If you are a student planning to enter high school in the fall, you are likely wondering what your curriculum will look like. Students who do not intend to pursue a career in the physical sciences may wonder, "Why is chemistry taught in high school?" However, whether you love science or hate it, chemistry – at least a basic form of it – is part of the curriculum at most American high schools.
Most schools require that students complete a class in chemistry, though not all schools have this requirement.
Do I Need to Take Chemistry in High School?
In general, almost all schools require that students spend time studying science. This requirement may be divided into different sections. For example, students may be required to take a science course every year. Other schools only require science courses to be taken over the course of four semesters.
While every school's curriculum layout is different, every school also has different requirements for the type of sciences students have to study. Is chemistry required for high school graduation? Perhaps. Almost every public school in the United States requires that students study physical science as well as biological science. Physical science includes subjects like chemistry, physics and geology, whereas natural science refers to disciplines like biology.
In states like California, students are required to complete two courses in the science discipline. A course is roughly defined as being one academic year, or two semesters long. Students in some schools may take their science requirements at their own choosing as long as they satisfy the requirements for graduation.
High School Science Requirements
Many students wonder, "Is chemistry mandatory for high school?" The answer is often "yes." Many high schools organize their science curriculum in the same way. Freshman year is devoted to biology, sophomore year is devoted to chemistry and junior year is devoted to physics. If after that students do not want to take an additional science class, they will be able to opt out of the subject since they have already satisfied their requirements.
While some schools do a "physics first" curriculum that allows students the opportunity to take physics their freshman year and then move to biology later, most high school curriculums follow the "biology, chemistry, physics" path. Biology is typically the first subject taught to students because it has less advanced math than chemistry or physics and offers them the opportunity to develop their math skills before tackling the other subjects.
Chemistry is more focused on mathematics and is highly focused on lab work. Chemistry requires a significant amount of time doing experiments and recording the results and analyzing said results, which can help students to develop analytical skills. Physics is the most math heavy of the science disciplines students are likely to encounter in high school. Physics is often a plus for students who are hoping to go into the sciences for their professional career.
Is Chemistry Required in College?
Depending on the major you are intending to pursue, chemistry may or may not be required in college. For students who are planning to go into the hard sciences or to have a career in a scientific discipline, chemistry will very likely be a required course. If you are pre-med or training to be a physicist, a scientist, a chemist or to work in the aerospace industry, you will likely be required to take chemistry at some point.
There are a number of other disciplines that require knowledge of chemistry. The beauty industry, for example, and certain roles in the food and beverage industry may also require a chemistry course. If you are interested in the sciences and even considering a career in the field, taking a chemistry course in college is probably a good idea.
Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.