Bachelor of Science
Certificate in Science
Graduate Diploma in Science
Bachelor of Science with Honours
Postgraduate Diploma in Science
Master of Science
Doctor of Philosophy


‌Chemistry is the central science. It deals with the composition, structure and behaviour of the atoms and molecules that make up all forms of matter. Understanding the world at an atomic level is essential to all areas of science. Chemistry interlinks and contributes to medicine, geology, materials science, molecular physics, biology and astronomy.

Its central role in science is emphasised by the fact that Chemistry merges with Biological Sciences (the field of biochemistry) at one extreme and with Physics (physical chemistry and chemical physics) at the other.

Chemistry propels advances in modern society and has an important role to play in solving major global challenges such as energy sustainability, food supply, health and the environment. Every day we utilise products developed by experimental chemists such as plastics, fabrics, petrol and pharmaceuticals.

Why study Chemistry at UC?

The Department of Chemistry at UC carries out research, teaching and scholarship in all of the traditional areas of the discipline – inorganic, organic, physical, theoretical, environmental and analytical chemistry. The department is also involved with the teaching of Biochemistry and provides service courses for engineers, biologists and foresters.

The Department of Chemistry is equipped with excellent facilities both in undergraduate laboratories and for research work. Research activities in the department include investigations into such diverse topics as chemical biology, synthesis, supramolecular chemistry, theoretical and computational chemistry, surface and electrochemistry, trace elements in the environment, nanotechnology and new materials.

Year 13 chemistry is recommended preparation for first-year students, but for those who have had minimal preparation in chemistry, we offer CHEM114 Foundations of Chemistry, an introductory Chemistry course.

Students enrolling in CHEM111 Chemical Principles and Processes and CHEM112 Structure and Reactivity in Chemistry and Biochemistry must have at least 14 credits in NCEA Level 3 chemistry, or an equivalent background in other courses of study (eg, IB, Cambridge or overseas qualifications). Students with less than this standard should first enrol in CHEM114 Foundations of Chemistry.

Students can also enrol in the Headstart chemistry summer preparatory course to build confidence in the basic concepts required for advancing first-year courses.

Students with outstanding results in NCEA Level 3 (or IB/Cambridge equivalent) and/or Scholarship may be invited to enter directly into second-year courses.


See all Chemistry courses

100-level courses

For most Science students core first-year Chemistry consists of two half-year courses:

These build on, and expand, the basic framework provided by Year 12 and Year 13 chemistry. They provide a background for advanced courses in Chemistry and for courses in Engineering, Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Environmental Science, Geology and Forestry

To major in Chemistry and have access to the full range of second-year Chemistry courses, students must pass both CHEM111 and CHEM112. Those who have passed just one of these may only be able to enter some 200-level CHEM courses.

All 100-level courses involve fortnightly three-hour laboratory sessions that provide an opportunity to work with chemicals, to better understand course material from lectures and to acquire some of the basic practical skills of the working chemist. Additionally, two-hour workshops are dedicated to working through problems and questions on the course material.

200-level and beyond

200-level Chemistry courses develop and expand on the first-year material and give a deeper treatment of specialised areas such as organic and inorganic reactions, structural methods, and physical, environmental and analytical chemistry.

300-level courses build upon the practical and theoretical foundations established in the first two years to give students the ability to work with and understand the chemistry of complex systems and molecules. These courses emphasise the place of chemistry in the modern world and provide for the use of modern chemical instrumentation and analytical methods.

Bachelor of Science with Honours

Students who are high achievers (B+ average and above) in their 300-level majoring subject may enrol in a Bachelor of Science with Honours. This involves an additional fourth year of study, which includes a research project. 

Students that gain direct entry into second-year courses from secondary school have the opportunity to complete a Bachelor of Science with Honours in three years.

Career opportunities

New Zealand's unique mix of primary and secondary industries provides a wide choice of careers in chemistry. Expanding industries in New Zealand, for example those related to new sources of energy and to the development of forestry and dairy resources, are further increasing the demand for qualified chemists.

New Zealand needs chemists in teaching, industry, health and research. 

  • Chemists are key members of developmental teams in the pharmaceutical industry. 
  • Industry uses chemists in such areas as research and development of new products, monitoring product composition and quality, and environmental monitoring and regulation.
  • Hospitals and other health services employ chemists in areas such as biochemical research, medical analysis and toxicology.
  • A degree in Chemistry is a good start to a teaching career with its emphasis on laboratory work and its relevance to other sciences.
  • The majority of chemical research in New Zealand is done in universities, Crown Research Institutes and private laboratories. These institutions provide chemical challenges equal to any in the world.

Chemists are well trained in problem-solving and skilled at handling information, which leads naturally into a wide diversity of job opportunities including, for example, sales and management.

Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Chemistry.

More information

Department of Chemistry

Phone +64 3 369 3100

Physical location
See the Department's website for up-to-date location details.

Postal address
College of Science | Te Rāngai Pūtaiao
University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand

Sandra atkinson

Sandra Atkinson

'Chemistry is definitely a worthwhile field to get involved in...'

Lauren Bolz

Lauren Bolz

'I knew it would give me the kind of experience that I would talk about for the rest of my life...'