Chemistry and Biochemistry Degree Requirements

There are two ways for a student to earn a B.A. degree through the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry: (1) as a chemistry major, or (2) as a biochemistry major.

An honors program is available to chemistry and biochemistry students and there is a program for American Chemical Society certification of graduating chemistry majors. Below you can find information about these degrees and special programs.

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    Advising

    All majors are expected to schedule regular appointments with the departmental academic advisors. For more information please look at the Undergraduate Advising page.

    Chemistry Major Requirements

    • General Chemistry
      • One of the following General Chemistry Courses:
        • CHEM 1251 and 1271 - General Chemistry 1 and 2 for Chemistry Majors
        • CHEM 1113/1114 and CHEM 1133/1134 - General Chemistry 1/Lab and 2/Lab
      • noteIcon Note: Students who transfer to Arts & Sciences after having taken General Chemistry for Engineers, CHEN 1211 and CHEM 1221 are required to take CHEM 1271 or CHEM 1133/1134 (CHEM 1131) to complete their general chemistry requirement. CHEN 1211 and CHEM 1221 are equivalent to CHEM 1113/1114 (CHEM 1111) only.
    • Organic Chemistry
      • One of the following Organic Chemistry Lectures:
        • CHEM 3351 and CHEM 3371
        • CHEM 3311 and CHEM 3331
        Required Lab:
        • CHEM 3361 and CHEM 3381

      Physical Chemistry
      • One of the following Physical Chemistry Lectures:
        • CHEM 4511 and CHEM 4531
        • CHEM 4411 and CHEM 4431
        Required Lab:
        • CHEM 4581 and CHEM 4591
        noteIcon Note: PHYS 1120 is a corequisite and MATH 2400 a prerequisite for CHEM 4511 or 4411. If in doubt about the selection of alternates, consult an advisor for course perspectives. CHEM 4521 or CHEN 4521 can not be used to satisfy the major’s physical chemistry requirement.
        • Analytical Chemistry
          • Both of the following Analytical Chemistry Courses are required:
            • CHEM 4171 - Instrumental Analysis
            • CHEM 4181 - Instrumental Analysis Lab with Environmental Emphasis
            noteIcon Note: CHEM 3331 or 3371 is a prerequisite. CHEM 4171 is taught in the fall semester and CHEM 4181 is taught in the spring semester. CHEM 4171 is a prerequisite for CHEM 4181.
        • Inorganic Chemistry
          • The following Inorganic Chemistry Lecture:
            • CHEM 4011
          • noteIcon Note: CHEM CHEM 4431, 4531 or 4521 is a prerequisite or co-requisite. CHEM 4011 is taught in the fall semester only.

          Calculus
          • One of the following calculus series are required:
            • MATH 1300, 2300, 2400
            • APPM 1350, 1360, 2350
            noteIcon Note: Students need MATH 1150, or a strong high school math background in algebra and trigonometry to start either of these sequences.
            Physics
            • The following physics sequence is required:
              • PHYS 1110, 1120, 1140
              noteIcon Note: A student who has taken PHYS 2010 and 2020, courses not requiring calculus, must make up the deficiency by completing PHYS 2130. Chemistry majors should consider Calculus I (MATH 1300) as a prerequisite and Calculus II (MATH 2300) as a corequisite for PHYS 1110.
          • Recommended Electives
            • CHEM 3251 - Sustainable Energy from a Chemistry Perspective
            • CHEM 4021 - Inorganic Synthesis Lab
            • CHEM 4251 - Materials Chemistry
            • CHEM 4261 - Organic Materials
            • CHEM 4271 - Chemistry of Solar Energy
            • CHEM 4611 - Survey of Biochemistry
            • CHEM 4711, 4731 - Biochemistry 1 and 2
            • CHEM 4901 - Indepedent Study
            • Graduate CHEM courses
            • noteIcon Note: Various advanced math and other science courses may also be helpful. All students intending to enter graduate school in chemistry or biochemistry are advised to take additional advanced classes. Independent study (CHEM 4901) is especially recommended
            Arts & Sciences Core Curriculum

