I'm currently in my second year of chemistry bachelor, which I love for giving me interdisciplinary insight into the world around us. My favourite course is quantum mechanics and recently I became fascinated by the whole quantum computing research. However, when I find any summer school/scholarship/internship offer, the requirement is mostly cs/physics/maths/engineering degree:(

Should I change my degree to have any chances to go far? Because honestly I have a lot of both physics and mathematics courses during my degree and I'm learning Python on my own, so I don't feel like I'm far behind compared to other degrees. Do you think putting in the extra effort like online courses and learning to program can be enough alongside my chemistry degree (probably with physics or cs minor, haven't decided yet) or should I really consider changing my major?

edit: I'm from Poland but studying in the Netherlands

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    Programming != theoretical computer science. Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 13:42
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    @astronat, programming per se isn't really any sort of "computer science". It is just a useful tool.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 14:16
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    Presumably there’s a typo in “ Should I change my degree to have any chances to get high?”. Chemistry would be ideal for this version of events… Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 15:53
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    ohmygod i my brain mixed English with my mother language of course i meant "go far" lmao otherwise chemistry would be ideal indeed
    – Aurum0114
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 19:02
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    Not blunt enough. If you are on the theory side of quantum computing, it could easily be 100% math and whatever portion of theoretical physics one wishes to think there is. But distance between quantum computing and OP's current knowledge set shouldn't straight-up lead to "no you best give up quantum computing". It just adds to the nuances implicit in the question. Maybe OP turns out to be a brilliant scholar in quantum computing and pursuing a career in that brings them lifetime fulfillment. That possibility can't be ignored.
    – Argyll
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 4:50

5 Answers 5


Sometimes a "CS/Physics/Engineering-degree"-requirement will mean that they just sort out everyone not having one of those; something they'll be willing to consider your argument for why you are actually qualified after all. It is hard to predict just how many more opportunities you'd have with a more fitting major.

Since you are still quite early in your degree, you should certainly consider changing major if you are confident that quantum computing is what you want to do.

Some questions to ponder for that:

  1. How much time to graduation would you actually lose when changing now? (My guess would be just a year.)

  2. What are the courses you'd take in the third year of your chemistry BSc? Are any of those relevant for quantum computing at all?

  3. Would you be doing an MSc or a PhD after the Bachelor? What are the requirements to get into those? Once you have the "right" postgraduate degree, a not-quite-right undergraduate degree wouldn't really matter anymore.

  4. How sure are you that quantum computing is your "one true love"?

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    The writer here is from the UK, so I'll assume it is good advice there. It is also good advice for the US. In the US, you might not lose any time at all, though "second year" has a different meaning here.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 14:18
  • i can choose courses that seem to be relevant - advanced quantum mechanics, solid state physics, computational chemistry, but i still have a feeling that it's considered inferior to physics. and regarding 3) that's also a main problem, the requirements in most of the European master's i checked are indeed BSc in physics:(
    – Aurum0114
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 18:52
  • 4) I'm not sure at all! i wouldn't be honestly surprised if after few years my interests shifted in a slightly different direction. but what I'm sure of is that studying most of the purely chemical subjects currently is a suffering for me and i can't imagine dedicating my life to such research, especially after facing the reality of 'publish or perish'. my intuition tells me to shift more into something more interdisciplinary and my dream is to work in a company like IBM Research or similar
    – Aurum0114
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 18:58
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    @AccidentalTaylorExpansion yes I actually talked to my study advisor just today and came to the conclusion that doing a second BSc in computing science sounds like the best scenario - I will have even better qualifications to go into the quantum computing sector (especially bc I will do a minor in quantum physics in my 3rd chemistry year) but in case I change my mind and maybe don't even want to occupy myself with research, I would be able to find a good IT job wherever in the world. I'd sacrifice three years more, but I would get the freedom and flexibility in the future that I really want:)
    – Aurum0114
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 12:32
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    of course then followed by the master's, but then I would have some more insight into whether I want to specialize in quantum computing, just chemistry, or maybe just something related to computing science
    – Aurum0114
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 12:33

If you are from chemistry then the details will be with your chemistry degree.

If you do a lot of biochem or organic chem, then you will be lacking in background, and you may struggle. On the other hand, if you do a lot of physical chemistry or quantum chemistry, then you will have an easier time of it.

  • i focus on physical and quantum chemistry! and i feel like in case of lacking background I can catch up where i need on my own. the thing is - i won't don't really have a proof of that on my CV, so the main issue is to get employed in the first place
    – Aurum0114
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 19:22
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    presumably your transcript and a good statement of purpose will “prove” your interest and will help you get some internship-type research experience. But to be clear: with an undergraduate degree in chemistry you will start well behind others. Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 19:40
  • thanks for your insight!
    – Aurum0114
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 7:42

When you see a requirement that's fairly broad like "cs/physics/maths/engineering", that's already an indication that the requirement is not very precise. Another way to express that rough area would be "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

This means they'll be looking at the similarity between your degree and the needed skills. Chemical Engineering will be better than Civil Engineering, and both will be better than Medieval History.

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    Why chemical engineering would be better than civil engineering?
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 16:34
  • @EarlGrey: typical math & physics requirements in both degrees. You rarely see the "Quantum Physics for Civil Engineers" course in syllabi.
    – MSalters
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 8:10
  • I am not sure I am following you. Quantum mechanics for a civil engineer and for a chemical engineer have the same utility: 0. However, I can imagine that some departments are boosting their portfolio by including these contraptions. This does not negate that students in these fields can achieve good marks and can be competent in the quantum mechanics field. Then there is quantum computing. Quantum mechanics is related to quantum computing as much as linear algebra is related to being able to design an efficient compiler. Yes, sure, it is necessary knowledge, but absolutely insufficient.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 8:25

There are a few relevant questions here:

  • How will your future grad school applications be treated if your eventual degree is chemistry

  • How do you get to know better that quantum computing as a field will be where you can best pursue your career

  • How do you prepare yourself better for pursuing a career in quantum computing

I am going to talk about the last one.

