Are you a chemist? What would you tell someone interested in becoming a chemist about your job? I invited readers to share information about their career so that someone thinking about becoming a chemist would be able to make an informed decision. I asked chemists to address the following questions:
- What type of chemist are you?
- What do you do as a chemist?
- What is the best/worst part of your job?
- What training did you need? Was it easy/difficult to find a job as a chemist?
- Are you happy being a chemist? Why?
- What advice would you give someone interested in chemist?
Here are the responses. Are you a chemist? You’re welcome to post a response to add!
- I have a B.Sc and M.Sc in organic chemistry and I was employed as a research chemist right after I graduated working in the BioTech-Ethanol production company. Some of the job responsibilities include: sample quality control, chromatography instrumentation, method development, and research on small projects. The pay for a chemist is very low, even with an M.Sc. You are expected to do research during your work hours and read more about the research topic during your off-hours, most chemists I know work pretty much around the clock. If you only go into Chemistry solely for the money, Chemistry is not for you. Only go into Chemistry if you love research and want a challenge.
- — G0OS3
Don’t do it!/ R & D Chemist
- Being a chemist is horrible! The pay is really bad and there is no room for advancement if a company ends up hiring you. Most companies don’t hire scientist and kept their chemists on as temps for years! And forget about having decent benefits! Most chemists I know leave the field a few years after graduating.
lab section leader-polymer division
- Analysis of Raw material and finished good. supporting to production scale up lab trial for production customer complaint handling instrument calibration and maintenance. safety aspects
Paint & Polymer Chemist
- Thought my career I was employed as a coatings chemist. My responsibilities included formulation of epoxy and urethane high performance coatings. I enjoyed formulating, color matching, technical support, authoring MSDS’s, and technical data sheets. The least favorite tasks included routine quality control, and exposure to solvents. For this branch of chemistry a BS in chemistry was not required, however my minor was in chemistry. Most of what I learned was on the job, vendor workshops, and a good deal of reading of information pertinent to polymer and coatings chemistry. New coatings are constantly being developed, with the focus on environmental safe products. Now that I am retired my experience as a chemist is put forth in my candle and soap business as well as mold making. I extended best wishes to those seeking careers in chemistry; many opportunities exist for hardworking, educated and determined people.
- — Thomas Evans
Not worth it
- The reason people are unhappy with $20 an hour with no benefits is science majors need to be very smart to get through quantum and organic. We could take many other paths that require less effort in college and take less time and would easily earn us 2 to 3 times what we make. It is degrading to have businesses screaming for intelligent people to major in science and then have them offer us less than a garbage man. There is no reason someone smart enough for science should have to struggle to pay basic necessities.
Going to school to be a chemist
- I’m only in my first semester of college and part of my major is chemistry. I was looking at all the responses to this and was very displeased with a lot of what people had to say. Granted many of them may be unhappy with their job options but when it comes to the pay it disturbed me very much to see people complaining about making $19-$20 per hour. This is coming from someone who has to work a minimum wage job and try to support a child on my own. How can you people complain about making that money when there are so many people out there that make nothing even close to that. Also, I saw not one good review of this field. Isn’t there anyone out there that is happy doing what they’re doing. I’m sorry but I am so looking forward to getting my degree in chemistry!
- — christine
I AM DOOMED.
- I am a Biochemistry major. i’ve been job hunting for 8-9 months now. and god!! finding a work that suits my preference is really hard!! help!!
- — KARLA
work as a chemist
- i am msc chemistry with 10 yr of work ex as a chemist but at this stage i work for only rs 10000/month, worst career i never think of such a sc career will left me nowhere
- — avinashpr
Must read article about Science Careers
- If you are thinking about investing 9-10 years of your life to become a scientist (PhD), then the Miller-McCune article, The Real Science Gap, is a must read. Do a Google search or find it here: https://www.miller-mccune.com/science/the-real-science-gap-16191/
- Chemistry is dying; please do not choose this path. I have spent the past 10 years in chemistry research environment and I do not have a single positive aspect of it. No money, no work, no future and no time. A car sales man with no degree earns more money.
- — Ibrahim
Don’t let them fool you
- Don’t let all these negative comments sway your decision on becoming a chemist. I cannot believe there are so many on here with Masters degrees and all I hear is complaining. If your not happy with what you earn don’t blame it on your profession, blame yourself for living “inside the box”. If your stuck in a laboratory doing grunt work then that’s your fault for choosing to submit your application for being a drone. To me, Chemistry is a discipline that enables a person to be effective in many different areas of life. It also shows you have the grit to make it through tough material, not like a Art or Business degrees where I consider the coursework to be much simpler. I could have passed 90% of those classes drunk. C’mon, didn’t you ever notice that all the jocks/cheerleaders were “Art/Business Majors”. I’ve seen the bumper sticker “Chemists can do anything”. I believe this 100%, because if you make it through the coursework then nothing seems daunting.
