I'm stationed on a US Navy warship and I often wonder if its possible to master these subjects without access to a college instructor. I've been reading introductory books on organic chemistry and while I've gained a lot of knowledge over the past year, I still cannot carry out any experiments.

I have three more years left on my contract before I can ever step foot in a chemistry classroom. I would like to eventually know everything about organic chemistry and biochemistry from reading IR spectroscopy / NMR signals to knowing everything about the properties of various functional groups along with their medicinal applications. I would like to get to the stage where I can propose what reagents to use for various reactions, but I realize that is made more difficult by the fact that I don't have direct experience in the lab.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you might find this answer relevant (from the question House-hold chemistry experiments for a high-school student). $\endgroup$ – andselisk Jan 2 '18 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ Teach yourself, yes, master, no. Mastery will come with the (simplified) cycle of hypothesis -> test -> conclude or re-hypothesise, as appropriate. Learning reagents out of the lab won't give appreciation of ease of handling, scale up, safety, by-product formation or downstream processing ("work-up" in the lab), nor the impact of heat dissipation or retention during such reactions, gas evolution or incomplete phase splits (emulsions); simply scratching the surface with these examples $\endgroup$ – Beerhunter Jan 2 '18 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ If you have a general background you are clever and study good book you can surely achieve better knowledge than not so talented university students. This is possible. Forget mastering. But there is no need to. Most of working chemist and even researcher can spend their life about a couple if not single reaction/ mechanism/ class of compounds.....etc $\endgroup$ – Alchimista Jan 2 '18 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ As much as I'm intrigued by this question, frankly speaking, it doesn't really fit on the site. As of posting this comment, 3 close-votes have been cast under "Primarily Opinion Based" (which is what this is). I really admire your zeal to self-learn this (I've a similar tryst with Org.Chem. and BioChem. , so I think I understand your plight). You're more than welcome to pop over to the site chat room for help. I'd recommend you talk to Jan, orthocresol, andselisk, Loong, Martin about those topics. Cheers, and good luck to you! $\endgroup$ – paracetamol Jan 3 '18 at 7:02