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Chemistry Advising


The Chemistry department provides students with knowledge and understanding of the composition, structures, properties, and transformations of natural and man-made substances through classroom work, laboratory work, and seminars. Advanced courses offered by the department are designed to meet the needs of students who are preparing for graduate work in chemistry or related areas, for medical or dental school or related health professions, for high school teaching of chemistry, and for a wide variety of chemistry-related positions in industry and government. Additionally, students who major in chemistry can use the skills they develop to pursue careers or other schooling beyond chemistry: chemistry graduates can go to law school, buisness school, engineering programs, and many other areas.

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

For Prospective Majors, Science Majors, Pre-Health Students, and 3-2 Engineering Students

Students planning to enroll in General Chemistry MUST take the Chemistry and Math Placement Exams. The Math placement test determines eligibility to enroll in either version of general chemistry and the Chemistry placement test determines eligibility to enroll in CHEM 141.


Two introductory level chemistry courses are offered in the fall semester, but it is essential to understand the difference between them:

CHEM 131/132, General Chemistry with Lab, is a two-semester introductory sequence for science majors or pre-health students. These courses include lecture and lab, and students must select a lab day and a lecture section in order to register for CHEM 131/132. CHEM 131 is offered in the fall only, so in order to begin chemistry, you must select CHEM 131 during course selection for the fall.

CHEM 141, Accelerated General Chemistry with Lab, is a one-semester introductory course for especially well-prepared science majors or pre-health students. Students place into this course by their performance on the Chemistry Placement Exam given in the summer before the first year, and the opportunity to request CHEM 141 is offered to students for the first year. CHEM 141 is offered in the fall semester only. This course is intended for first year students; sophomores who have extraordinary circumstances require special permission to register for CHEM 141.

Students who take CHEM 141 and intend to apply to medical school will need to complete another “inorganic chemistry” course (meaning another course in chemistry that is not based on organic chemistry). The recommended course for first-year students is CHEM 243, Quantitative Chemical Analysis, offered in the spring semester. CHEM 244, Thermodynamics and Kinetics, is not recommended for first-year students. Alternately, pre-health students not majoring in Chemistry may choose to take CHEM 131-132; however, students who place into CHEM 141 are better-served by taking that course followed by CHEM 243.

It is highly recommended that science and pre-health students take CHEM 131/132 in their first year, especially those who want to study abroad during the junior year. CHEM 131 is offered only in the fall and is a pre-requisite for CHEM 132, which is offered only in the spring. 

MATH 170 & 171, Single Variable Calculus and Multivariable Calculus, should be taken as early as possible to allow a wider choice of chemistry electives in upper-class years.

The 3-2 Engineering program defines a path for Dickinson students to spend 3 years at Dickinson and 2 years at a partner school in engineering, such as Case Western University or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This program is specifically defined and requires students to complete a science major, such as Chemistry, complete their Dickinson requirements, and complete additional coursework required by the engineering partner school in 3 years. During the subsequent 2 years, the student takes engineering coursework at the partner school. After successfully completing the 5-year program, students earn a B.S. in Chemistry from Dickinson and a bachelors of engineering from the partner school.

Students considering 3-2 in Chemical Engineering must begin planning during their first year at Dickinson because of the accelerated schedule for completing all requirements. It is advantageous to take CHEM 141 in order to complete general chemistry in one semester and then move onto advanced coursework. If you are interested in 3-2 Engineering or other paths to study engineering after majoring in science at Dickinson, please see more information here.


Chemistry/Math Placement Information

Chemistry Placement Exam: The Chemistry Placement Exam is a 63-question, 75-minute exam assembled by Dickinson's chemistry department. Its purpose is to allow the department to determine your readiness for college-level chemistry by assessing your comprehension in three basic areas: General Mathematics, General Chemistry Knowledge, and Specific Chemistry Knowledge.

Who should take the exam?

All students who plan to take Chemistry courses must take the exam. Many majors (including Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, and Earth Sciences) require Chemistry courses, and all Pre-Health students must take Chemistry courses regardless of major. If you have academic accommodations, please contact Marni Jones and Brenda Landis for how to implement your accommodations for taking the Chemistry Placement exam.

Where do I find the Chemistry Placement Exam?

The placement exam can be found on the Student Forms tab of the Dickinson Gateway.

Math Placement Exam: The Chemistry department has found that there is a strong correlation between a student's facility with mathematics and their success in general chemistry courses. Consequently, all students who plan to take Chemistry must take the Math Placement Exam. You must have a Math Placement Exam If you have academic accommodations, please contact Marni Jones and Brenda Landis for how to implement your accommodations for taking the Math Placement exam.

Students must receive a Math Placement score of 13 or higher to enroll in CHEM 131. If you receive a Math Placement score of 10 - 12, you may enroll in CHEM 131 only if you have a chemistry placement score of 30 or higher. If you receive a score on the Math Placement Exam between 13 - 15, the Chemistry Department recommends that you purchase Calculations in Chemistry by Donald J. Dahm and Eric A. Nelson (ISBN: 13: 978-0393614367) for use during the summer and once you enroll in CHEM 131. If your Math Placement score is below 10, you must successfully complete MATH 151 (or equivalent at another institution) before enrolling in CHEM 131. If you seek to take an equivalent math course at another institution, the course must be approved by the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science as being equivalent to MATH 151.

