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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!

Apply for the Bachelor of Science (BSc) (2023 applications) through the Dunedin campus in 2023

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Apply for the Bachelor of Science (BSc) (2024 applications) through the Dunedin campus in 2024

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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.

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.

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.


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Chemistry

Level Papers Points

See below.


At least five 100- or 200-level CHEM papers, excluding CHEM 150. (Both CHEM 111 and CHEM 191 strongly recommended.)



Four of:
CHEM 301  Physical Chemistry
CHEM 302  Organic Chemistry
CHEM 303  Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry
CHEM 305  Biological Chemistry
CHEM 306  Analytical Chemistry 2
CHEM 371  Special Topic
CHEM 390  Introduction to Independent Research and Methods

With Head of Department approval other paper(s) may be substituted for one 300-level CHEM paper



198 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Science


Total   360

Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons)) in Chemistry

  • CHEM 490  Dissertation

  • CHEM 461  Topics in Advanced Chemistry

  • CHEM 462  Topics in Advanced Chemistry

  • CHEM 463  Topics in Advanced Chemistry

    Prerequisites: at least five 300-level papers including at least four of CHEM 301, CHEM 302, CHEM 303, CHEM 305, CHEM 306.

Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) in Chemistry

  • CHEM 480  Research Project

  • Four of:

    • CHEM 461  Topics in Advanced Chemistry
    • CHEM 462  Topics in Advanced Chemistry
    • CHEM 463  Topics in Advanced Chemistry
    • CHEM 464  Topics in Advanced Chemistry
    • HAZA 401  Management of Chemical Hazards

Master of Science (MSc) in Chemistry

Papers and Thesis
  • CHEM 495  Master's Thesis Preparation

  • Four of:
  • Thesis: CHEM 5

    Note: The papers are normally taken before undertaking the thesis.

Minor subject requirements

Chemistry as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, 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 Applied Science (BAppSc), 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

Papers Points

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



Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
CHEM111 2023 Chemistry: Molecular Architecture 18 points Semester 2
CHEM150 2023 Concepts in Chemistry 18 points Summer School
CHEM191 2023 The Chemical Basis of Biology and Human Health 18 points Semester 1, Summer School
CHEM201 2023 Physical Chemistry and its Applications 18 points Semester 2
CHEM202 2023 Organic Chemistry 18 points Semester 1
CHEM203 2023 Main Group and Coordination Chemistry 18 points Semester 2
CHEM205 2023 Biological Chemistry 18 points Semester 2
CHEM206 2023 Analytical Chemistry 18 points Semester 1
CHEM301 2023 Physical Chemistry 18 points Semester 1
CHEM302 2023 Organic Chemistry 18 points Semester 2
CHEM303 2023 Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry 18 points Semester 1
CHEM305 2023 Biological Chemistry 18 points Semester 1
CHEM306 2023 Analytical Chemistry 2 18 points Semester 2
CHEM371 2023 Special Topic: Chemistry Research Project 18 points Not offered in 2023
CHEM390 2023 Introduction to Independent Research and Methods 18 points Full Year
CHEM461 2023 Topics in Advanced Chemistry 20 points Full Year
CHEM462 2023 Topics in Advanced Chemistry 20 points Full Year
CHEM463 2023 Topics in Advanced Chemistry 20 points Full Year
CHEM464 2023 Topics in Advanced Chemistry 20 points Full Year
CHEM480 2023 Research Project 40 points Full Year
CHEM490 2023 Dissertation 60 points Full Year
CHEM495 2023 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 points Full Year

Key information for future students

Contact us

Department of Chemistry