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Rattata2
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[*] posted on 13-7-2009 at 18:35
Careers in chemistry


I'm going to be starting college soon, going in for computers but organic chemistry has always been at the forefront of my interests. I am thinking about either now or in the future taking some chemistry classes and perhaps getting some kind of degree in this field but unfortunately I know little about the kinds of jobs that are available for chemists.

What is out there for grabs, and what kind of degrees do they require? I like to be hands-on and actually synthesize stuff as well as figure out how to synth chemicals (even from scratch in some cases) so I'm just wondering if this community has any suggestions as to what I should do if I decide to take this route.

The thing is I can go into computers but everybody and their mom is going in for computers, and chemistry seems like a relatively open field with not that many people going into it. Even the woman I talked to at the college recommended me pick it over computers.
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basstabone
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[*] posted on 13-7-2009 at 18:41


Well an idea that I was gonna follow possibly (and still might) is get a degree in chemistry and computers and follow something like a theoretical chemistry route. It won't be as much hands on but it will still incorporate both majors.

If you would wanna be hands on and actually design experiments and reactions and synthesize molecules then you would kinda need a degree in chemistry or something close to that. You could possibly be a lab assistant with a minor but I kinda doubt it. Maybe someone else might be able to give you a little more information on that.

Well ultimately you could become a professor at a university and design experiments and run a lab. This is one of my goals after I graduate college and then go on to get my doctorates.

Hope this might have helped a bit.

~Bass
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Rattata2
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[*] posted on 13-7-2009 at 18:55


Thanks :)

A lot of what I do now is theoretical anyways - designing routes to various molecules on paper, that kind of thing.

I would like to practice abit more of it hands-on, aka do the actual syntheses and that sort of thing (that's by far the most fun part!) but unfortunately as of now I don't have that kind of lab equipment or chemicals, and everything I do learn is all on my own time at home which makes it kind of a pain so the majority of my work stays on paper, kind of waiting for the day when I have the resources to actually attempt them.

Another thing to consider is that as of now I'm kinda tight on money - I'm only going to a community college for computers in the hopes that by the time I get out of there I can get a somewhat decent-paying job in perhaps, networking or something, and go back to school for a chemistry degree with the money from that job. I definitely don't have the money right now to consider a university, and scholarships I think are out because I've been out of high school for a little over a year now.

Now, that community college does offer a fair amount of chemistry courses (not to mention it's only like $85/class) which I would not at all mind taking, but I don't know if that would be enough to get me any kind of career in said field. I'm willing to bet that if I really wanted to get a decent job in the chemical field that I'd have to end up going to a univ. anyways.

[Edited on 14-7-2009 by Rattata2]
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Siddy
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[*] posted on 26-7-2009 at 21:01


major in chem gets you an analytical job, very low starting wage.

Hon. or PhD needed if you want to walk out of uni into a good job, otherwise you have to work for it.
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JohnWW
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[*] posted on 27-7-2009 at 00:28


You should do what I did, and combine a B.Eng or Masters degree in Chemical Engineering (which may incorporate a BS in Chemistry), with a postgraduate Diploma or MBA in Accountancy and related subjects which is structured so as to be acceptable for membership of your country's professional Accountancy body. That would qualify you for promotion to a managerial role in some sort of process industry, or in an environmental-related government agency. Alternatively, combine it with a Law degree with a view to getting a job with a firm of patent attorneys.
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blazter
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[*] posted on 27-7-2009 at 16:08


Listen to JohnWW on this one. A bachelor's in chemistry qualifies you to be a bottle washer, a PhD is required to get a decent job of any prestige.

On the other hand a bachelor's in chemical engineering qualifies you for one of the highest starting wages for any 4 year degree. Possible downside for you is that relatively little of the material is chemistry related, and you will probably end up working in an industrial setting once you graduate. Oh ya, and pretty much all ChE programs require a huge commitment to finish, my program had a 75% washout rate from freshmen to diploma.

If you can tolerate all this, and think you might want to work in some sort of process industry (pack your hard hat and steel toes!) then go for it, your student loans will be paid off easily.
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BromicAcid
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[*] posted on 27-7-2009 at 18:06


Quote: Originally posted by blazter  
Listen to JohnWW on this one. A bachelor's in chemistry qualifies you to be a bottle washer, a PhD is required to get a decent job of any prestige.


Straight of out of college I went into the hazardous waste buisness for a year. The people I was working with had 5-10 years experience and I quickly attained their skill level and advanced in pay and position just as quickly. (My pay nearly doubled in one year and I lead my own interstate team on cleanups).

My second job I got in the door strictly because of my skill, my degree had almost nothing to do with it (just a piece of paper as I've been told). I trouble shoot reactions, run all kinds of fun chemistry, and occasionally do devo work (which I honestly like least of all because I get pay raises based on my first pass success rate).

