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Readers Respond: Working as a Chemist

Responses: 242

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Don't overestimate your value

Ended up making 90K / year with a BS in chemistry. Ran circles around "esteemed" PhD's from world famous labs. Did get tired of the politics, watching people that saunter around brown nosing getting accolades, but that will happen in any corporate culture. Took my chemistry knowledge and abilities and started a niche business. The truth is that the majority of people workign in science aren't even worth paying minimum wage.
—Guest God of synthetic chemistry

I used to like chemistry

Like many before me, I was sucked in by the false promise of a decent job. I graduated magna cum laude with a chemistry BS from a good school and have 10+ years experience and still make less than your average entry level welder. If you like repetitive tasks, there are a few lab-monkey positions out there. These jobs usually require a bachelor's degree but could be easily carried out by your average semi-intelligent high school sophomore.
—Guest MrLazlo

My current chemistry plight

B.Sc, MChem, PhD obtained with published papers; willing to work for food....
—Guest Inorganic Chemist

Go for it!

I don't know what's going on here. I went to a state school graudating with a BSci in 2010. I was hired as a Quality Control Analyst at a very small lab for really bad pay the April before graduation. I mean, 17/ hour pay, but I took it just to get a foot in the field and I knew that because it was a small lab I would have a chance to learn EVERYTHING. I did exactly that for a year and a half. then took a much nice offer at 22/hour (46k) with amazing benefits and overtime whenever I want it. I'm already lined up for a promotion with a 7% salary increase and annual bonuses as well. Tip/trick: my undergrad project focused on Atomic Absorption, which is something we spent very little time on otherwise. Develop some sort of marketable skill or specialty that puts you ahead of the pack, and you'll do fine. I know it's easaier for me to swich to method development, process chemistry would take a bit of smoothtalking, but I feel like there are lots of options. Go for it!
—Guest Guest

Don't waste your life

Horrid career. Low pay. Constant politiking. New PhD's getting credit and promotions for ideas from 10yrs ago all in the name of ego. Chemists are treated as a corporate cost center. Your talent and game changing ideas will be stolen, very rarely will it be remembered it was from you. R&D in America is dead, it is being transfered outside the country by expats and funded by the American taxpayers through government grants and subcontractors whom are not monitored properly. Have a great day!
—Guest ghost chemist

Amazing job

Me and my friend Liqamadiq found jobs at local lab in New York. We loved it, we just didn't have time for our familys.
—Guest SuqMadiq

If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't

Chemistry is a horrible career choice and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The chemistry major should only be used as a gateway to something else such as professional school. In terms a potential job, if you're lucky, you will only get about 5 working yrs. and you will be laid off several times in between. Most people I know have left the field after 5 yrs. If you have a Chemistry degree, do your time and pay off your loans and find something else to do in life. The constant job insecurity and disrespect that practicing chemists receive in the workforce in appalling. Jobs are being outsourced and shipped oversees and research budgets are vein slashed. You will not be able to start a family, buy a home, live in a city where you would want to live or have any type of stability in your life. Leave this chemistry field alone unless you want constant instability and eventual poverty in your life.
—Guest disgruntledchemist

Government

My experience is from Australia. I gained my PhD from the ANU, which is arguably one of the best in the country. I agree with most of the above comments, there are no decent paying jobs that involve chemistry. I was fortunate enough to apply for a graduate position in the federal government whilst I was doing my PhD. Probably the best decision that I ever made. The number of people with a PhD in the area where I work (not a research organisation) is amazingly high, compared to the general population. It's not an isolated example either. The opportunity cost (economic term) of doing a PhD in chem (and probably most if not all PhDs) is immense. You'll be lucky to financially recover from it.
—Guest Anonymous PhD in Canberra

No jobs

As a synthetic organic chemist with a PhD, 4 patents and a bunch of papers, 15 years of research, I am now a self-employed cleaner in Melbourne, Australia. If I had completed pharmacy, instead of doing my PhD, and waisting my time in medicinal chemistry I would be having a job now with at least some chemistry.
—Guest Ada

Just got laid off, again!

