Requirements for the Chemistry Major

The Chemistry major consists of courses in four categories plus the comprehensive requirement.  Starting with the Class of 2024E, which graduates in Janaury 2024, the number of categories is expanded to five.

Chemistry majors may apply grades of “Pass” to courses required for the major. However, students should be aware that Pass grades may negatively impact their future candidacies for employment and/or admission to graduate or professional schools. The department strongly recommends that a student discuss these potential impacts with their advisor before electing the pass/fail option in a course that is required for the chemistry major.

I.  Foundational courses, also taken by students in several other STEM majors and those preparing for careers in the health professions

  • CHEM-151 (offered in both the fall and spring semesters) or CHEM-155 (offered only in the fall semester)
  • CHEM-161 (offered in both the spring and fall semesters) or CHEM-165 (offered only in the spring semester)
  • CHEM-221 (offered in both the fall and spring semesters)
  • CHEM-231 (offered in both the spring and fall semesters)
  • The chemistry department offers two different yearlong general-chemistry sequences: CHEM 151 followed by CHEM 161 and CHEM 155 followed by CHEM 165. Upon arrival at the college, first-year students will receive placements in either CHEM 151 or CHEM 155. Chemistry placements are based not on specific material covered in high school chemistry courses, but rather on indicators that help us recommend the appropriate first course in chemistry for each incoming student.
  • Please note that MATH-111 (or MATH-105/106) or equivalent placement by the mathematics department into MATH-121 or higher is a prerequisite for CHEM-161 and CHEM-165.

II.  Advanced courses

  • CHEM-351
  • CHEM-361
  • CHEM-371
  • Please note that MATH-121 and either PHYS-116 or PHYS-123 (or equivalent placements by the respective departments) are prerequisites for both CHEM-351 and CHEM-361.

III. At least one elective course

  • This may be an additional chemistry course numbered in the 300s or 400s, but excluding special topics courses (CHEM-390/490) and Senior Departmental Honors (CHEM-498/499).
  • Alternatively, a chemistry-related course beyond the introductory level in another department (at Amherst or one of the other Five Colleges) may be used to satisfy this requirement upon approval by your chemistry major advisor.
  • All chemistry majors must complete eight college chemistry courses; for those majors completing a thesis, this is in addition to CHEM-498/499.  Students who in their first year receive an initial placement into a course other than CHEM-151 or CHEM-155 will therefore need to complete additional elective courses to bring their total number of college chemistry courses to eight.  Transfer students who have received credit for college chemistry courses taken elsewhere may apply those courses towards this total.

IV. (Effective with the Class of 2024E) – A course focusing on structural and systemic issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion

The Amherst College Chemistry Department is committed to supporting and uplifting all members of our community as well as promoting cross-disciplinary conversations on systemic issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. In accordance with this commitment, majors must sucessfully complete a departmentally approved course that discusses topics of identity (e.g., race, gender and sexuality, socioeconomic status) and their intersections with STEM topics.

  • Students may choose a course from an approved list (click here) that includes courses offered by the Chemistry Department, other departments at Amherst College, or within the Five Colleges.
  • In consultation with their Chemistry major advisor, students may alternatively propose a course not on this list to be approved by the Chemistry Department.
  • Students will share their experience in the course with members of the Chemistry Department through a presentation during the department’s seminar series.

V. Courses in allied fields – By virtue of being prerequisites for required courses, all chemistry majors will need to complete (or receive equivalent placement from the respective departments).

  • MATH-111
  • MATH-121
  • PHYS-116/123
  • Depending on the student's choice for the elective course, additional prerequisite courses may need to be completed.

Certification by the American Chemical Society: The chemistry department at Amherst College is among the programs approved by the American Chemical Society (ACS).  The chemistry curriculum is reviewed by the ACS Committee on Professional Training on a six-year cycle and reports are made to the ACS annually.  To earn an ACS-certified degree, Amherst College chemistry majors, in addition to the minimum requirements listed above, must elect CHEM 330 or 331 and CHEM 341 plus one additional upper level elective, take a second semester of physics (PHYS 117 or 124, or receive equivalent placement from the Physics Department), and successfully complete a senior thesis in chemistry (CHEM 498/499D).

Comprehensive Requirement: For senior chemistry majors, the comprehensive requirement will be partially met by attendance at all of the Friday seminars during the fall and spring semesters. (A limited number of excused absences are allowed.) In addition, each senior will present a 15-20 minute seminar: honors thesis students will speak in the fall about their research projects, and students who are not writing a thesis will speak in the spring about a recent journal article of interest.  (Click here for more information on the comprehensive requirement.)