There are plenty of people with a bachelors that just expect to get a job handed to them, the industry is used to this and they do just that. Point being, the degree just gets you in the door. You get out of your degree what you put into it. A bachelors degree in chemistry entitles you to a job. A crappy job. A bachelors degree and honest to goodness skill will let you go anywhere. Just make sure you know where you want to go before hand so you can put forth the pointed effort necessary to advance.




Shamelessly plugging my attempts at writing fiction: http://www.robvincent.org
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texaspete
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[*] posted on 3-8-2009 at 21:05


Rattata2-
There are quite a few careers you can get into with a chem major, but the good ones require a Ph.D. (Masters is often good enough for engineering). With a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, you could either pursue a career in academia as a professor (a very nice job) or go into industry and work for a pharmaceutical company on total synthesis of drugs. There are also plenty of other jobs with companies like Dow.

My advice is to take O-chem and O-chem lab, then talk to some chem professors and do some research in their labs, paid or unpaid. What you may think of chemistry and what actually happens in a modern lab can be two different things. In organic, most of your reactions must be under inert atmosphere. You will also be doing lots of extractions and purifications (chromatography, distillation, recrystallization). Also, remember that these reactions are on the milligram scale.

JohnWW-
Could you tell me a little bit more about that career path? Is it pretty easy to find a job? What do you do at that job, and what is a typical starting salary?

Thanks in advance!
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JohnWW
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[*] posted on 4-8-2009 at 00:11


My ("chequered") career qualification path:
B.Sc. in Chemistry (with Mathematics, Physics, Geology minors), late 1960s;
B.E. in Chemical Engineering, early 1970s;
degree-equivalent National Diploma in Accountancy, part-time while working from late 1980s to mid 1990s (24 papers), plus the NZ Institute Of Chartered Accountants' Final Qualifying Exam (late 1990s), and at mostly the same time (incorporating many of the same subjects, plus an additional 12 papers) the NZ Institute Of Management's Diploma In Management which has essentially the same content as a MBA.
All this was achieved in spite of having had parents who were practically worse than useless to me. As regards job$, I suppose I could have gone to Au$tralia, where there are many more and better-paid chemical engineering jobs, but the costs of relocating and establishing myself there under conditions suitable for holding down a worthwhile job, and then applying for jobs, would have been quite insuperable.

[Edited on 4-8-09 by JohnWW]
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Duke
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[*] posted on 10-8-2009 at 22:08


I don't mean to turn this subject the wrong way but I feel this is the best thread to do so. Especially since I would rather hear the opinion from those who have gone through my "plight" than those who haven't or are in the faculty.

As a senior biochemistry major in college I have unfortunately been denied research opportunities either due to a lack of funding or the fact that professors taking on undergraduates are already overstaffed. I'm not going to give up at this point, but saying the worst does happen, how much does research matter to entering graduate school or employment as you have all experienced?
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basstabone
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[*] posted on 11-8-2009 at 13:52


I can't answer that question directly, but I was lucky as a freshman and got to be part of a research team under one of the graduate students. I would say that is where I learned a majority of my skills in the lab because it gave me a mentor and tutor who could work with me one on one. This was definitely a change of scenery because I was used to the labs where there is one TA for 30 students and you never got any help.

I would guess that the experience would put you ahead of someone else who didn't, but it wouldn't be necessary.
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flyingbanana
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[*] posted on 14-8-2009 at 19:19


"computers" is very general, what aspect in particular? That will probably help people give better advice...I'm sure there are ways to take what you like about "computers" and apply it in chemistry/chemical engineering. Especially in chemical engineering, which has evolved into an extremely multidisciplinary field, at least on the research level (undergraduate studies focus more on traditional aspects, e.g. process design, transport, which could be painful).
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thaflyemcee
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[*] posted on 14-8-2009 at 22:46


I'm new here, but since I work in the chemical industry, I hope no one minds if I put my 2 cents in.

I have an MS in Polymer Science, with my thesis work focusing on various aspects of synthetic (minor component) and analytical (major component) polymer chemistry. My job after I got my BS in chem was actually really awesome. I had done an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in polymer chemistry, and did my senior undergrad thesis on living radical polymerization because I liked the topic so much. That, coupled with an internship at a polymer company the following summer got me a job where I had a lot of responsibility for synthesis of new materials and got to play a role in choosing what we needed to do to synthesize new materials. After a year, I did my MS, which took about a year and a half. I'm back at that company now, and will probably stay there for a few more years before doing my PhD.