- — CurrentlyInTheGrind
Very bad idea
- I loved science ever since I was a kid and kept hearing about the desperate need for more scientists. I thought I did my research on career viability and salaries and went for an MS in Chemistry. It was grueling hard work and difficult material. Now I make $19 per hour with no benefits and no hope for a raise or advancement in my career. Does that sound like a good deal? The previous poster SJ is a tool. It is not an entitlement complex to resent the fact you were misled and to expect at least a minimal middle class salary and benefits like a blue collar worker. He sounds like an abusive employer who resents the fact he can’t get educated workers to work for minimum wage.
- — Boned
- I’ve been working as an Environmental Chemist for 18 years. My best advice for people looking into this field is this. Don’t bother with excessive amounts of school. A Masters degree is just as useful as a High School diploma in this field. I prefer to hire people with little to no schooling after HS. The pointless knowledge delivered in College level chemistry is a complete impediment to actual laboratory work. The egotistical attitude that evolves with higher learning ie; I expect 75000$ a year to start and full benefits, is unrealistic and unobtainable in this field. A high tolerance for routine work and solid attention to detail, with a reasonably good attitude is all that is needed to begin working in this field. As the readers can see, the egotistical attitudes of the past posts reflect exactly the kind of person the Environmental community rejects. Do be a chemist, don’t be an over-blown, pompus intellectual maniac. It won’t work for you in any field.
- As an organic chemist with a PhD, I’m well aware of the hard work and commitment it takes for a chemist to progress in the field. However don’t let some of the other responses put you off becoming a chemist in the future. The elation you feel after finally making that hard to reach target makes all those sleepless nights and long days worth it. The pay may not be as good as some jobs.. but the job satisfaction I think makes up for it completely.
- — Organic Chemist
- I am a M.Sc Chemist, I work for 18 dollars an hour with no sick day and mediocre benefits. worst career ever!
- — MSc Chemistry
- I have an M.Sc in chemistry. The annual salary offered for a chemist with a M.Sc is in the range of 40-45k. Considering the work conditions (a lot of hard work and overtime), compensation, and opportunity for advancement. Chemistry is terrible! Do yourself a huge favor and choose Chemical Engineer instead. Even though I have an M.Sc., I am going back to Chemical/Environmental Engineer for a better job prospect and their competitive salary.
- — R&D Chemist
- A career in R&D Chemistry is not great in terms of salary, work conditions and advancement. A lot of chemists I know have considered leaving the field. Even though I have an M.Sc. in Chemistry, I am considering switching to Environmental Engineering because they have better job prospects and competitive salary.
- — Chemist
I regret it
- I have an MS get $20 an hour no benefits of any kind. I am looking to leave the field. No one in my family is ever going into science again.
- — MSCHemist
- For those of you who lament your career choice, have any of you with B.S.’s in Chem made any effort to branch off into Chemical Engineering or Patent Law? I’m honestly just asking because I want to know if this is or isn’t do-able. It would require a higher degree, but if it affords you a better career with better benefits and opportunities, why not just put the extra time into more school? The field can’t be a complete dead end, can it?
Science and Engineering is a DEAD END
- I’m working on an OChem PhD. The job market is horrible and has become worse for the past decade. My lab can’t find jobs or post-docs, and this is a top institution on the west coast. Some people have went home unemployed or taken jobs that don’t require a bachelors or their training. Everyone regrets coming into science, wishing they had spent their undergrad years partying with the business students instead of slaving in a lab. Science and engineering are seriously dead ends. Don’t believe the salary statistics, it’s bull. What they don’t tell you is that it is taking 7-8 years for PhD and 2-6 years for post-doc because of the lack of jobs. They don’t count all that in the statistics. Undergrads that have majored in STEM and left for finance and consulting have done well. As long as they don’t touch a PhD program. They are respected and well paid. If you got the brains to do science, plz go elsewhere. I’m happy when I see one of our undergrads leave science, one less whiny victim.
- — OChemist
Chemist is not practical
- Chemistry is too abstract and not very practical. You are trained at the graduate level to do research such as method development, compounds formulation. Not alot of companies out there looking for research chemists. A lot of smaller company only want low level, ie. college grads, to do the grunt works in the Analytical services industry. They want ppl to just do routine dilutions, sample prep, and instrument maintenance. The pay for these kind of jobs is maximum 18 dollars. 80% of chem grads with BSc or MSc will be stuck doing this jobs. A lot of chemists i know leave the field after few years. I hope employers will change their attitude towards chemists and offer some decent salaries. At this rate chemistry is gonna disappear entirely. maybe then, they can get the Chem. Eng. to work for for the same peanuts they are offering to the chemists now.
- —Another Chemist
- I hate it. I went to school, did well, published a lot, earned a Ph.D all the while hoping I would quit being treated like a dog. It didn’t happen. I was lied to my whole career. To heck with Chemistry.
- — geeze
- DON’T DO IT!!! The pay is the HORRIBLE! I know high school drop outs that drive fork lifts at the company I work for that make like $10/hr more than I do as a chemist!!! I only make $15/hr w/ my masters degree and 4 years of experience and I get ZERO benefits!!! Sometimes at night I cry myself to sleep.
