Chemistry Major

Requirements for the Chemistry Major

We invite any student who plans to take chemistry courses to consult one or more members of the Chemistry Department faculty. The department website ( contains specific suggestions about how to structure academic programs and deals with a variety of topics including preparation in mathematics and physics, graduate programs, and careers of former majors.

The major consists of the following courses:

Additionally, the following courses outside of the Chemistry Department are required for the major:

We recommend that students consult with their major advisors about whether additional coursework in chemistry or other related areas would be useful to support particular career or graduate study plans. More information on careers in chemistry and graduate school requirements can be found on the Chemistry Department website.

Early completion of the mathematics and physics requirements is strongly encouraged. Students may satisfy the physics requirements by passing the exemption exam given by the Physics Department for the relevant course(s). Students planning a major or minor in physics or mathematics should consult with those departments to understand how course requirements for those majors are impacted by the chemistry requirements in math and physics.

Normally no more than three courses of chemistry taken at another institution may be counted toward the major.

Students interested in the interdepartmental major in Biochemistry are referred to the section of the catalog where that major is described. They should also consult with the director of the Biochemistry program.

Students interested in the interdepartmental major in Chemical Physics are referred to the section of the catalog where that major is described. They should also consult with a faculty member involved in that program.

Independent Research in Chemistry

The chemistry major requires one semester or summer of research. The research requirement for the chemistry major can be fulfilled in the following ways. Paid research experiences or internships can count for this requirement.

1. Research at Wellesley: On-campus research projects can be supervised by a member of the Wellesley College Chemistry Department or other Wellesley faculty performing research that considers systems on the molecular level or builds in some manner upon coursework in the major. This on-campus research could involve one of the following: 

a. Independent Study in Chemistry, equivalent of 1.0 units total of CHEM 250, CHEM 250H, CHEM 350 or CHEM 350H.  

b. Thesis in Chemistry, CHEM 355 & CHEM 365 or CHEM 360 & CHEM 370. Off-campus theses require active involvement by a Wellesley faculty member throughout the research period.

c. Participation in the Wellesley Summer Research Program.

d. Other research equivalent to at least 10 hours per week for one semester, including experiences such as the Sophomore Early Research Program.

2. Research off-campus: A student may participate in an approved off-campus research program during the academic year (at least 10 hours per week minimum for one semester) or an approved summer research program (normally eight weeks minimum length). Students electing to use an off-campus research experience to fulfill the research requirement must have the research project approved by a faculty member in the Chemistry Department. Off-campus research may be performed at an academic institution, a government lab or in the private sector.

In all cases, in order to fulfill the research requirement for the major the student must complete a paper of at least 8-10 pages on the research and give an approved presentation on campus. The paper must contain substantial literature references, demonstrating a familiarity with searching the chemical literature. A copy of the paper must be submitted to the chair of the Chemistry Department.

Honors in Chemistry

The only route to honors in the major is writing a thesis and passing an oral examination (CHEM 360 and CHEM 370). To be admitted to the thesis program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level. Students with a GPA below the cut-off should register for CHEM 355. If that course is completed successfully, the department may petition on the student's behalf if her GPA in the major is between 3.3 and 3.5. See Academic Distinctions.


Students typically begin their study of chemistry in CHEM 105, CHEM 105P, CHEM 116 (BISC 116), or CHEM 120, according to their previous preparation. Students who have taken one year of high school chemistry should elect CHEM 105, CHEM 105P, or CHEM 116 followed by either CHEM 205 or CHEM 211. Students with a 4 or 5 on the Chemistry AP exam (or C or better on the A-level or 5 or higher on the higher level IB exam) typically elect CHEM 120. They may elect CHEM 211 if they demonstrate sufficient mastery of material from CHEM 120. Additional information on choosing a first chemistry course can be found on our departmental website:

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Credit in Chemistry

Students who score 4 or 5 on the AP exam or 5 or higher on the IB higher level examination who complete CHEM 120 may count one unit of AP or IB course credit toward graduation.

Transfer Credit in Chemistry

Transfer students wishing to obtain credit for chemistry courses taken prior to enrollment at Wellesley should consult the chair of the department as soon as possible. 

All other enrolled Wellesley students must obtain prior approval from the chair of the department via the Wellesley College Registrar’s Office in order to obtain Wellesley credit for any chemistry course taken at another institution during the summer or the academic year. Students, especially those taking chemistry courses abroad, may be required to contact the course professor to obtain specific details about the course because the online course description may be insufficient to make an informed decision. In general, courses from two-year colleges taken as part of a high school program or after enrollment at Wellesley will not be accepted.

Withdrawal from Courses with Laboratory in Chemistry

Students who withdraw from a course that includes laboratory and then elect that course in another semester must complete both the lecture and laboratory portions of the course the second time.

American Chemical Society Accreditation

The American Chemical Society has established a set of requirements in various areas that it considers essential for the training of undergraduate chemists. Students wishing to be officially accredited by our professional society should consult the chair of the department.

Teacher Certification in Chemistry

The Chemistry Department strongly supports our students who are interested in obtaining certification to teach chemistry in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or elsewhere. We encourage students to consult jointly with us and the chair of the education department to determine the best undergraduate preparation for that goal.