          Biochemistry Major Requirements

          • General Chemistry
            • One of the following General Chemistry Courses:
              • CHEM 1251 and 1271 - General Chemistry 1 and 2 for Chemistry Majors
              • CHEM 1113/1114 and CHEM 1133/1134 - General Chemistry 1/Lab and 2/Lab
            • noteIcon Note: Students who transfer to Arts & Sciences after having taken General Chemistry for Engineers, CHEN 1211 and CHEM 1221 are required to take CHEM 1271 or CHEM 1133/1134 (CHEM 1131) to complete their general chemistry requirement. CHEN 1211 and CHEM 1221 are equivalent to CHEM 1113/1114 (CHEM 1111) only
          • Organic Chemistry
            • One of the following Organic Chemistry Lectures:
              • CHEM 3351 and CHEM 3371
              • CHEM 3311 and CHEM 3331
              One of the following lab sequences:
              • CHEM 3321 and CHEM 3341
                CHEM 3361 and CHEM 3381
            • noteIcon Note: Organic lecture and lab must be taken together. CHEM 3361-3381 provides more lab hours and a better laboratory experience. Students who have not yet decided whether to major in chemistry or in biochemistry should take CHEM 3361/3381 rather than CHEM 3321/3341
            Biochemistry
            • Lecture:
              • CHEM 4711 and CHEM 4731
              Required Lab:
              • CHEM 4761 (4 Credit Hours)
              noteIcon Note: Survey of Biochemistry, CHEM 4611, can not be used to satisfy this requirement.
                Physical Chemistry
                • One of the following Physical Chemistry Lectures:
                  • CHEM 4411 and CHEM 4431
                  • CHEM 4511 and CHEM 4531
                  noteIcon Note: PHYS 1120 is a corequisite and MATH 2400 a prerequisite for CHEM 4511 or 4411. If in doubt about the selection of alternates, consult an advisor for course perspectives. CHEM 4521 or CHEN 4521 can not be used to satisfy the major’s physical chemistry requirement.
                  • Calculus
                    • One of the following calculus series are required (or a combination of these sequences):
                      • MATH 1300, 2300, 2400
                      • APPM 1350, 1360, 2350
                      noteIcon Note: Students need MATH 1150, or a strong high school math background in algebra and trigonometry to start either of these sequences.
                      Physics
                      • The following physics sequence is required:
                        • PHYS 1110, 1120, 1140
                        noteIcon Note: A student who has taken PHYS 2010 and 2020, courses not requiring calculus, must make up the deficiency by completing PHYS 2130. Biochemistry majors should consider Calculus I (MATH 1300) as a prerequisite and Calculus II (MATH 2300) as a corequisite for PHYS 1110.
                      Biology
                      • At least 11 credit hours of biology including:
                        • A two-semester introductory biology sequence with laboratory. This may include:
                          • MCDB 1150/1151 and MCDB 2150/2151
                          • EBIO 1210/1230 and EBIO 1220/1240
                        • Additional advanced course, to total a minumum of 11 credits, chosen from the following:
                          • MCDB 2150/2151 - Principles of Gentics and Lab - For students who did not take these as part of the introductory sequence
                          • EBIO 2070 - Genetics
                          • MCDB 3120 - Cell Biology
                          • MCDB 3135 - Molecular Cell Biology 1
                          • EBIO 3400 - Microbiology
                          • MCDB 3500 - Molecular Biology
                          • IPHY 3430 - Human Physiology
                            EBIO 4530
                            - Functional Plant Biolgy
                        noteIcon Note: It may be an advantage to take an upper-division (3000 level) course to satisfy requirement (B) in order to help meet the College requirement of 45 semester hours of upper-division course work for the BA degree. MCDB 3120 and 3500 will no longer be taught after spring 2010. Students may then take MCDB 3135 to satisfy the advanced biology requirement.
                      • Recommended Electives
                        • CHEM 4011 - Inorganic Chemistry
                        • CHEM 4171 and CHEM 4181 - Analytical Chemistry
                        • CHEM  4621 - Genome Databases
                        • CHEM 4751 - Current Topics in Biochemical Research
                        • CHEM 4791 - Bioorganic Chemistry in Biotechnology
                        • CHEM 4901 - Independent Study
                        • See also the list of elective courses listed under the chemistry major.
                        • Graduate CHEM courses
                        • noteIcon Note: Various advanced biology courses may also be helpful. Students should consult a department advisor about the choice of electives. All students intending to enter graduate school in chemistry or biochemistry are advised to take additional advanced classes. Independent study (CHEM 4901) is especially recommended
                        Arts & Sciences Core Curriculum

