The wide range of courses offered by the Chemistry department reflects chemistry’s position as the foundation of all the molecular sciences. Chemistry majors learn about the molecular basis of natural phenomena and use this knowledge in chemical research. The department’s graduates are well prepared to conduct advanced studies in chemistry, biochemistry, and medicine, and they find their broad scientific training useful in diverse fields including business, management, and law. As the problems of society encompass ever more complex scientific issues, a chemistry degree is an increasingly appropriate choice for students whose careers will involve energy policy, the environment, government, or public service.

Chemistry is a core science important to many students’ academic programs. Premedical students strongly are advised to take a year of chemistry including laboratory in their first-year. Students in many science majors are required to complete a year or more of chemistry with associated laboratories. The cumulative nature of science education makes it important for such students to complete one of the introductory chemistry sequences as first-years.

Because entering students have a diverse range of prior exposure to science, the Yale curriculum provides several different ways to begin the study of chemistry. Most first-years enroll in a general chemistry course, while individuals with an especially strong science background may elect to take a placement examination (administered by the department at the start of the academic year) and accelerate into more advanced courses.

Introductory Courses

Students may begin the study of university-level chemistry with one of the following:

  • CHEM 161 and CHEM 165, a two-term general chemistry sequence appropriate for students with no previous background in chemistry or with one year of high school–level chemistry
  • CHEM 163 and  CHEM 167, a two-term general chemistry sequence appropriate for students with stronger problem-solving skills or a solid high school–chemistry preparation

Regardless of the starting point, all paths fulfill medical-school requirements and chemistry requirements for several other majors, and each path prepares students for subsequent study of organic chemistry.

Advanced Courses for First-years

Students with very strong backgrounds in chemistry and problem solving can affirm their mastery of general chemistry by taking the departmental placement examination. Sufficiently well-prepared students are permitted to take an organic chemistry course limited to first-years, the sophomore-level organic chemistry course, or junior-level physical chemistry. Completing an advanced course accelerates completion of the requirements for many majors and pre-professional programs. See Special Programs, Placement, and Preregistration:Chemistry for details.

Premedical Requirements

Medical schools typically require a year of general chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, and often a term of biochemistry. Students taking either physical chemistry or organic chemistry as first-years receive two acceleration credits that document their placement, and these usually are accepted by medical schools for the general chemistry requirement. Students choosing physical chemistry as first-years continue by completing organic chemistry as sophomores. First-years completing organic chemistry most often fulfill their remaining medical school chemistry requirements by completing a course in biochemistry or another advanced chemistry course. All students are advised to consult with a premedical adviser early in their studies, as the chemistry requirements for different medical schools can vary significantly.


Most introductory lecture courses are accompanied by laboratories, and students normally take the lecture and the laboratory courses together. The laboratory, when not required by the instructor, can be postponed or not taken, but this is discouraged strongly. A Chemistry department adviser should be consulted before a decision is made not to take a laboratory. Information about registration for sections is provided for each laboratory course in the Online Course Information system (OCI).


Details about placement and preregistration for chemistry courses can be found under Special Programs, Placement, and Preregistration: Chemistry. Lists of times and places for the fall-term placement examination and counseling sessions are published in the Calendar for the Opening Days.

Chemistry Preparation for Different Majors

Majors in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry require physical chemistry. Students who can begin their chemistry study with organic or physical chemistry usually complete such majors faster. The four-year combined B.S./M.S. program in Chemistry is most easily completed by starting with physical chemistry. Beginning Chemistry majors who wish to complete medical school admissions requirements should plan to complete two terms of chemistry with laboratory and one term of calculus or higher-level mathematics during their first year.