- — Crying Chemist
I make more money than most…
- at about 45,000 USD/year, and 50,000 USD/year after bonus, but I still hate it. I live in the NYC area and this kind of money is abysmal for this area. I live in an area where there is at least one murder per week, because it is all I can afford! I’m currently back in grad school while working full time, pursing my MS/MBA combine degree. If you have any interest in supporting yourself, DO NOT PURSUE CHEMISTRY, especially at the B.Sc. level.
- —Regretful Chemist
Don’t believe all comments
- I see people saying they can’t find any good jobs or getting less paying jobs. But, I want to say that it all depends on the location. I would suggest going to TX, NM, AZ, etc area to find jobs with this degree. The cost of living is very less there and you can make a decent money
- — NM
Not a viable career anymore
- I just want to add to the chorus and say that science is not a viable career in this country anymore. I mean why go to college to get a job that is worse than what you could have gotten with a GED. I have and MSc. and am headed back to school next fall to get another MSc though in accounting. I finally decided that I would like health insurance and $40k+. A science degree is a sure bet to end up defaulting on your student loans. Not worth it.
- — Hector
Life is What You Make It
- One could find shortcomings in any field. Some MDs make less than $100K/yr after malpractice insurance while other make high $100s or more. I worked at a chemical company while going to school for my BS in Biology and Chemistry. I learned the field and got a great job offer from another company right after I graduated due to my experience. Also, having a chemist background doesn’t mean you have to be a low end chemist forever…it can give you a firm foundation to transition into sales, r&d management or many other higher positions if $ isn’t good enough. The challenge is up to the individual. You must pick your prospects and put your efforts toward fields and specialties that are more geared toward where you want to eventually be. Like everything, there are no absolute guarantees in life, but I think one can be much worse off than having a BS or MS in chemistry when filled with ambition and intangible street and business sense.
- Chemistry is dying. Its not what it was 20 years ago. In order to get a good job at the bs or ms level you NEED TO KNOW SOMEONE. I have a B.S in chem. The major is hard, yet the pay off is weak. If your smart enough to do chemistry, then switch to chemical engineering, you’ll make much more money, be in the same type of field(almost) and its only slightly harder. Federal bureau of labor puts chemists as a profession to grow much slower than average thru 2018, about 3%. Chem Eng is actually worse at -2 growth, but the starting salary is like 30-40% more. If your so set on chemistry, do biochemistry, its much easier and biochemist jobs are expected to grow much more. It will make getting into med or pharm or dental school easier too because youll do the bio classes required. Why the poor jobs and pay, all these chemistry jobs are being moved overseas. Good luck. Ill be going back to school soon for a second b.s. in engineering.
- — Mike
Life is ruined
- I am 30 have an MSc. and earn $15 an hour without any benefits. Chemistry is the worst. I regret the day I ever took a science class. I pray every day for a career change. Meanwhile I am boned.
- — ruined
my life sucks
- I am an applied chemist and my life sucks. I studied applied chemistry from one of the top university in my country. But now i cant find any jobs. chemistry is useless, i hate chemistry, I hate applied chemistry, I wish i could go back & change my major to IT.
- — ahmed
Poor Career Choice
- I spent 4 years completing my B.Sc. and another 2 years for M.Sc. During my graduate studies i spent an average of 50h/week researching. After graduation, i make 18dollar/h with no benefit. An economic major who has a B.A, spent half the amount of time in school, now making 50k/year. I don’t know about you guys…but the effort to reward ratio is seriously skewed for chemistry.
- — Chemist
- Used to work in pharma, made pretty good money. Lost my job in the mass layoff`s and had my job shipped overseas. Now I make 500K a year only working only three months a year. My work mostly involves phenylethylamine synthesis. Pretty good employer, good benefits, sometimes stressful though.
- — Heisenberg
- I have a BS in chemistry and I’m currently a QC chemist at a pharma company. I’ve worked for big name companies like DuPont and BASF. I haven’t had one chemist job I’ve enjoyed in the least. You either rarely use the chemistry you learned or end up doing the same tests over, and over and over again (don’t take a job as a QC chemist). Chemistry is fun to learn but it sucks as a career. I’m pretty lucky that I make 44K a year + benefits but I think I’m an exception, not the rule. Now I’m stuck in pharma hell because I can’t afford to leave (20K in student loans). I’m now going back to school for business and paying cash of course 🙂
- — hatechem
teaching at community college
- I teach chemistry for nurses at a community college, part time. The best part of this job is the hours are short, even though this also means that the money is short. I needed an M.S. in chemistry to work here, and I am a former K-12 teacher so that experience helped too. It was not difficult to find this job. I think this might be because most people are looking for full-time work rather than part-time work. I am happiest performing demonstrations or helping individual students with lab experiments. Unfortunately I am not happy lecturing to a group of students at once. I like to deal with the complexity of chemistry, and I do not enjoy the repeated simplification which may be necessary with some lessons. If you are interested in teaching chemistry, I suggest that you find industry experience before you come to the community college to teach. This is because now that I have been teaching for some time, I feel I have no other skills and few other opportunities.
- — progle
Switch careers in grad school
- I am finishing my Ph.D. at a west coast school and got a job at a big consulting firm. Also, I have no debts after the Ph.D., better than my MBA colleagues. If you are still in school, it is never too late to switch!
