New ACS Guidelines For Chemistry Programs | September 15, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 37 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 37 | p. 46 | ACS Comments
Issue Date: September 15, 2008

New ACS Guidelines For Chemistry Programs

Department: ACS News
Credit: Hope College
Credit: Hope College

The American Chemical Society entrusts the Committee on Professional Training (CPT) with developing and administering guidelines for the approval of undergraduate chemistry programs as a means of promoting excellence in chemistry education. With broad input from the chemistry community, CPT has released the 2008 edition of “Undergraduate Professional Education in Chemistry: ACS Guidelines and Evaluation Procedures for Bachelor’s Degree Programs.”

This revision of the guidelines was motivated by the dramatic changes in the chemistry profession and in education. Chemistry is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and is addressing highly complex problems with advanced methods and technology. Educators are using more effective pedagogical approaches to promote learning by a diverse student body.

The new guidelines culminate CPT’s three-year process of actively seeking input from the chemistry community through articles in C&EN and the Journal of Chemical Education, surveys of the industrial and educational communities, and workshops and symposia at regional and national meetings. CPT also widely distributed and invited feedback on proposed revisions to the previous guidelines and a draft of the new guidelines.

Comments from the academic community included a desire to design more innovative and modern curricula. The industrial community identified the need for professional chemists to be trained in skills beyond chemical content. Both communities stressed the importance of exposing all ACS-certified chemistry graduates to the breadth of chemistry while also having in-depth and integrative experiences. The guidelines were also expected to include faculty and infrastructure requirements necessary to support excellence in teaching and research.

The details of the 2008 guidelines can be downloaded from the CPT website ( Some of the broad themes included in the new guidelines are described below.

Curriculum Innovation. The new guidelines offer chemistry departments increased flexibility to design degree tracks that meet the needs of their students and the profession. Students will receive a foundation in each of the major areas of chemistry: analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry. Departments have flexibility in the use of in-depth coursework that can provide additional exposure to foundation areas, support chemistry subdisciplines, or explore chemistry-related multidisciplinary areas. Department-defined degree tracks promote the development of modern, relevant chemistry degrees that address emerging areas of chemistry, prepare students for opportunities in the chemical enterprise, and reflect the overlap of chemistry with other disciplines.

Student Skills. The new guidelines recognize that in addition to chemical knowledge, students need to learn a variety of skills that will prepare them to be successful professionals. Problem-solving, use of the chemical literature, laboratory safety, oral and written communication, working in teams, and ethical behavior are skills that ACS-approved chemistry programs should develop in their graduates. Undergraduate research is a particularly effective means of imparting these skills to chemistry students.

Program Self-Evaluation. Self-evaluation is a process by which programs determine how well they are meeting their stated goals and implement changes to become more effective. An approved chemistry program should have a mechanism for regularly evaluating its curriculum and pedagogy, student outcomes, faculty development, and infrastructure needs relative to its teaching and research mission. Regular self-evaluation results in continual improvement of a program’s overall effectiveness.

Support of Excellence. ACS-approved chemistry programs must have mechanisms to promote the professional development of faculty and instructional staff who directly teach, train, and interact with chemistry students. Also required is a strong infrastructure, in which undergraduates work in safe and well-equipped laboratory space, use a wide variety of modern instrumentation, and have access to the chemical literature, databases, and computational chemistry capabilities.

CPT recognizes that the release of new guidelines will not itself lead to increased innovation and excellence in chemistry programs. True change will come about through the creativity and hard work of chemistry educators committed to improving student learning. The new guidelines are designed to encourage and provide opportunities for the development of innovative chemistry curricula, mastery of chemistry content, and development of student skills, as well as to specify faculty and infrastructure attributes that support excellence.

CPT looks forward to continued feedback as the chemistry community works together to improve chemistry education. Please send comments to


Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

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