                       

                      Minimum standards

                      Grades

                      The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry will not accept any grades below C- among the required CHEM courses. At most one D or D+ among all the required ancillary courses, i.e. in required math, physics, and biology courses, may be considered for acceptance. Students should however be warned that a C- is many times the required prerequisite for enrollment. Grades of D- or F are not acceptable under any circumstances to fulfill major or ancillary requirements. In addition, the College of Arts & Sciences requires at least 30 hours of C- or better in the major and requires an average GPA of 2.00 or higher in all classes attempted in the major department. Any student who gets below a C- in a required course is encouraged to repeat the course to learn the material better, even if the grade could be counted.

                      Credit Hours

                      Students who do all their major courses at CU Boulder will more than meet the College requirements for the minimum total (30 credits) and upper division (18 credits) hours in the major.

                      ACS Certified Degree

                      The American Chemical Society maintains a certification program in which a student graduating with a specified minimum program is certified to the society upon graduation.

                      Chemistry and Biochemistry double majors automatically earn an ACS certified degree; no additional coursework past the courses required for these two majors is required.  To be certified, a student majoring in Chemistry must satisfy requirements in addition to the minimum for graduation.

                      An American Chemical Society certified degree adds the following requirements to the chemistry major:

                      Course Name Hours
                      CHEM 4021 Inorganic Lab 3
                      CHEM 4611 or CHEM 4711 Biochemistry 3
                      4000 level or above science or math elective   3

                       

                      The other course can be a 4000 or 5000 level course in chemistry or related fields: molecular biology, chemical engineering, computing science, geochemistry, mathematics, or physics. Independent Study (CHEM 4901) will count as an advanced course for this purpose if (a) it is preceded by at least one semester of physical chemistry, and (b) if the student prepares a well-written summery describing his or her work. The student should submit a copy of the summary to their undergraduate advisor.

                      The formality of A.C.S. certification is of most value to students intending to find jobs in chemical industry. This certification has less significance for students entering graduate studies in chemistry and the biological, biochemical, or health science fields. To meet the certification criteria, the ACS requires a more thorough background in undergraduate chemistry than that provided by the minimum requirements for the B.A. Chemistry degree at CU. Students should recognize that a thorough preparation in chemistry is of value to all students, whatever their future plans. Students at CU Boulder, have many options for advanced study beyond the minimum requirements.

                      AP, IB and Transfer Coursework

                      AP, ADVANCED PLACEMENT IN CHEMISTRY

                      The following will be allowed for advanced placement in chemistry. Score of 5: 10 hours credit in general chemistry; students may register for CHEM 3311 or 3351. Score of 4: 5 hours credit in general chemistry; student may register for CHEM 1133/1134 (CHEM 1131) or 1271. Students should consult a departmental advisor before registering for organic chemistry or a second semester general chemistry course.

                      IB, INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE IN CHEMISTRY

                      The following will be allowed for IB-higher in chemistry. Score of 5: 10 hours credit in general chemistry; student may register for CHEM 3311 or 3351. Score of 4: 5 hours credit in general chemistry; students may register for CHEM 1133/1134 (CHEM 1131) or 1271. Students should consult a departmental advisor before registering organic chemistry or for a second semester general chemistry course.

                      Transfer Credits

                      Students may transfer courses in chemistry that are equivalent to courses given at CU Boulder but carry fewer credit hours. They must take sufficient courses in chemistry so that the total credits for graduation is at least 30. An advisor should be consulted regarding this type of deficiency.

                      Transfer Students

                      Transfer students should note that the College of Arts & Sciences requires at least 18 hours of upper-division credits in the major. Lower division courses at other institutions will transfer as lower division credit, even if the corresponding CU Boulder courses are upper division. For example, organic chemistry taken at a community college or as lower division at a four-year college will only carry lower division credit if it is accepted by the department to satisfy CHEM 3311, 3321, 3331, and 3341. A chemistry or biochemistry major with such transfer credit will need to take additional upper division chemistry courses to complete the required 18 hours in the major and 45 upper division hours.