- — Tony
- I wish I had seen this when I decided to major in chemistry. I got my MS and it’s completely worthless. You can make more money with a high school diploma, but these jobs aren’t available if you have a MS, because you’re overqualified.
- — ms
- Check this out: https://blogs.forbes.com/matthewherper/2011/03/14/pfizer-could-divest-40-of-company-analyst-says/ Pfizer, a big pharmaceutical company, is gonna trim down 40% of the company. i.e. more chemists will get laid off. I suspect more organic chemists will be complaining. I wish i ran into this site 10 years ago..could have saved myself a lot of grief.
- — OChemist
- Getting jobs in science fields has been difficult for the last 30 years. Get use to it. I have enjoyed being a scientist/chemist and found it very rewarding. I’ve spent many days in labs trying to get pesticides, herbicides and medicines through the EPA. Lately, I’ve even taken up being a High School Science Teacher – sharing what I’ve learned with others. There are plenty of opportunities as a teacher to work with research projects at the university level to satisfy most science minds. As for your 70 hour work-week, welcome to the work schedule everyone else keeps. Companies want as much as they can get from you for free as they can get. That is ALL companies, not just laboratories. Lastly, only go after your PhD if you WANT it. Don’t do it to postpone job entry; you will be WAY over-qualified for any entry level position you eventually apply for (and won’t get)
- — Zeller
it’s a good field
- I m senior chemist & production in charge in paint manufacturing company with 10 years experience, i have done M.Sc in Chemistry major organic, in start i had struggled a lot. but now for last 3 years i am satisfied with my job & what i have studied. i am earning a good salary, benefits (car, medical, etc). my suggestion to all other chemist is get good experience in the manufacturing fields, synthetic fields it will help u a lot earning money & if ur formulating some products, believe me it will benefit u a lot. jobs in pharmaceutical, paint, cement, textile field will give benefit u much, just doing analysis will not benefit u in earning sense. so be in filed of manufacturing , research & development, & if u have time u can be a consultant as a part timer.
- — adnan
Important stats for students
- This field has gotten so bad that not even its tenured representatives can sugar coat the bad stats anymore: https://chemjobber.blogspot.com/2011/03/well-thats-not-good-news.html Note how bad the employment prospects are for new grads. This should not exist, since new grads are malleable, cheap, young and flexible. Yes, that is a blog dedicated to chemistry jobs, but mostly to the lack of them. ChemE is better overall, but it will likely face the same problems Bio, Physics and other science degrees have faced in prior decades. As for Europe Chemist, things are as bad on the continent as in the U.S. The last Euro Post-Doc we had broke down in tears her final week in the lab because she wound up unemployed. 10 years down the drain. If you must go, plz go to the most elite group you can find, prepare to work 70+ h/week and tell your boss you love every minute.
- — AnotherOrgChemist
If I only knew
- I have an Organic Chemist PhD from one of the best university in Europe (oh yes, it took me 9 years from my undergrad.). This was followed by 3 years postdoc in Harvard after which I went back to Europe. The situation for chemist is really bad in the continent, and if I only knew that things would be this bad (lack of jobs, poor salary and benefits etc)! To those of you thinking about studying chemistry, please don’t bother to go for PhD (it’s simply not worth it!). A lot of my PhD friends are also in the same situation (most of them have postdoc experience also)! The choice is yours (follow your heart, and you end-up like me (very talented but jobless!) or make a wise decision now! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
- —Chemist from Europe
Screw Organic Chemistry
- I’m a synthetic organic chemist. I used to like organic chemistry a lot. It’s a cool science, but it’s not a valid career path anymore. Universities should really restrain the number of new students in chemistry programs, for their sake. In 2000, when I started my degree, the pharma industry was doing very well and paying big bucks for chemists. This is NEVER going to happen again. Our jobs are all in China now. I have a PhD from a top Canadian school and I did a postdoc in a top US lab. I’ve now been looking for a job for 6 months, and I’m willing to relocate ANYWHERE in North America, Europe or Australia, but I can’t find anything! Talk about wasted time! If you are ready to work very hard (easily 70 hrs/week) to do a PhD & postdoc, and then need to work as a store clerk to pay the rent, then organic chemistry is for you. If you don’t want to completely waste the best years of your life, then PLEASE PLEASE choose something else!!
- — About to Hang Himself
hard and sweet!
- Just I will add that I you really interested in it, just do it. I did B. Sc in chemistry and enjoy my time working in research labs very much but if you seeking to be rich, science field will be the most stupid choice. because get a job after a graduation is not the easy matter. the story that chemists treated as a dog is right.but i still love chemistry.
