours per week to the laboratory work associated with the project. The practical classes follow a defined sequence, which begins with basic techniques, and progresses towards substantial experiments requiring planning, analysis and interpretation of results, and reporting to a professional standard. The training through the three years is designed to extend each student steadily, from being a new student to being a practising chemist.

    Tutorial classes in small groups (typically of 6 students) are given each week in each year. This is to allow practice, discussion and analysis of the material presented in lectures, and to provide opportunity for developing key skills of communication.

    The final form of teaching is through workshops. These take various forms in different parts of the curriculum, but are essentially classes to develop skills, both chemically-related skills practising the use of important principles, and key skills in communication, presentation and debate. Workshops are attached to many of the modules throughout the three years, and they are particularly significant in modules designed to promote critical analysis, judgement and skills of oral presentation and argument.

    How will I be assessed?

    Formative and summative assessments are carried out throughout each year of study. The purpose of these is to provide a measure of performance to inform students, staff and future employers about progress and achievement, but also to assist with the learning process by highlighting areas of success and areas needing more attention. The assessment procedures for the BSc programme involve a range of methods, as detailed below, and are selected to match the assessment to the particular outcomes of each module and the programme as a whole.

    • Formal examinations with fixed time-limits
    • Class tests
    • Reports on laboratory work
    • Planning, conduct and reporting of project work
    • Essays
    • Problem-solving exercises (as workshop assignments)
    • Oral presentations
    • Preparation and display of posters

    Some of these activities involve group working, providing an opportunity to judge performance as a group member.

    How will I be supported?

    Every student will have three academic tutors, one of whom will also act as Personal Tutor, and will see one of his/her tutors every week, either as part of a small tutorial group, or on a one-to-one basis in a personal tutorial.  Personal Development Planning will be based around maintenance of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Undergraduate Skills Record, and will be discussed in personal tutorials.

    Students will be provided with a printed copy of a comprehensive handbook appropriate to their year of study, which contains details of all the School’s procedures and policies.

    Extensive use will be made of the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (Learning Central) for the dissemination of information.  In particular, marks for in-course assessment will be available via Learning Central within three weeks of the deadline for submission

    What are the Learning Outcomes of this Programme?

    Graduates from this programme will be will become conversant with the following main aspects of chemistry:

    • Chemical terminology, nomenclature, conventions and units.
    • The structural and stereochemical features of chemical elements and their compounds, including conformational analysis.
    • The characteristic properties and behaviour of elements and their compounds including group relationships and trends within the Periodic Table.
    • The principles and procedures used in chemical analysis and the characterisation of chemical compounds, including the application of spectroscopies to the determination of structure and properties of chemical entities.
    • The properties of the different states of matter and the theories used to describe them, and the relation between bulk properties and the properties of individual atoms, molecules and functional groups, including macromolecules.
    • The role of energy changes in chemical systems, including knowledge of the laws of thermodynamics and the ability to use quantitative methods to account for energy changes in chemical systems.
    • The factors that affect the rate of chemical change, the way in which they influence the rate and the use of mechanistic understanding to explain the course of chemical reactions.
    • The basic principles of quantum mechanics and their application to the description of the structure and properties of atoms and molecules, and an understanding of the theories of bonding and their applications.
    • The major types of chemical reaction and the main characteristics associated with them.
    • The properties and reactions of inorganic, organic, organometallic and coordination compounds.
    • Major pathways in synthetic chemistry, including functional group interconversions and bond formation, and the idea of retro-synthetic analysis.
    • The structures and chemical reactivity of the principal classes of biomolecule.
    • Awareness of major issues at the frontiers of chemical research.
    • Mathematical knowledge in basic algebra and calculus and numerical manipulation appropriate for the analysis and evaluation of chemical problems.

    Graduates from this programme will be able to:

    • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of essential facts, concepts, principles and theories relating to the subject areas identified above.
    • apply such knowledge and understanding to the solution of qualitative and quantitative problems of a familiar and unfamiliar nature.
    • recognise and analyse novel problems and suggest strategies for their solution.
    • use conceptual understanding to evaluate, interpret and manipulate chemical information and data.
    • plan, recognise and implement good measurement science and practice.
    • present scientific material and arguments clearly and correctly, in writing and orally, to a range of audiences.
    • demonstrate computational and data-processing skills, relating to chemical information, data and the primary literature.
    • handle chemical materials safely, taking account of physical and chemical properties, assessing risk for experimental procedures and chemical substances and reporting specific hazards associated with their use.
    • carry out standard laboratory procedures for preparation, purification, and analysis of a range of substances, and use appropriate instrumental techniques for their study.
    • operate standard chemical instruments, such as those used for structural investigation and separation.
    • monitor chemical properties or changes, by observation and measurement, and record, in a systematic and reliable fashion, documentation relating to these events.
    • plan, design and execute practical investigations and take the experiment from the problem-recognition stage through to the evaluation and appraisal of results with selection of appropriate techniques.
    • interpret data derived from laboratory observations and measurements in terms of the theory underlying them.       

    Other information

    Students who achieve at least 60% overall in Years 1 and 2 will be offered the opportunity to transfer to the MChem programme prior to the start of Year 3.  Students who are interested in a placement in industry need to register their interest by the start of Year 2.  Advice and guidance in applying is given throughout that year.  Industrial placements are competitive, but are generally available nationwide in all branches of the chemical, pharmaceutical and manufacturing industry.

    There are also usually opportunities for several students to undertake summer research projects in Cardiff, under the supervision of a member of academic staff.

    Admissions tutors

    Dr Thomas Tatchell , Admissions Tutor

      Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.