                      Transfer students who plan to complete a B.A. degree in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department must complete at the Boulder campus a minimum of 12 credit hours of upper-division courses in chemistry covering at least 2 of the sub-disciplines in their major. The sub-disciplines for a chemistry major are organic, physical, inorganic, and analytical. The sub-disciplines for a biochemistry major are organic, physical, and biochemistry. Course work to satisfy this minimum requirement may NOT include CHEM 4901 and must be completed after matriculation into the College of Arts and Sciences.

                      Suggestions for Undergraduate Majors

                      Undergraduate majors in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department must plan their courses carefully since there are specific prerequisites for advanced courses that must be completed in an orderly sequence during the freshman through the junior years. In addition, the College of Arts & Science Core curriculum must be worked into the schedule. Suggestions for majors include:

                      • Math should be started the first year and continued without a break through Calculus III.
                      • Math courses are a serious hurdle for many chemistry and biochemistry majors. It is much better to start Pre-Calculus Math 1150, doing a fair bit of review work, and earn A's or B's than to try Calculus l, (MATH 1300 or APPM 1350) and receive a D or F. Even students that have some calculus in high school may have difficulty with MATH 1300 if their algebra, geometry, and trig background are weak. When chemistry or biochemistry students fail to achieve a good grade record their first year at CU Boulder it is most commonly due to a weak math background.
                      • General Chemistry should be taken the first year, and should take precedence over general biology if biology is also required in the student's course work.
                      • Students are very strongly advised against taking General Physics 1 until they have completed Calculus 1, and preferably both Calculus 1 and Calculus 2.
                      • Most first year students should take no more than 16 hours per semester and preferably less. Students who are working may want to consider taking even fewer hours per semester. Taking 16 hrs/sem while working more than 20 hrs/week is likely to hurt academic performance.
                      • Quality is better than quantity. Thus, undergraduates who complete a degree with a grade point average greater than 3.4 will have many job and graduate school opportunities even though they may have taken only 12-14 hours each semester. Whereas students who take 18-22 hours each semester, with a G.P.A. less than 3.0 while working 10 hrs/week, will find few or no graduate school openings. Students, who must work outside of school, should consider taking a lighter course load.
                      • University study requires an intensive effort on a student's part for at least nine months a year. Students should therefore use their summers wisely. Summer may be a good time to catch up on coursework or credits; many required and elective courses are taught during summer school. On the other hand, many students find it advantageous to have a change of pace during the summer, and many need to earn some money. A chemistry-related job can be a great experience. Some large and small chemical or health-related companies hire undergraduates during summers. Career Services can be helpful in locating a suitable position. Some schools around the country have undergraduate research participation programs open to outside students. CU Boulder offers the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and the Biosciences Undergraduate Research Skills and Training (BURST) program to a limited number of students.
                      • When planning curriculum, students should choose the best goal and pursue it aggressively, even though it may not be what is eventually pursed. When a better goal is found, change, and enthusiastically pursue the new goal. Do not do a halfway job of pursuing a goal because it may not be the correct one in the long run. Students should always keep their minds open for new/better goals and courses.
                      • CHEM 4011 (Inorganic Chemistry), CHEM 4171 (Instrumental Analysis) and CHEM 4181 (Instrumental Analysis lab) are required courses for chemistry majors. They are each taught only once a year. CHEM 4011 and 4171 are taught in the Fall and CHEM 4181 is taught in the Spring semester. The majors organic chemistry courses are also only taught once a year. Plan ahead for these courses. The elective course CHEM 4021 (Inorganic Synthesis Lab) is also taught only in the Spring semester. Most graduate courses are taught once a year, with a few taught every other year.
                      • Students taking biology should realize that EBIO 1210/1230 are taught only in the Fall semester, and the second-semester biology courses, EBIO 1220/1240, are taught only in the Spring. The EBIO sequence is also taught during the summer. MCDB 1150/1151 is taught in the fall only and MCDB 2150/2151 is taught in both the fall and the spring. The MCDB sequence is not taught in the summer.