I got a job working in a chemistry lab, entry level Research Associate, early this year. Just got a pink slip and was told my last day is May 28th. I graduated in 2008 and I have gone through a series of odd jobs, low paying gigs, just to get by. Chemistry is the worst Degree you can get, so much time and effort spent in class for nothing. If I knew I was gonna be jobless pursuing science, I would have taken a lighter route and studied Business instead. All these undergraduate students running around blogging about the "marvelous potential" of chemistry career, parroting corporate propaganda is very annoying. I hope younger chemists can learn from older chemists' mistakes and take a different approach to choosing careers.
—Guest Jobless Chemist

If you haven't finished, you don't know.

Anyone who is still an undergrad is not qualified to speak on the state of the industry. You don't know what it's like, so stop acting like you do. We all liked chemistry in our undergrad years, but the reality of chemistry very different. You all think it's "fun" and "challenging" when your experiments aren't working because you're "learning". If someone is paying for your research and you're under pressure to perform, it's not "fun" to fail. You spend most of your time writing grants, reading papers and getting walked over. When you're not doing that, you're dealing with idealistic students telling you "Chemistry is for smart intelligent people- there are no limits to what you can do! Education, skill, and ambition- Use it.". You don't know, so shut up. I can't wait until you get into the real world and are back head posting the same stuff as everyone else.
—Guest Be quiet students

Medicinal chemist (Torrey Pines)

A San Diego biotech start up is looking for a hands-on medicinal chemist to synthesize small molecule heterocyclic drug candidates. The successful candidate will have had several years or more of experience in the lab, preferably in industry, and be able to search literature to create synthetic plans and extract relevant schemes and procedures. In addition, the successful candidate will need to know how to run samples and interpret NMR and LC-MS data. The company does not currently have funding, although we have applied for several grants and expect responses in the near future. Until the company is financed, salary will be paid in the form of company stock. This is an excellent opportunity to get into a very promising start-up at the ground level. If interested, please send me a copy of your resume, and any questions you have about the company. http://sandiego.craigslist.org/nsd/sci/3004434045.html
—Guest WorkIsWork

chemistry is leaving the states

I graduated with a BS in chemistry with a 3.89 gpa in 2010. I struggled to find a job. Everyone said I didn't have enough experience. I only had one interview and I got lucky they offered it to me as I was leaving the interview. I made 51K last year. My company just bought a lab overseas in India. They are opening a lab that does the exact samething that we do but the cost will be a 1/3 of ours. I applied to a MBA program in the fall. Even though I love science and chemistry I just don't think there is a future in the USA for it.
—Guest wvchemist

Its not a place for a career

I am a recent graduate with an undergraduate degree in chemistry. Unlike most i was fortunate that during my summers I worked in a commercial analytical laboratory. It was miserable, no one seemed to enjoy themselves and many were looking for other avenues of employment. I personally struggled with it myself. It had approximately 20 employees 10 of whom I'm still great friends with of those ten five remained and five returned to school for something unrelated or medical professions. I myself saw the job prospects early and bawked, after discussing with my family I decided to go back and do my MBA I start in about a month and a half and my job prospects look infinitesimally larger, I've already had a family friend offer me a well paid position upon graduation. To all those suggesting its easy to find a job it's not. Chemistry Is merely a stepping stone and Id never advocate doing a Chemistry degree and stopping there many of my friends who are also graduating are following my route.
—Guest Donewithchem

Still can't find a job

I am a fairly recent graduate (2010) with a BSc in Chemistry. I cannot get a job in Chemistry to save my life, despite having been trying continually for the last two years. I do have a job as a Radiological Controls Technician at a Naval shipyard, which pays decently and is a stable job, but I would much rather be working as a chemist. I love science and don't care about money, and chemistry is a great field. It breaks my heart to read all these posts from people working as lab techs whining about low pay and poor job security- I would do anything to be in their shoes! Anyways, I guess what I am trying to say advice-wise is this: don't go into chemistry if you're out to make money, because there isn't any to be made.
—Guest Aspiring Chemist

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Working as a Chemist

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