Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, and Environmental Science

If you are interested in Chemistry, you may notice that the University of Denver offers five options for undergraduate study. The first two years of coursework look quite similar for Chemistry students across programs, allowing for time to reflect on career goals and possible pathways. One question that we will receive from time to time in Career & Professional Development is, “what’s the difference between Chemistry and Environmental Chemistry when it comes to the job search? How does Environmental Science factor into the equation?” Students are curious about what they might be able to do with a degree in Environmental Chemistry, particularly when they are choosing between different programs and are unsure of their short-term career goals.

Environmental chemistry is considered a scientific discipline of chemistry. The study of chemistry is broader and spans a number of industries, including pharmacy, forensic science, education, manufacturing, and green chemistry (which differs from environmental chemistry). According to the American Chemical Society, “Environmental chemists monitor what is in the air, water, and soil to study how chemicals enter the environment, what affects they have, and how human activity affects the environment. They monitor the source and extent of pollution and contamination, especially compounds that affect human health, and they promote sustainability, conservation, and protection.”

Environmental Chemistry majors gain knowledge in a number of areas, including biology, geology, ecology, soil and water chemistry, mathematics, engineering, and genetics. Students attracted to this major tend to be deeply passionate about the environment, are analytical thinkers and problem-solvers, are skilled at mathematics and engineering, and enjoy conducting research in the field or the lab. While careers in this discipline are not limited to these skills and strengths, there are some commonalities. Some students ultimately gravitate toward Environmental Science instead of chemistry, but there are some similarities and nuances between the philosophy and focus of the two degree programs.

Sample job titles in this major include:

  • Air Quality Analyst
  • Analytical Chemist
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Field Specialist/Researcher
  • Hydrogeochemist
  • Hydrologist
  • Water Quality Specialist

Interested in Environmental Chemistry? We would love to chat with you about your career goals and how Career & Professional Development can help you to identify and achieve them!

By Kimberly English
Kimberly English Career Advisor