BSEE Guys, How important is Chem?

Thread Starter


Joined Dec 12, 2012
I'm a freshman minus at a reasonably good school in an electrical engineering program. I say freshman minus because while I've completed all of my electives and other general ed requirements, I'm far behind in math (In precalculus currently. I spent 4 years off doing other things after high school and Calculus is not something you just jump into after that).

My fall semester as planned is:
Calculus 2 (4 hrs)
Chemistry (4hrs)
Physics for Engineering (4 hrs)
Intro to Computer Science (3 hrs)

While not impossible, this isn't the easiest schedule. This summer I have the opportunity to take Chemistry at a less challenging school, which would considerably reduce my stress level in the fall. I am hesitant to do this though, because the school I am at currently teaches on a very thorough and conceptual level, and any higher level courses that build on a previous one will expect that high level of understanding. The lesser school in my experience, while perfectly adequate for non-major classes, does not teach conceptual problem solving.

In your experience is Chemistry fundamental in the later stages of EE? Not just in your job, but in the academic pursuits?

I can't ask anyone at my school because I am literally the first and only EE major.


Joined Oct 3, 2010
I'm curious to know also, because I'm in the exact same position as you. I'm a freshman who took 9 years off, currently in trig. I took chemistry 1 last semester, and had I stayed on the AS track I would be taking chem 2 this semester, but I switched to AS(ES) (Associates in Science of Engineering Sciences) and under this degree plan Chem 2 is not required, at least not until I start on my bachelor's. So that makes me think that the school and the state have given indication that chemistry is not that important for electrical engineering. I sure hope that is the case, because my Chem 1 professor really sucked and I did not learn anything in that class (yes, I know it is incumbent upon me to fill in the gaps left by the professor and make sure that I leave the class having learned something, and I didn't do that, so I suck equally as hard).


Joined Nov 23, 2012
That chemistry during the summer, no question about it. You don't need to take freshman chemistry at a top school, they all use the same book, same periodic table. Just make sure your current school will accept transfer credits from the summer school before you pay any tuition.


Joined Mar 31, 2012
How many subsequent classes in chemistry do you need and will you need to take a solid state electronics course as part of your major?


Joined Mar 31, 2012
Is there a relation between chemistry and solid state electronics? :confused:
It's not a strong one, but people that come in to a solid state course with a good understanding of the properties of the periodic table and the different kind of shells and bonding probably get off to a better start.


Joined Jan 10, 2012
If the "lesser" school is ABET accredited, it should be perfectly adequate. Funny thing about chemistry, only chemistry majors seem to really retain it. All other, engineers, etc., get it and forget it.

Duane P Wetick

Joined Apr 23, 2009
Although I did not do well in chemistry class, I'm glad that it was taught as
part of the curriculum. The instructor can make all the difference in making things dull or interesting. My fascination with chemistry came when I started looking at the properties of metals, particularly Gold. Gold has a nearly completely closed atomic structure, unique among all the elements. It is still widely used in all modern electronics and has no replacement. While working in the plating industry; metallizing ceramics, I found myself reaching for my chemistry book on more than one instance when I needed a better understanding of a problem.

See The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean ISBN 978031605164-4 for an informative read.

Cheers, DPW [ Everything has limitations...and I hate limitations.]


Joined Oct 18, 2012
My school required us to take a materials engineering course dealing with semiconductor properties and bonding characteristics. for that one class, I was glad I had taken chemistry, add remembering what a hybridization of orbitals was helped quite a bit. however, since that class, I was required almost no chemistry up until a semiconductor physics class that dealt with doping and how to dope intrinsic semiconductors to get a certain result.

Bottom line, there isn't much demand for knowing chemistry from my coursework, but yours may be different. I'd say go to summer school...

Thread Starter


Joined Dec 12, 2012
Basically, the impression I'm getting is Chemistry is like English; Knowing how to communicate effectively is critical, but not critical enough to justify pulling my hair out for a semester.

I appreciate the input, and I'll look into the community college equivalent Chem course.


Joined Jul 18, 2012
I was required to take chemistry which I hated. Never have used it in depth, but many time I have been glad to have the surface knowledge that 1st year course gave me. I don't think it is required to be a good EE, but the more tools you have the more work you can do.


Joined Mar 31, 2012
I'm pretty much with everyone else. I was required to have three semesters of chemistry plus qual lab and quant lab. While I enjoyed all of them and wish I could have taken more, I can't say that I have ever really used it much. It was useful when I took a VLSI processing course and it has been helpful in understanding some of the things some of out customers were doing. There have also been many times just in social contexts where it has been handy to be able to "speak the language", though far from fluently. It's also come in handy from time to time as a means of spotting snake oil in various guises.


Joined Oct 2, 2009
I would say chemistry is not required to be an EE.

However, if you want to have some good insight to everyday materials, knowing a bit goes a long way. I covered the four areas of chemistry in school:

physical chemistry
analytical ..
inorganic ..
organic ..

Of the four, I enjoyed organic chemistry the most. You gain a lot of insight on carbon molecules and chains, particularly the important one like C2H5OH, the active ingredient of beer.