Carnegie Mellon University Department of Chemistry

Undergraduate Program

Degree FAQ

What is the difference between the B.S. and B.A. degree in Chemistry?

Generally 90% of the degrees awarded in the department are B.S. degrees. The B.S. degree provides depth and significant hands on training in the traditional areas of study within chemistry, organic, inorganic, physical and analytical chemistry, as well as the opportunity to branch into interdisciplinary areas through advanced coursework. This degree path is therefore the most appropriate one for students intending to pursue graduate studies in the sciences or industrial careers that involve research and development or analysis.

The B.A. degree in chemistry requires 5 fewer chemistry courses than the B.S. degree. These courses are primarily in the area of physical chemistry. In exchanging technical courses for free electives this degree path allows students to add breadth to their studies or to pursue additional majors or minors in other departments and colleges.

What are Degree Options?

Some students may wish to focus their choice of electives in specialized technical areas such as biochemistry or polymer science or non-technical areas such as business management. The Chemistry Department has set up several concentration areas called "Options" to recognize these efforts. Having an Option together with a chemistry degree signifies to graduate schools or employers that the student has undertaken an in-depth, structured study of a specialty area as part of their basic undergraduate education. A notation of this is entered officially on the student's transcript.

To earn one or more of these degree options, students take, as part of their electives, certain prescribed courses (usually four) in the area of the Option. Thus, earning an Option will not increase your course load. While these Options are not the same as earning a minor in another department, they do indicate a certain degree of specialization that can be important when applying for graduate school or a job.

What are the differences between a degree in Chemistry with a Minor in Computer Science, the Minor in Scientific Computing, and the Computational Chemistry Option?

The Computational Chemistry Option is recommended to students who have an interest in using computers in chemistry. A notation will appear on your transcript indicating the completion of the option.

The Minor in Scientific Computing gives a more broad-based knowledge of using computers in a variety of scientific fields. The required courses are primarily MCS courses with a focus on computational methods. Your degree will read B.S. (or B.A.) in Chemistry with a Minor in Scientific Computing.

The Minor in Computer Science requires primarily computer science courses, including upper-level computer science courses. The variety of computational science courses offered in MCS will not count towards this minor. Your degree will read B.S. (or B.A.) in Chemistry with a Minor in Computer Science.

What is the general difference between a double major and a double degree?

In a double major program, students are required to complete the requirements for the second department in the course of completing their primary undergraduate degree. The minimum unit requirement remains 360. The degree will read, for example, a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with an Additional Major in Biological Sciences.

In a double degree program, two separate degrees are awarded, one from each department. All requirements, including core courses, for the second department must be completed, but to qualify, each additional degree requires an additional 90 units of total coursework. In most cases this will mean a requirement of 450 units. The degree will read, for example, a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and Bachelor of Architecture .