- — geochemist
- I love biology and chemistry, so it saddens me to see that the jobs in these fields are so insignificant. I am actually majoring in bio and minoring in chem, but I am also getting into med school, so booo yaaa scrubs haha jk
- — No Big deal
Alternatives to Chemistry
- MathChem, I know people with a BS that have went into patent law and been extremely successful. So it is definitely an option. Again, at the BS/MS level you are generally enough to flex yourself and leave unfavorable situations without having to explain yourself too much. With a PhD, it can be difficult to secure letters of recommendation from professors who want to graduate scientists! Especially after 7-8 years as a student, many schools can only see some one who is burned out and may bring negative vibes. If you’re gonna get our of chem, do it as a BS/MS level graduate. Is Chem really a dead end? For most people I’ve met it is. Very few people contain that excellent pedigree, connections and timely field of study to weather this career well for the rest of their lives. If they do, they are usually tenured professors. The rest often spend 6-12 months unemployed between positions, really regretting the decision to be in chem. Even when people have jobs, the volatility still dogs them
- — OChemist
- ChemE is totally different than chem. ChemE is Engineering with some chem background. It is not a simple transition. Also, ChemE, while higher paying, is expected to decline by 2-3% according to BLS. Law is seriously glutted with less than 50% of graduates able to find work. Patent law is no exception. That gravy train left 10 years ago. Tons of science grads left the field to get a JD and now the field is glutted now. If you pay $200k for a JD and are unable to get a decent job you are in big trouble friends.
- — Hector
- Chemical engineering is not Chemistry. If you are/ were a Chemistry major and trying to branch off to chemical engineering, you are in for tremendous change. First of all, you will not be able to make the transition easy. Schools won’t let you just get your Master’s in chemical engineering without a whole bunch of courses in chemical engineering, about 5 -6 courses undergraduate chemical engineering courses. and if you do you will be in for a disaster. Undergraduate courses are pure engineering courses, no Chemistry, tough as heck. you will find yourself doing a twelve hour Transport phenomena twice a week, chemical engineering thermodynamics is not fun either, Mass transfer needs pretty strong Mathematical and graphing skills. You will have to take differential equations first to be able to work tranport phenomena. so you will find yourself taking 4 semesters of undergraduate courses and of course you have to maintain a least a B grade in each course to meet the conditional admission.
- — V
Where all the jobs at?
- I just got a bs in chemistry and haven’t found a job in the 6 months I’ve looked. Forget it, I’m going wwoofing to learn agriculture! After that I’ll find some other way to make money. There’s a lot of money out there for we chemists to make ourselves. If you can’t find a job, make one!
- — Daniel
how much do chemists earn?
- I saw some ppl complaining about too low salaries but I think they weren’t that low. I am from Slovenia and a usual salary for whatever you do is 17500 dollars per year or less even with a degree.
Better than being a hobo
- I see all the responses on here, and honestly I understand how it can feels. Being like you not getting anywhere in life and you probably smarter than the guy that cut your check probably suck. However, all this happen to me before I became a chemistry major. NO MATTER WHAT YOU PEOPLE SAY CHEMISTRY SAVE MY LIFE. This is coming from your so-called average African-American male, who is proud that he not dead or in jail and keeping busy keeping himself to the highest potential of understanding the world in a different perspective view from that idiot English major who will one day need to wipe and shelter himself in a big house made by the chemicals I will one day contribute to society. It not about the money people, it about making sure that this world does not shatter and bring about another ice age. If you want a career-changer, sure go ahead you a chemist everyone wants you..YOU probably just a spoiled person that was probably premed or couldn’t cut it in Calc 3. – CHEMISTRY IS LIFE
- — blackmale chemist
Get out fast!
- Pharma is definitely a deadend–too many business idiots ruining perfectly good research, and waaay too much pharma dollars are spent on marketing than R&D (3:1). Chemical engineering and oil&gas seem better.
- — SickChemist
No, no, no and again, NO!
- 30 year veteran. Worked in several startups and in big pharma. Organic synthesis, drug discovery. First 20 years or so was big time fun, interesting, lucrative. Last 10 years: total unmitigated disaster. My smarter ex-colleagues are now in regulatory affairs and/or patent/IP roles. Those of us too stupid to make the jump continue to toil in a diminishing, increasingly barren and unrewarding field. Been laid off 4 times in the past three years. Last project was providing precursors to collaborators in Korea–eventually they figured out they didn’t need us, they could do it all themselves so they did. Can’t blame them. Everyone let go. Increasingly desperate, my network and contacts are in similar hopeless situations. Not the happy ending one would have wanted. No, afraid that science and engineering are dead ends and not to be recommended; unless, maybe, you’re in the top 5% or so coming out of a top school with good contacts.
- Get out of chemistry and use you numeracy/problem solving skills in business. I learned a lot during my bench career. Never trust your line manager if he does not spend time with his direct reports in the lab or during lunch. Learn to communicate effectively and take every opportunity to do so – however scary it seems. Work somewhere there is an atmosphere of mutual trust – if your HOD ask for your boss to sign your order for £100 of key starting material it’s a warning. Get away from analy retentive wankers. However, that is another career option, as these guys tend to find employment first!