I'll organize the things you can do into 2 categories: research & study.

You should try to find research internship in quantum computing. Various countries have their own scholarship system for undergrad participating in research where the funding contribution requirement from the PI is minimal. Look those up. Often, even if you study in Netherland, there is no restriction for you to apply to, say, a Canadian department via NSERC's scholarship program.

Your eventual goal (while in undergrad) should be to have publication(s) before the end of undergrad or come close to it. If you are one of the authors of a good quality paper, I would hazard to guess that your degree title won't be a problem with any admission committee. (Do check with ppl with actual admission committee experience. I don't.)

With that, as you search for research groups that interest you, you can ask what background a specific research group would need from you for you to do an undergrad project with them. Between the PI and the department, they will also be able to tell you how you can be competitive in getting the scholarship and the placement.

Typically, good overall grade at your current program is required. And then there will be other things. So, keep your grades good. Drop courses you strongly dislike early to avoid tanking your grade, for example. Those other things likely include courses relevant to the research topic you will propose with the PI. That's why your course load should likely be different from a typical chemistry major. A side-effect is: if you missed some chemistry courses that another student would have at the same year at your institute, it won't be noticed.

If and when you do interact with researchers in this manner, do specifically ask what review paper or conference presentation or other introductory materials they would recommend for you to understand the related areas for quantum computing -- in order for you to guide your study before switching degree/institution. For example, obviously theoretical computer science is related. Theoretical computer science, however, is a large and diverse field. Studying theoretical computer science topics broadly will get you nowhere in terms of pursuing a career in quantum computing (other than getting you smarter, which I suppose could be limitless in itself; but let's not be pedantic here.)

The second half about mentioning that you would like guidance before switching degree/institution leads to the next point I will comment.

Switching degree/institution for an intellectual pursuit is admirable. Hopefully people will relate to that. They will also hopefully understand its gravity and therefore understand why you would need their guidance in the first place -- as opposed to from your own institute and your own degree program.

The gravity part should be understood by yourself as well.

How do you know quantum computing is for you? How do you know more whether you will be successful in quantum computing?

I'll leave that to yourself and others. I think getting to know more about quantum computing and the contributing disciplines will help. So let's talk about those.

I would suggest you start taking some math courses: linear algebra and real analysis. Linear algebra courses can often be matrix algebra in reality. You need exposure to the theory side of linear algebra.

As with any other subjects, you can potentially take a more applied course and supplement with your own study to gain exposure to the theory side. And you can ask subject-specific questions separately. e.g. "which textbooks are good if I want to understand the theories behind linear algebra with an eye on applications to quantum mechanics and quantum computing". And then people may answer: Friedberg, Hoffmann. etc.

You should also try to take quantum theory courses. Your introductory quantum mechanics course likely focused on hydrogen atoms and the solution to Schrodinger's equation with harmonic potential. You should ask separate questions on what "quantum theory" would entail. But say, why should Schrodinger's equation even be valid in the first place and why does it have the form it does? Maybe a quantum theory course would cover materials necessary to answer such questions.

I would also suggest taking some lab courses in physics. Many things in that umbrella can help actually. You should ask a separate question as usual.

Some computer science courses may help. Same with information theory. Statistics. The list can go on. The issues with these subjects though is that I would expect the relevant courses for you have tons of pre-requisite that are not relevant for you. That's why I don't recommend them. You can also ask a separate question like "what computer science courses should I take to help pursue a career in quantum computing" etc.

Note that thus far I have not mentioned anything about alternative degree. One quick tip first: keep an eye out for degree programs at your institute that have requirements that are close to the courses that you eventually shortlist for yourself. That could be how you find the degree to switch into.

Other than the above tip, my advise is actually: you do not have to switch degree before you start to prepare. You can first prepare and explore before you eventually switch degree or even institute.

You prepare by knowing more about quantum computing and gaining hard skills/knowledge that are foundational to quantum computing. The eventual goal (in undergrad) for you should be to get research scholarships and be a part of a research publication.

The emphasis on plural here is intentional. Research can be hard. It can take you a few internship to be productive eventually.

So start prepping early!

I guess, that's a good ender.

  • huge thanks! i'm already taking courses more in the math/physics direction as well as an online course about quantum computers! obviously, I'm still not sure if that's 'my thing' so as you advised I'll just try to investigate the field as much as I can on my own and then see what are my chances:) in case i don't get anywhere i think taking a second bachelor's in computer science might be a good idea, right? along with some self-studying on the side, i would not only know more about which master's degree i really want to pursue, but also have even better qualifications for quantum computing
    – Aurum0114
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 16:18

If you have a background in computational chemistry you are qualified to work in the field of quantum information (the software side of quantum computing).

If you have a background in physical chemistry experiment you are qualified to work in the field of quantum computing hardware. There are further subspecialties, such as nanofabrication and optics.

A background in organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, etc. will be of no use to you. If you just have a general chemistry bachelors degree, I would suggest getting a more specialized bachelors degree.

A standard degree in physics, computer science, math, or engineering is also not very relevant to quantum computing. It's a very specialized business.

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