PhD in Synthetic Chemistry

Get details about how you can obtain training in synthetic chemistry through general chemistry programs. Learn the requirements to earn a doctoral degree, common courses you will take, and explore employment opportunities.

Can I Earn a Ph.D. in Synthetic Chemistry?

While there are no Ph.D. programs specifically in synthetic chemistry, there are plenty of programs in general chemistry. Additionally, doctoral programs typically allow you to choose a narrow focus for your studies, which might include synthetic chemistry. Due to required laboratory training and face-to-face interaction with faculty members, chemistry Ph.D. programs are primarily campus-based.

Other specializations may be available in addition to synthetic chemistry, like organic, inorganic or physical chemistry. Many programs incorporate training in other scientific disciplines as well, such as biology, environmental science and materials science. Chemistry Ph.D. programs can take between 3 and 7 years to complete.

Degree Option General chemistry, campus-based program
Degree Components Thesis advisor, dissertation, exams, dissertation defense
Common Courses Statistical thermodynamics, computational chemistry, research methods
Job Outlook6% growth expected in the 2016-2026 decade and a median salary of $76,890 (for chemists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the General Structure of the Program?

You are typically required to select a thesis advisor within the first two years of the program. Your thesis advisor directs your research and may help oversee independent projects as well as your dissertation. At the end of the second year, many programs will expect you to take a cumulative or comprehensive exam. Upon completing the exam, you may be awarded a master's degree as well as official candidacy for a doctorate.

The third year is typically when you'll begin work on your dissertation - an original research paper that contributes to the body of published knowledge in your chosen chemistry field. You'll be expected to present and defend the findings of your dissertation before a committee of faculty members.

What Kinds of Courses Can I Take?

Courses in this program combine theoretical and hands-on training. Some courses might take place in a laboratory or have a lab component. Other courses, like those in nanotechnology, may require the use of expensive equipment or advanced computer software. Additional courses could include:

  • Statistical thermodynamics
  • Chemical information sources
  • Laboratory and research methodologies
  • Crystal structure analysis
  • Computational chemistry
  • Microanalysis for chemists

Will I Be Able to Get a Job Afterward?

A doctoral degree in chemistry might prepare you for a career in academia as a professor and researcher. You could also be prepared to work as a research chemist for a chemical manufacturing or research and development firm.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the number of employed postsecondary teachers would increase by 15% between 2016 and 2026 ( During the same time period, the number of employed chemists was expected to rise by six percent - much slower than the average growth rate for all occupations. Postsecondary chemistry teachers earned a median annual wage of $79,550 in 2018, as reported by the BLS. During the same year, chemists made a median annual salary of $76,890.