- — Ex Merck Newhouse
- If you value your life, your potential future children’s lives, and your very own well being, stay far, far away from chemistry. It is no longer a viable occupation. You will find vast swaths of nothing more than low paying temp jobs that offer no benefits. Before you consider this career, do some interviews first, ask people who have been chemists for more than a decade how many jobs they’ve had in the past 10 years. I guarantee you the vast majority have had more than 3 or 4 different jobs in the past decade and the reason is simple. There’s simply no stability in chemistry careers. Forget about ever being able to own a home or raise a family, because you’ll constantly be between being underemployed or unemployed and will always be looking to relocate to find another job.
- — Mike B
Is this a viable field?
- Is chemistry a viable field of employment anymore? It is a never ending wave after wave of layoffs and low paying QC or terrible method development temp jobs w/ no benefits. I would really like to own a house one day and not be stuck in a “chemistry” permatemp job testing the same samples over and over and over and over again for $15/hr. I regret every single day of my life taking out loans to go to college to study science rather than just going to trade school to be an elevator mechanic or electrician.
- — AnonymousChemist
The Hindsight Problem
- Chemists need only look at their fellow scientists in other fields such as Physics and Biology. Count the years to doctorate and the amount of time spent in post-doctoral training. That’s where chemistry is heading. This idea that somehow MBAs and others are going to suddenly realize our value has been proven wrong by the consistently abysmal market for other scientific fields over the past four decades. It’s not coming back. What MBA and politicians value are advanced paper pushing. Accountants, money shufflers in finance, lobbyists, etc. that can secure that short term profit and a favorable regulations. Science is a long term investment, with lots of complications thrown in by the U.S. govt. It’s just too hard to even throw money at anymore. Asia and India have a much more favorable environment that is far cheaper. The past decade in chemistry has definitely surpassed the optimism most chemists could muster as this thread has definitely shown.
- — GuestAngryChem
Hindsight is 20/20
- I, too, was lured to synthetic chemistry back when the $100K jobs with signing bonus were being dangled in front of even new PhD grads (imagine that money at 26, 27 years old!) I count myself among the lucky to have a job in a “down cycle”, but it’s not exactly exciting. Much repetitive work, not much use of my skills, little chance to publish. But, hey, I like most of the people I work with, and I look at this as a stepping stone, to when the economy has come around a little. While it may seem like every job is being outsourced, eventually, politicians and MBAs will come back around to realize that we can’t stay competitive without local talent. Look what happened in the shoes / clothing / consumer goods market…sure, we don’t have the huge companies here we used to in the ’50s – ’80s, but the “buy local” phenomenon is bringing skilled artisans and laborers back to the US. I feel that the same thing might be true for chemists in the near future….
- — See Arr Oh
why do it to yourself?
- For years now US and multinational companies have been shedding talented scientists and shipping their jobs overseas. The result is an ultracompetitive job market for relatively low pay. The payoff is not commensurate with the effort: not only the monetary benefits are not there, the work environment has seriously deteriorated because fear has taken the joy out doing chemistry. A recent post in the weblog “In the Pipeline” (04/28/11:”Pfizer Layoffs Today”) prompted the following comment: “Since 2000 until 2009, major United States-based multinational corporations eliminated 2.9 million jobs in the United States. During that same time, they’ve added 2.4 million jobs overseas. There are many other posts in this site that will shed some light on the many reasons of why the idea of getting an advanced degree in the sciences has become such a terrible idea, which was not the case even 15 years ago
grad yr is everything
- Really, it comes down to the economy in the year you graduate. I graduated mid-90s when the permatemp phenomenon was starting, luckily I landed permanent gigs then eventually switched to IT. The people who entered when things were good can expect better success throughout their careers. If you graduated from say 99 to 07 things were relatively good. 08 and later, you’re starting with a temp badge if you’re lucky. If you’re in a lousy permatemp gig, do your best, learn what you can, and move on. Bounce around every 6-12 months and learn. Try something different because what do you have to lose?
- — lab2IT
- Avoid chemistry like the plague. You will blow the best years of your life stuck in a lab. After 10 years of post HS education, you will find yourself unemployed and poor. The job market is horrible. These jobs are going to China and India.
I loved it
- I loved my job as a comp chemist and structural biology. The last couple of years were particularly rewarding. The projects I worked on got more and more interesting and my brain was on fire- right up to the day in January when my job was eliminated. I’ll never have a job like that again. As a career, chemistry is dead. Companies have no appreciation for how difficult these fields are. Save your insatiable curiosity for science for your days off and become a plumber or electrician.
- — RD
Wow, this sucks
- I understand this is in America, but I’m in NZ, and.. wow. I’m top of my year in chem, and love it… Feeling like crying D:
- — Sad
Re: MS chemist
- Unfortunately, what you say about the government is true. Although I never worked for the feds, I worked as a contract employee for a county and I was surprised to see how many graduates spend many years as technicians trying to get a chemist position, and most of the times this never happens, because at the time of the interview, even though they claim to be an equal opportunity employer, bla, bla, the one that gets the position -usually- is a “friend” of some supervisor etc. I’ve seen that many, many times. And what’s even worst is that they don’t try to hide it. On the contrary, they make every effort to show you that they have control and it doesn’t matter how well you do on the interview, they hire the person they want. I am also thinking on change careers and go teaching. It’s scary but I don’t see what else can I do right now in this economy.