The Mathematics Placement Information page contains a list of entry-level Mathematics courses at Dickinson, an interactive placement guide, and other useful information. The Mathematics Placement Exam can be found on the Student Forms tab of the Dickinson Gateway.


Advanced Placement: course credit and/or placement: Students who earn 4 or 5 on the Chemistry AP Exam will receive General College Credit. Those students planning to continue with Chemistry must take the Chemistry Placement Exam. Students who place into CHEM 141 will have the General College Credit changed to Chemistry General Credit upon successful completion of 141. This Chemistry General Credit does not count for medical schools. Every student planning to take Chemistry at Dickinson must have a college level general chemistry with in-person laboratory experience prior to enrolling in Organic Chemistry (CHEM 241/242). The Chemistry Department does not have a mechanism for students to “test out of” or “place out of” general chemistry.

You can call the Chemistry department at 717-245-1329, or email the department coordinator (Janice Wiss) at for more information.

Transfer Credits: Transfer students planning to major in Chemistry should confer with a chemistry faculty advisor as early as possible in order to assess the student's background and plan future chemistry courses. It is necessary that the student bring a course description, and a course syllabus for the department chairperson to fully evaluate courses. All chemistry courses at Dickinson that have in-person laboratory components require in-person laboratory to be considered for transfer of credits. For Dickinson students who wish to take chemistry courses at another institution, students must have those courses approved by the department as eligible for transfer prior to enrolling. Please consult the Registrar for appropriate forms needed for approval of courses at other institutions.

For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Chemistry.

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

For Non-Science Majors and Laboratory Science Distribution Requirement:

CHEM 111, Topics in Chemistry, is designed for students who do not intend to pursue additional study in the sciences; it does not count toward the Chemistry major or any other major in the sciences and is not accepted by medical schools. A student starting with this course who later decides to take chemistry at the 200-level or to become a major will need to take CHEM 131/132 or CHEM 141 and consult immediately with a chemistry faculty advisor  to plan the rest of his/her course work.

You do not need to take a placement exam to enroll in CHEM 111.

Please see the section "Courses appropriate for prospective majors for information about CHEM 131/132, CHEM 141, and appropriate placement tests. These courses can fulfill the Lab Science requirement or the Quantitative Reasoning requirement depending on the course completed.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

Possible Routes through the Chem Major Track 1 - two semesters of Introductory Chemistry Track 2 - one Semester of Introductory Chemistry Good Option for Both Tracks
First Year 131, 132 141, 243 Math
Sophomore Year 241, 242 and 243 241, 242 (and possibly 244) Physics
Junior Year 341, 244 341 (and possibly 347), 490  
Senior Year 347, 490 and 342 347, 342  


The first course before the comma is the Fall semester course and the courses(s) following the comma are taken in the Spring. The above paths are suggested, but other options exist. 490s are typically offered during Fall and Spring semesters with rotating topics and can generally be taken by students starting their Junior year. Students who plan to study abroad should plan their course sequence early and consult with an advisor in chemistry. It is often most convenient to consider the fall of Junior Year as an abroad semester because CHEM 341 and CHEM 347 may be taken concurrently during the fall of Senior Year. CHEM 244 is not recommended for first-year students who complete CHEM 141. Please note that upper level courses may have pre-requisites that affect the order in which they should be taken.

A research experience may be fulfilled by completion of an approved laboratory-based research project at Dickinson (eight weeks during the summer or a two-semester research project) or at an off-campus site. By taking all courses required for the major and completing an approved research experience, students earn a BS in Chemistry certified by the American Chemical Society (i.e. ACS-certified degree). Students who do not complete an approved chemistry research experience earn a BS in Chemistry.

Students interested in graduate study in chemistry should consult with their advisor to select additional course(s) in chemistry and related sciences as necessary.


The faculty will award Honors to a chemistry major based on the candidate's complete undergraduate chemistry program. This includes all courses required for the major, the student's grades and the successful completion of a two semester (or a summer) research project. A minimum GPA of 3.40 is required in all courses that count toward the major, including math and physics courses and transfer courses that receive chemistry credit, at the conclusion of the seventh semester (typically the fall semester of the senior year) of study. The Honors research project usually entails joining an established research project in a faculty mentor's laboratory. Honors will be awarded based on the faculty's determination that the candidate has successfully passed at least two of the three segments of an Honors defense: written dissertation, public oral presentation of results, and oral defense in front of the faculty. Results of Honors research should be disseminated in a public forum. For the specific guidelines and procedures see the Chemistry Department web site.

Independent study and independent research

Independent study or research is available to students who are prepared for it. Normally this requires the completion of CHEM 131/132 or CHEM 141 as a minimum. More advanced courses are required for most independent research projects. Interested students should talk with faculty members in the department to arrange a topic for independent work

Chemistry majors who desire a degree that is certified by the American Chemical Society are required by the Chemistry department to complete an approved research experience. This experience gives the researcher an insight and depth of understanding of Chemistry that can be obtained in no other way. Some students fulfill their requirement with approved off-campus industrial or academic internships.

Opportunities for off-campus study

Dickinson in England
Chemistry students have the opportunity to study for a semester or a year at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England. This Dickinson program is overseen by an on-site Dickinson faculty member who advises students and teaches courses.