A degree in chemistry combines practical hands-on experience with a high-quality education grounded in the liberal arts, a combination many employers look for when hiring new graduates.

A Central chemistry major opens doors to diverse careers in research, medicine, pharmacology, public health, biochemistry, teaching, industrial lab work, environmental testing and forensic science. Students may earn a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.

A B.A. in chemistry is designed for students who want a foundational education in chemistry and the flexibility to select courses in other fields. The B.A. program is less demanding mathematically compared to the B.S. and is well suited for those interested in entering medical school and other chemistry-related fields and teaching.

A B.S. in chemistry has a curriculum certified by the American Chemical Society, with substantial research experience. The B.S. degree in chemistry is best for students wishing to pursue graduate degrees in chemistry or a related discipline. The degree also ensures that students are prepared for rewarding careers as chemists in a range of industries, including pharmaceutical, biotech, environmental, manufacturing or other allied fields.

of recent chemistry graduates are employed in their area of interest or attending grad school
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Central is one of only seven Iowa private colleges or universities with a chemistry program approved by the American Chemical Society
of Central chemistry graduates are accepted to their first- or second-choice graduate school

The Central Difference

Which Degree Is Right for You?

Central offers the option of either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and biochemistry. They are equally challenging at Central. The major courses are the same for both degrees and students in both tracks take their classes together. The pre-requisite courses to enter the major are the same. It’s the structure of the degrees that are slightly different.

The Bachelor of Science degree emphasizes lab work, hands-on experience and independent research. This degree is recommended for those intending to delve intensely into a technical or research-related career or graduate school for research. It typically has a higher level math requirement.

The Bachelor of Arts degree, with less required lab work, emphasizes a broad education and provides more flexibility than the Bachelor of Science degree. A Bachelor of Arts degree is recommended for those intending to enter law school, earn a teaching certificate or work in sales or business. It typically requires proficiency in a second language.

Making Dreams a Reality

Glenda Henle Van Wyk ’02 is a firm believer in the human-animal bond. With the help of family and friends, Van Wyk is living her dream of owning her own veterinary clinic.

Research Opportunities

Nearly all students pursuing chemistry or biochemistry take responsibility for an independent research project. These students benefit from close one-on-one interaction with faculty in many ongoing research endeavors or brand new research ideas.

Off-Campus Experiences

Central students can study off-campus — both internationally or domestically in the United States. These opportunities give students the chance to prepare to be global citizens, equipped to compete in the global job market. Students can check out experiences led by Central faculty or attend select academic programs across the world that provide opportunities for study, service, internships and other types of experiential learning. Options include experiences in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Central America, Ghana, England, the Scottish Highlands and more.

State-of-the-Art Equipment

Students have direct access to classrooms and laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation and presentation technology, including:

  • 300 MHz Bruker NMR
  • Spectrum Rx Perkin Elmer ATR-FTIR Spectrometer
  • HP 6890 GC with an HP 5973 quadrapole mass selective detector
  • HPLC series 1100 with UV-Vis detector
  • Two HP 6890 gas chromatographs with TCD

A Glowing Endorsement

Central is one of only seven Iowa private colleges and universities with a chemistry program endorsed by the American Chemical Society.

Beyond Central

Putting the “Hire” in Higher Education

  • Rick Ryan ’70, CEO, Apertus Pharmaceuticals, Ballwin, Mo.
  • Barbara Pettitt ’72, professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine
  • Joe Lubach ’02, scientist, Genentech, San Francisco
  • April Hill ’02, associate professor of chemistry and director of forensic science, Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Dan Flaherty ’05, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, Purdue University, Lafayette, In.
  • Jana Olson ’10, scientific communications manager, Proportional Technologies, Inc., Houston, Tex.
  • Heather Reineke ’11, registered nurse, Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines
  • Adam Feenstra ’12, systems engineer, Meredith Corporation, Des Moines
  • Marissa Brandt ’16, lab technician, Eurofins, Des Moines

Central College Adds Bachelor of Science Option in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Central College has added a new academic degree to the chemistry program beginning the Fall 2022 semester: a Bachelor of Science degree.


  • Bio-Chem Club
  • SCATE (Students Concerned About The Environment)

No matter what your interests are, Central has a student group for you! Learn how you can get involved with groups and organizations at Central.

Graduate Placement

Chemistry majors are eligible for admission to the chemical engineering programs at Washington University in St. Louis and Iowa State University following completion of their junior year.

  • University of Kansas, medicinal chemistry
  • North Carolina State University, chemical engineering
  • University of Missouri-Saint Louis, optometry
  • University of Michigan, public health
  • University of Wisconsin Madison, chemistry
  • University of Iowa, medical school, pharmacy


Students with internship experience have a proven track record in a professional environment, which often leads to employment following graduation.

  • Pfizer, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Iowa Hygienic Lab, Ankeny
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific, Johnston
Central College student

Courses & Faculty

The chemistry department offers a strong foundation in concepts, coursework and laboratory skills in organic, analytical, inorganic, physical and biochemistry. The curriculum, certified by the prestigious American Chemical Society, means graduates are ensured the strong scientific background and the research opportunities needed for graduate school or careers in chemistry or the health professions.

The department also offers students flexible course options in order to incorporate off-campus experiences, research and other liberal arts interests during their four years on campus.

Learn more about this discipline in the course catalog.

Meet the Faculty

  • James Dunne, B.S., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • Ashley Garr, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • Mary Ross, B.S., Ph.D., Lecturer of Chemistry
  • Jim Shriver, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry
  • Jay Wackerly, B.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry

Sample Coursework

First Year

  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Introduction to Cells
  • General Chemistry
  • Calculus I

Sophomore Year

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Calculus II
  • General Physics I and II
  • Organic Chemistry I and II

Junior Year

  • Biochemistry
  • Physical Chemistry I
  • Research
  • Advanced electives
  • Study abroad

Senior Year

  • Physical Chemistry II
  • Research
  • Advanced electives


Learn More

Want to find out more about Chemistry at Central? Contact us to learn more about this discipline and our other strong academic programs.

Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.

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