In most places, a BS is chem qualifies you to be a bottle washer, yes. I totally got lucky. My advice is to major in chem, then transfer to a 4 year institution after you finish your community college time. After that, you can get your PhD straight away. My route rang up a lot of debt, because I didn't stay at my company long enough for tuition assistance for the MS, which I started before I finished paying back my BS loans. With a PhD, you never, ever have to pay, and your student loans still won't collect interest while you're in grad school. You actually get paid to do a PhD (ignore for the moment that there is a "marginal cost" to this, (your grad student stipend)-(what you'd be paid to get a real job) but we'll ignore that complicating factor. Once you have a PhD, the interesting jobs are way more plentiful, and you have the potential to make very good money, depending on the industry you're in. If you stay in academia, you get to do cooler stuff, can write grants to get money for other stuff, etc. You do get paid less, though.



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jgourlay
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[*] posted on 26-8-2009 at 04:04


Rattata: +1 on JohnWWW's general path of advice. I'll add a couple of thoughts:

1. Chemical Eng. with a nose to sniffing out the right opportunities could help you land a very sweet job with a smallish chemical or biotech startup. The "biology" and "chemistry" guys generally need help filling in the puzzle pieces that get you from lab-sized batches and $1k/gram prices to rail-car volumes and $1/lb prices. Note that the big opportunities here in the US will probably revolve around the commercialization of lab-sized biotech opportunities. Assuming, of course, our government doesn't a$$ up that honeypot this year.

2. Chem. Eng. with a strong interest in computers gets you opportunities in large companies designing both the chemical processes and refinery size control schema. These folks get paid a LOT. They get to play with chemicals. They also get to play with lots of other fun toys. It is also an absolutely golden route to starting your own company. Lots and lots of small chemical and other plants exist in the US that don't have their own controls' guy, but need to upgrade their PLC's and SCADA systems. $300/hr, plus expenses if you're willing to spend a month in canker sore Iowa and then 6 weeks in bullbutt Montana before taking your 3 week vacation to Maui.

Definitely get it in your mind that you are going to get an MBA or some other solid business training 5 years after you graduate. If you go the eng. route, the masters means exactly boo but the Ph.D. is valuable. The Professional Engineering License trumps both IF IF IF your interest is in industry/government instead of academia.

Another side note: there is a lot of action in the field now around getting microbes to do synthesis that is normally done (with difficulty) in a "chemical plant". Probably there will be big opportunities 5, 10, 15 years on for chemical engineers who have studied how to build large volume "microbe" plants. These also have complex controls. And in that field you inevitably run into lots of folks willing to teach how to brew spectacular small batch beer....
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[*] posted on 30-8-2009 at 15:43


Actually, I bypassed an education in chemistry, because job opportunities were so limited.

Pay was zippo, there were few jobs, they were in bad places, and there was a lot of competition for those few job openings, out there......in bad places.

Still, if you love it, do it. Perhaps you will be able to make your own opportunities.

A recent Chem major friend of mine.......was indeed planning on becoming a brewer/winemaker.

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psychokinetic
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[*] posted on 30-8-2009 at 23:30


I'm very glad I found this thread. Even though none of it was directed at me - thanks everyone for the input, it's given me a lot to prepare for as I enter my Bsc Chem/Biochem. :)



“If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.
I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”
-Tesla
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[*] posted on 18-9-2009 at 21:44


This sounds like me when I started undergrad. I ended up chosing the chemistry route and am going for the PhD.

For me, my interests in computers didnt overlap with my interests in chemistry. You can do molecular modeling, or computational stuff. Thats more physical chemistry, but its really cool to dock chemicals in the active site of enzymes while you try to figure out how to make it better.

I tried chem eng too, hated it. It doesn't involve synthesis, which sounds like what you want.

If you want to synth chemicals you will probably do it in grad school as you work towards a phd and then do it in industry or academia.

I was in the same position, still am sort of.. the way I looked at it is: I can always have computers as a hobby and everything I could learn in college about computers I could teach myself.. chemistry is not the same way. You can not just do organic chemistry.
I would recommend trying both, talk to professors and people in the field. Start doing research early and make sure its in the field you want, then see if its something you want to do as a career. I started research in biochem but hated it, once I switched to synthesis I knew it was something I wanted to do.

Anyone can learn how to program, but only a few can be organic chemists
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psychokinetic
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[*] posted on 19-9-2009 at 12:29


I'm terrible at programming. My organic chemistry is flowing very nicely. Maybe I'm slotted into the TScontinuum backwards.



“If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.
I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”
-Tesla
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AndersHoveland
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[*] posted on 30-6-2012 at 00:03


Anyone living in the USA or UK who hopes to persue a career in science better hope certain politicians do not come to power with their neoliberal economic policies. Beware any politicians that want to bring in (lower cost) skilled labor to "compete with the rest of the world".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYM8MIXCvQQ

[Edited on 30-6-2012 by AndersHoveland]
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