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Study Chemistry at Otago

Making, measuring, understanding.

Chemistry is so much a part of our lives, sometimes we don’t even notice it. It’s at the heart of cooking and eating, breathing and seeing, the clothes we wear and the materials we use to construct our environment.

While studying Chemistry at Otago, you’ll look at how chemicals interact with each other, with light, and with the environment; how to synthesise novel materials and measure trace amounts of pollutants. Research interests in the Department of Chemistry include nanotechnology and marine chemistry, the development of smart polymers and anti-cancer drugs. Chemistry enables change in our world – in medicine, technology and the environment. Study Chemistry at Otago, and be part of it!

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Why study Chemistry?

Chemistry is the science of matter; it's so fundamental it's been called the central science. Studying Chemistry will help you develop an understanding of how the universe works. You'll learn how to synthesise new chemicals that could have a profound effect on people's lives. You could assist with the discovery of new drugs, agrochemicals, catalysts and sources of energy, and gain a highly transportable and internationally recognised qualification in Chemistry. Studying Chemistry at Otago means you'll acquire problem-solving skills within a chemical framework.

Career opportunities

Careers involving chemistry are hugely varied and there's been a shortage of chemistry graduates in New Zealand in recent years.

Qualified chemists work in industries involving chemicals, plastics, pharmaceuticals, food, textiles and timber. These positions include areas such as research and development, quality control, marketing, sales and management. Chemists also play leading roles in agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, water quality control, and in chemical, biochemical or medical research units. They are also sought after in central and local government agencies, to work on projects such as pollution monitoring, water purification and forensic work solving criminal cases.

Recent changes in environmental and occupational health and safety legislation have also resulted in jobs for chemistry graduates, both in the public sector and industry. Chemistry graduates are in continual demand for commerce-related positions, because employers recognise that people with a background in chemistry have been well trained to handle information and deal with complex concepts. These are qualities relevant throughout the workforce, in areas as diverse as  finance, law, politics and sales. And there is ongoing demand for secondary science and chemistry teachers throughout New Zealand.

Chemistry at Otago

What will I study?

At 100-level

At least one of the following:

  • CHEM 111 Chemistry: Molecular Architecture
    This course focuses on atoms and molecules – the way they are put together and the way they interact with each other. You'll learn about modern methods of determining molecular structure and shape, and explore the relationship between molecular interactions and the properties of materials. As well as the theory, you will conduct practical experiments during laboratory sessions.
  • CHEM 191 The Chemical Basis for Biology and Human Health
    An introduction to the concepts of chemistry – underlying important processes in biology and human health, including energetics, kinetics, redox, equilibria and solubility, acids/base chemistry, sterochemistry and the organic chemistry of carbohydrates, amino acids and DNA.

At 200-level

You will expand your knowledge in areas including physical, organic, inorganic, biological and analytical Chemistry.

At 300-level

You'll hone your expertise even further, learning modern techniques of chemical synthesis and analysis, and be involved in basic research in an area of particular interest.

By the end of your Chemistry degree, you will have a sound understanding of a wide variety of chemical processes and extensive research, analysis and practical skills.

Background required

To enter Otago's Chemistry programme, you should ideally have studied Chemistry to Year 13 level. Mathematics and Physics at Year 12 or 13 would also be helpful. If you haven't studied chemistry to the appropriate level, or you think your grades are not good enough, we offer two further options:

CHEM 150 Concepts in Chemistry: A six-week paper taught as part of the University's Summer School. The first four weeks are distance-taught and the last two are on campus in Dunedin. This course is designed for students with fewer than 14 Chemistry credits at Level 2.

Introductory Chemistry: A distance-taught programme for those with little or no chemistry background. This can be studied at any time throughout the year and students can take as long as they need to complete it.


Chemistry as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree


Five CHEM papers, including at least one at 300-level (excluding CHEM 150 and CHEM 390).


CHEM papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
CHEM111 2024 Chemistry: Molecular Architecture 18 Semester 2
CHEM150 2024 Concepts in Chemistry 18 Summer School
CHEM191 2024 The Chemical Basis of Biology and Human Health 18 Semester 1, Summer School
CHEM201 2024 Physical Chemistry and its Applications 18 Semester 2
CHEM202 2024 Organic Chemistry 18 Semester 1
CHEM203 2024 Main Group and Coordination Chemistry 18 Semester 2
CHEM205 2024 Biological Chemistry 18 Semester 2
CHEM206 2024 Analytical Chemistry 18 Semester 1
CHEM301 2024 Physical Chemistry 18 Semester 1
CHEM302 2024 Organic Chemistry 18 Semester 2
CHEM303 2024 Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry 18 Semester 1
CHEM305 2024 Biological Chemistry 18 Semester 1
CHEM306 2024 Analytical Chemistry 2 18 Semester 2
CHEM371 2024 Special Topic: Chemistry Research Project 18 Not offered in 2024
CHEM390 2024 Introduction to Independent Research and Methods 18 Full Year
CHEM461 2024 Topics in Advanced Chemistry 20 Full Year
CHEM462 2024 Topics in Advanced Chemistry 20 Full Year
CHEM463 2024 Topics in Advanced Chemistry 20 Full Year
CHEM464 2024 Topics in Advanced Chemistry 20 Full Year
CHEM480 2024 Research Project 40 Full Year
CHEM490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year
CHEM495 2024 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 Full Year

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Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

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