- — ex-chemist
- Cara is 100% wrong! She must be an ACS shill. I also only submitted one post. Chemistry should be avoided at all costs. The 3.5% number she quotes is a joke. I know numerous unemployed chemists who cannot get an interview to save their life. You can thank the jackasses who are sending these jobs to Indiana and China. Lets look at the typical chemistry career. You begin by blowing your college years busting your butt, writing lab reports while your business major buddies are having fun. Next you go to graduate school and work 90 hour weeks for 5 years, followed by a 2-4 year post-doc(look up Eric Carreira letter on google). After you have blown the best years of your life, you are now unemployable. Or if you are lucky, you get employment for 5 years, then you are laid off. Please don’t do this to yourself.
- I also wrote 1 post. No one whom I know and graduated with a chemistry degree would ever let their children follow in their footsteps. Most of the science grads I know head towards teaching because it is more lucrative or leave the field. I agree a Fed job is the only viable alternative but I have been trying for 2 years hundreds of applications even in undesirable locations. Too competitive.
- — MSChemist
Believe these Posts
- Guest Cara, personally I know a handful of chemists that are unemployed after years of good service in the industry as a result of downsizing and outsourcing. The 3.5% figure that you parrot is from the ACS, NOT including non-members. If you were somehow able to factor in non-ACS members that number would be much higher. Personally I have watched chemistry in America slide downhill my whole career, as jobs have been sent overseas. I have watched as coworkers with 30+ years of service and a proven record of success have been let go. Chemistry is fun, creative, and rewarding when you can find work, its just not viable in the US anymore.
- — Cara you are wrong
These posts are true: Face the reality
- reply to last post: I wrote just ONE of these posts, and because of my experience I know that mostly everything said here is real. Chemists are treated terrible, overworked, underpaid, and there are no jobs (few dead-end jobs like QC analysis, and definitely no high-quality, challenging, high-paid jobs) . I just applied for a tutoring position along with more than 50 graduated and unemployed scientists looking for a job. This is my experience, take it or leave it. If you really like chemistry, like someone here said (not me), try to get a government job. At least you will receive a better treatment, stability, and income. This is just one of many post with HUNDREDS of comments from many scientists that agree about the current situation of the job market for us among other things. https://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2010/08/11/if_youre_not_a_chemist_what_next.php
- — sad chemist again
Don’t Believe these Posts
- Carefully re-read many of these negative posts and you will discover they are the same person posting many time over under different names. I don’t know why s/he did this (maybe to discourage future competition). The factual truth is that chemists (even entry level) have a much lower unemployment rate than many other jobs (at the time this was written 3.5% vs. 9.9%) and mean salaries show $40K even at the lower end of the bell curve, triple digits at the top. The bottom line is, if you LOVE chemistry, this is a viable career choice. Don’t let some stranger discourage you from doing something you love just because they are bitter and/or resentful that their career didn’t work out as planned. And FYI, I personally know a handful of chemists that LOVE their job, schedules, and salaries.
- — Cara
Thinking of studying Chemistry
- At $18/hr you get paid better than most math grads I have read about. They often can’t find any job, except teaching, including me. $18/hr looks good to someone making $12/hr as an office clerk. I am gluten allergic and I enjoy gardening. I bet some chemistry knowledge would serve me well in the garden (fertilizers) and I could damn well use more gluten free foods made by food scientist – inexpensive food
- — Todd
Gave up on Chemistry
- I had an M.Sc. in Chemistry, worked in the industry for 2 years, and then I gave all that up to go back to school for a second chance at a better career. Every negative things about a chemistry career that people post on here are all true. Low pay, dangerous environment, volatile job market, poor treatments and round-the-clock work expectation are all there. I experienced them all. My Advice: If you have a degree in Chemistry and want a decent life/career, try getting into the government. Forget about starting your own chemical business, the overhead cost is too much (fumehood, chemical reagents, ISO 17025 requirement, etc..) Bill Gate and Mark Zuckerberg’s business model does not apply to chemistry. To all the Chemistry freshmen out there who think they can get by on passion and unfounded optimism alone, well, you’ve been warned.
- — XChemist
Stay AWAY from chemistry!
- where do I start…..I love science and I love chemistry. I never regret the wonderful time I had in the university, all the knowledge that I have, etc. But believe me, there are LOTS of lies about this career out there. The job market is terrible. I have worked in the industry and you are treated as a slave. Low salaries, on your toes all day, heavy lifting, dangerous environments, no career advancement and don’t dream about the 6-figures salary. That’s simply false. I feel that I burned my eyelashes for nothing. The last thing I saw (and I said, enough) was a BS in chemistry graduate accepting a job as a “lab analyst” for $11/hour. What the hell! That’s why I am working as a online tutor. At least I work from home and I don’t spend on commuting time and gas. And I can earn much more if I open my own business. Sad but true.
- — sad chemist
Chemistry in the US is dead.
