If you are deciding between majoring in civil engineering or chemistry, you might want to know more about what each major has to offer. This post will show you the key facts about each major and help you to decide which would be a better degree for you.
At a glance:
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
Water resources engineer
Quality control chemist
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note||A relatively secure field|
once you are able to land a
Employable with just a bachelor’s
High-stress work environment
in the early years.
High job satisfaction and fulfillment.
Low predicted job growth
over the next decade.
The work environment can
be more physically active than most
jobs since you’ll need to go to the construction
locations occasionally. However,
there is also a lot of meetings and
design work using computer software.
|It can be difficult to find|
a job with just a bachelor’s
degree in chemistry. A
master’s degree or
PhD is often required.
The major can become
more employable if
combined with a more
Also more employable
if you do research work
in a lab and do internships.
It is a major that can
give good job meaning
once you can find a job.
Source for civil engineering degree salary and jobs
There are a number of things to consider when choosing between the two degrees and there are many similarities between them. Below, is details about each major, their differences, and reasons to choose one or the other.
Details about the chemistry major
Below are some details about the chemistry major.
According to Payscale, the average pay of a person, who has a degree in chemistry, is $74,737. This is higher than the average across all majors. However, it is important to note that this average will be being increased by people who also have a PhD in chemistry.
The chemistry major can qualify you for a number of different types of jobs in a number of fields. However, the major can restrict you to certain types of jobs. This is unlike alternative majors, such as computer science where it is feasible to enter related disciplines such as data science.
Also, the jobs that you can qualify for with just a bachelor’s degree in chemistry can have low pay, can be competitive and will only be entry-level roles within chemistry or technician roles in related areas such as in medicine/drugs.
However, chemistry jobs are expected to grow by 5% by 2029 which is more than average. Also, the jobs tend to have high levels of meaning because they are usually beneficial jobs to society.
According to Payscale, jobs people with a chemistry degree get can include:
- Lab assistant
- Entry-level chemist
- Quality control chemist
- Process engineer
It’s important to note that lab assistant roles usually require a year of experience having worked in a lab. This means that it will be important to complete lab work while in the major and to get internships.
Chemistry involves a lot of math and physics. As a chemistry major, you will be taking one year of physics classes and math classes including calculus 1,2, and 3. Also, the chemistry classes themselves can be difficult, especially physical chemistry. As a result, you can expect chemistry to be a difficult major. When compared with civil engineering, you can expect chemistry to be similar in difficulty.
Classes that you can expect to take in a chemistry major can include:
- 1 year of physics
- Calculus 1,2, and 3
- General chemistry
- Organic chemistry
- Physical chemistry
- Senior-level lab courses
Things to consider
Organic chemistry is a major that can be difficult to find jobs with by itself unless you are careful about what you do within the major. If your goal is to get lab work, it would help a lot to do research projects as an undergrad and to try to get lab internships so that you can qualify for entry-level lab roles.
Due to the amount of math involved, the major could be a pathway towards data analytics or even software engineering roles, if you learn how to program while in the major. On Payscale, people do report having gotten software engineering, data science and data analytics jobs with a chemistry degree. As a result, it could be worthwhile for you to get a computer science minor as well if you are set on a chemistry major.
If you want to do chemistry research in industry or academia, you should expect to have to get a PhD.
Details about a degree in civil engineering
Below are some details about the civil engineering major.
According to Payscale, the average pay for a person with a degree in civil engineering is $70,508. This is higher than the average pay for most majors. However, it is a lot lower than alternative engineering majors such as computer engineering ($87,000) and electrical engineering ($92,000).
On one hand, civil engineering could be seen as a safe major because there will always be buildings, dams, highways, stadiums, etc that need to be built. As a result, once you are able to get a job in civil engineering, it is typically seen as a relatively secure job to have.
However, it can be tricky to find a job at the entry-level and the price of the job security is that the pay is slightly lower than alternative majors such as computer engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. Also, because you will be building structures that many people will be using and that cost millions of dollars, it can be a very stressful job, especially in the early years. Although, it is also typically a very interesting field to work in, and completing a project successfully can be very fulfilling.
Jobs that you can get with a civil engineering degree include:
- Civil engineer
- Project engineer
- Structural engineer
- Transportation engineer
- Geotechnical engineer
- Water resources engineer
- Construction engineer
Civil engineering has a number of sub-fields and you will need to specialize in one of them before getting a job.
The subfields include:
Construction engineering. This involves managing the project as it is underway and building the temporary structures that are used while constructing the actual structure.
Geotechnical engineering. This involves ensuring that the foundations of the structure are well built.
Structural engineering. This involves designing the structure and ensuring that it will be able to support itself.
Transportation engineering. This involves building and maintaining streets, highways, airports, docks, and harbors.
Water resource engineering. This involves managing water resources by designing new equipment and facilities.
Civil engineering is a difficult degree that will involve a lot of mathematics including calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations. It will also involve some physics and the engineering classes themselves can be difficult. There will also be a lot of lab classes that will involve a lot of projects.
Classes that you can expect to take in a civil engineering degree can include:
Introduction to programming
Introduction to civil engineering
Civil engineering materials
Mechanics of structures
Water resources engineering
You can also expect to take more specialized classes related to the specialization that you choose.
Things to consider
Before choosing civil engineering and the university that you want to go to, it would help to research the type of civil engineering you are most interested in. This is so that you know what to specialize in and so that you know what university to choose because some universities will only offer certain specializations.
Reasons to choose a civil engineering major
The key advantage that a civil engineering degree has over a chemistry degree is that it is a very employable degree by itself. This is because the degree directly applicable to a number of high-paying jobs at the bachelor’s degree level. Whereas, a chemistry degree needs to be combined with something more applied or for you to get an advanced degree in order to make it as employable as a civil engineering degree.
Also, civil engineering jobs tend to be very satisfying jobs that are also very interesting and important to society.
However, a civil engineering degree will require a lot of study time. There are some alternative degrees that can also give good job prospects that do not require as much study time such as computer science.
Reasons to choose chemistry
While a chemistry major will not give job prospects that are as good as civil engineering, there are still some reasons why you might want to get a chemistry degree.
The first reason is if you want to get a job that requires a master’s or doctoral degree in chemistry. If you do, then a bachelor’s degree in chemistry would be more worthwhile.
Also, if you have a very strong interest in the subject, it would also make it more worthwhile for you to major in chemistry. However, it would also help to minor in something that is employable at the bachelor’s degree level. It would also help a lot to make sure to complete lab projects and to get lab internships to help when seeking lab work after graduating.