Chemists are responsible for life-saving medications as well as the cleaner that finally cleans your stove top. They help create building materials and study changes in the ozone layer. They perform important research that impacts nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives. Before they can start saving the world, chemists have to complete their education, which usually involves finishing a Ph.D. How long it will take to finish the Ph.D. depends on a lot of variables, but the average time is five to six years.

Advantages of a Ph.D.

A doctoral degree opens the door to many career opportunities. With it, you can teach at the university level and can conduct research. You can teach at a community college with just a master's degree, but a Ph.D. will make you more competitive for those teaching jobs. Earning a Ph.D. can increase your earnings potential in many positions.


The coursework for a Ph.D. program in chemistry takes about two years to complete. Each program includes a fixed number of required credit hours. Coursework may include classes like polymer chemistry, organic chemistry, spectrochemical analysis, and spectroscopy. Coursework creates a foundation for advanced knowledge of chemistry and research methodology. In some cases, coursework may be accelerated, though this may not necessarily accelerate the time to graduation.

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Dissertation and Research

Completing the dissertation, which includes original research, takes up the majority of the time for finishing the Ph.D. Students usually finish the degree in five to six years, but some students take seven, eight, or nine years to finish. With scientific research, there is more uncertainty in the timeline. When experiments do not go as expected, it can set back the progress of the dissertation significantly.

Written and Oral Exams

The final step to completing a Ph.D. in chemistry is the passage of written and oral exams. These tests measure the student's knowledge of the subject material and the ability to think critically and apply proper research methodology. The number of written examinations vary according to the program, but students may have to take several. Oral exams usually involve defending the dissertation project and answering questions about the research.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.