- I’ve worked as a synthetic chemist for 15 yrs since my BS degree and have watched the industry get destroyed by outsourcing. After 15 years of working with toxic chemicals I have little to show for it, a few patents and publications, outstanding work record and recommendations, but no job. Our chemistry group was cut without warning and there are no jobs out there at all. If I am lucky I will find a temp job running analytical samples until that works dries up and then I will be out of luck. Don’t bother with the ACS as it is a complete joke and waste of time and money. Science is dead in the US. Run as far away from chemistry as you can.
- — AnotherUnemployedChemist
- I’m an analytical chemist with 30 Years of experience soon to get the boot. Not sure what I will do next. All the manufacturing & research jobs have evaporated. I may drive a truck teach or start my own business
The Ruthless Tournament of Science
- “If I had been married earlier in life, I wouldn’t have seen the double helix.” -J. Watson, Nobel Prize Physiology or Medicine Being successful in the sciences is a ruthless tournament. Your success in science will depend on your narrow focus on the subject matter, so drop the friends, family and people in your life who get in the way. It may not win you a Nobel, but it will help you get a job in the end. Chemistry is a horrible career below the top 5-10%, so if you’re not in that upper region of success then you’ll also be seeing a lot of this for your effort: “On the other hand, I was lonely a lot of the time.” https://www.esquire.com/features/what-ive-learned/ESQ0107jameswatson#ixzz1T4QFrhVS My advice as someone in chemistry: Unless you are in the top schools in the nation (Bachelor, PhD & Postdoc) and can honestly say you are in the top 90-95% of the people you meet at a conference, don’t go further. Do something else. You’re wasting your time and will end up poor and resentful
- — ConfusedChemist
- I was a young chemist, graduate student of small university in my country. But, I Love chemistry so much. I Agree with Jeniffer. We will not get much money if we work as a chemist but, we will satisfied for our knowledge desire. I hope I can work in the right place and right time to maximize my potency.
- — Candra
NO avoid it
- I did a Chemistry MSci, after a year of searching I got a job in a lab, then worked there for four years. Since quitting that job four years ago I’ve been unable to find work in the field. You will never make the amount of money you expect for such a difficult subject and positions are few and far between. I don’t regret it because it has helped my understanding of how things work but don’t do it if you want a job or money, only do it for knowledge.
- — Jennifer
Yet another chemist who can’t find a job
- I’ve got an organic Ph.D. from a top 10 institution, and post-docing at a top 15. Entry level jobs (especially quality ones) are scarce and I practically have to hold back tears every time someone asks me how the job search is going. I used to love chemistry…
- — Sad Postdoc
- Here’s an example of what’s out there. Yes, it’s off craigslist, but it’s a real company, offering a real job. And this was one out of maybe four or five total chemistry jobs posted in the entire month. $20.00 an hour FOR A SUPERVISORY POSITION. With 5+ years of experience! MS or Ph.D a plus! And I’ve seen entry level chemist jobs for $12/hr. Does that seem commensurate with the average intelligence and education of the average chemistry major? Are those the kind of jobs that make it into the ACS survey? https://losangeles.craigslist.org/sfv/sci/2706175690.html
- — Eric
Just telling it like it is.
- Whining? This forum is supposed to provide information to people who are considering a career in chemistry. If experienced chemists have found that opportunities are scarce and the financial reward is not on par with our education and training, are we just supposed to “shut up” about it, as some people have suggested? If you love chemistry, great. But you need to know you can’t expect a great salary and that a lot of jobs are being outsourced. That’s a fact. I don’t know where the ACS gets its numbers, but I suspect that they are polling their own members, many of whom are Ph.Ds or chemists who have landed jobs in management. If they are employed and well compensated, of course they are going to retain their $120+ year ACS membership and respond positively in a poll. OTOH, the unemployed or lab tech level chemists probably aren’t going to be ACS members, so naturally they are woefully underrepresented.
- — Eric
- I am an analytical chemist. I analyse compounds into small ones, the worst of it that I exposed to chemical vapors. I need more training to control more instruments. I am happy because I do help people in their daily work. I advise people to study more and do hard work to get better life.
- — alhamdi
chemical engineering no better
- I worked as a research chemist for 1 year after my chemistry degree. The business, Franklin Research Center; then the oldest research center in the US, closed completely. I went back to grad school and got a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering. After being hired in Houston, I was treated like an expendable dog for 5 years then laid off. Basically all jobs in science are exported overseas. The few US engineers scientists have to keep salaries low to compete with the overseas engineering offices (sometimes set up by US firms). For interfacing with upper management they always hire an attorney or business major for the thousands of engineers/scientists kept ‘grunting away’.
- — Gallienus
Chemistry: Yes or No?
- I see a few people here saying this site is full of whiners and exaggerations. But the views expressed here really are not exaggerations as bad as they are. Chemistry has been a very painful field to be a part of for the past decade and the next one looks about the same. If the stories here don’t make you think deeper about a decision to go into chemistry, here is a project focused on the stories of laid off chemists: https://chemjobber.blogspot.com/search/label/the%20layoff%20project It’s very tough out there, even for very experienced people.
- — ChemOrNot
Don’t do it
- Have been in the field for about 12 years. It sucks. All jobs are being outsourced overseas. Pick another profession!
- — Weezey