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Author: Subject: Who else is a chemistry major with a perilous future
Cou
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Who else is a chemistry major with a perilous future

yup, I fell for the meme of "major in what you love" instead of "pick a career you want that's in high demand and gives a good starting income, then pick the major that prepares you for that career!". and chemistry is basically the basket weaving of STEM, when it comes to future security.

Even worse, I'm in UT Dallas, which is a university mostly well known for its computer science and engineering programs, founded in the 1960s by tech and telecom companies to produce more tech workers, while natural science is kinda just there because a university is supposed to have natural science. We have a lot of pre-med biochemistry majors and a high medical school acceptance rate, but very few non-premed chemistry majors. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has a very good computer science and software engineer job market, but very little industry compared to places like houston, baton rouge. UTD doesn't even have a chemical engineering program. Chemical internships are scarce here. Loads of biochem pre-meds means high competition for research positions. I have tried emailing professors and got no responses. I went to a resaerch fair and there was only one chemistry stand, and at least 25 pre-meds submitted their resume. No research and no internships = so much for grad school. and I really want to get research for fun, so I don't have to mix together chemicals at home for my chemicals fix.

When I tell people I'm a chemistry major, their reactions are either "Ew I hated chemistry xD. Wow, why would you do that to yourself? You must be a genius!" or "So, what are you gonna do with that?", often followed by interrogation on how I will get a job, told that business success is equally important as academic sucess, and pushed into chemical engineering.

I can't easily go to a university in an area with better industry. because i live with my parents to avoid student loans. Why do I have no academic merit scholarship which would pay for living on campus? Because I didn't do so well in high school, and the system doesn't reward students who were immature in high school but then learned to appreciate learning in college. Not doing so well in high school means I couldn't go to a university with a better chemistry program, like UT austin.

The future of a BS chemistry major is insecure and perilous. if i'm lucky, I could end up working at Walmart full time living in a ghetto and eating only beans and rice for the rest of my life. And that's the lucky option; i could end up homeless under the bridge, because it's hard to get a job at walmart too. I do'nt know how humans even survive. I'm surprised there's not more dead homeless people everywhere. I may just have to commit suicide if I graduate without getting into grad school and lose living support from elderly parents. Not gonna live with a depressing retail job eating beans and rice every day. Is it true that it's miserable to live on minimum wage?

[Edited on 5-10-2019 by Cou]
Ubya
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take a master degree.
i'm going to graduate my (italian equivalent) bachelor degree in chemistry in december (writing my thesis now).
here is pretty clear, with only the chemistry bachelor degree you can be maximum a lab assistant, you can't do any research work. here in italy you can choose a chemistry themed high school (different system than the US), my bachelor degree is equivalent to that, but i had to study 3 years of university.
taking a master is a must, right now i'm studying for an organic chemistry master degree, this will give me sone hope to find a job.

probably in the US is similiar, a BS doean't prepare you enough to work in a research lab or in a chemical industry, you should take a master degree

more studying i know, but with a few more years you can have a decent job and work (hopefully) the rest of your life a job you like

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DraconicAcid
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Work on getting secondary skills as well as your degree. Learn German or Spanish (if you haven't already). Having a degree in chemistry may not qualify you for a chemistry job, but it can get you into the door of a lot of jobs that simply want you to have an education.

Or so I've been told- I got my career quite a while ago, and haven't looked for a job for fifteen years.

Please remember: "Filtrate" is not a verb.
Write up your lab reports the way your instructor wants them, not the way your ex-instructor wants them.
Sulaiman
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Things have changed significantly since I got my B.Sc. (electrical & electronic engineering) in the '70's,
employees are no longer a valued asset,
I advise starting your own business asap,
you could start simply by just re-selling pool chemicals, e-cig chemicals, agrochemicals, car care... etc.

CAUTION : Hobby Chemist, not Professional or even Amateur
(suffering from separation of me and my chemistry stuff)
XeonTheMGPony
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 Quote: Originally posted by Sulaiman Things have changed significantly since I got my B.Sc. (electrical & electronic engineering) in the '70's, employees are no longer a valued asset, I advise starting your own business asap, you could start simply by just re-selling pool chemicals, e-cig chemicals, agrochemicals, car care... etc.

This, now days they do not want to bother to invest in a person, they just import them when needed and dump the second they have to pay a fair wage.
fusso
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Credentialism and educational inflation are any of a number of related processes involving increased demands for formal educational qualifications, and the devaluation of these qualifications. In Western society, there has been increasing reliance on formal qualifications or certification for jobs. This process has, in turn, led to credential inflation (also known as credential creep, academic inflation or degree inflation), the process of inflation of the minimum credentials required for a given job and the simultaneous devaluation of the value of diplomas and degrees. These trends are also associated with grade inflation, a tendency to award progressively higher academic grades for work that would have received lower grades in the past.

WGTR
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Kudos on avoiding student loans. You didn't fall for the sales pitch. Lots of otherwise smart people fall for that scam right as their lives are beginning.

"Sure, kid! Employers will be falling all over themselves to hire you with a degree! You'll be making $1M the first year out of school and have no trouble paying it back! Here, sign right here on the dotted line..." You'll be in a much better position having a degree with no debt to worry about. Student loans and timeshares are two things in life to avoid completely, and later in life you'll never regret not having them. If you have some trouble finding a career for a while, at the end of the day you are still living at home with a degree and have no debt hanging over you. I would say that the decision between "do what you love" vs "make a bunch of money" really depends on your motivation as a person. Some people can spend their lives very successfully in a career that they hate, because it makes them very rich. Other people can not do this, no matter how much money they are paid. In the latter case, "do what you love" makes more sense, because then that person would be more motivated to succeed in their field of interest. They may not make obscene piles of cash, but they will still be more generally successful in their career than they would if they were doing something that they truly didn't like. It depends mainly on you. I generally fall into the second category. I wouldn't characterize a chemistry major as having a "perilous" future, as if you are destined to eat dog food and live under a bridge. That was the situation that the cell phone provider business went through about 20 years ago. A bunch of companies closed or merged seemingly overnight, and then there were suddenly scores of unemployed people looking for similar jobs that didn't exist anymore. A friend of mine in his 50's was the highest-paid non-degreed RF "engineer" at a wireless company, and he was the first to be laid off. His skill set was very specific to using cell-planning software, and he didn't have actual electrical engineering skills to be able to move to a different career. He ended up running out his severance pay, working at Walmart until his knees gave out, and then retiring early. I couldn't help him because he was an old guy with no real engineering skills. A lesson to be learned from this is to not let your skills stagnate. Always keep learning new things and broadening your skill set throughout your career, and when times get difficult you'll have the flexibility to adapt. In my opinion, I don't see fields related to general commercial/government research-oriented work imploding anytime soon. While it may take more work to get your foot in the door with a chemistry degree, I think the work should be generally stable once you do. I am a bit leery of computer science degrees, mainly because the field seems so volatile. Right now it is a very hot career field, but a few years from now...? It is being promoted very heavily, and I suspect there may end up being an overabundance of qualified people in the future. I see the direction that the "herd" is running, and typical try to run the other way, or anticipate where it will be several years down the road. I see electrical engineering as being a better all-around degree. Plenty of our EEs work as coders anyway, at least part of the time. Heck, I'm non-degreed, and I play with chemicals, write software, AND work as an electrical engineer. If you are truly dissatisfied with your degree path, have you considered minoring in chemistry, and majoring in something else? You seem to overthink things and go negative. You are your own worst enemy on this, and this is the biggest thing that can hold you back. Talk with your doctor and get on some SSRIs if you need to. I'm not being flippant about that. Sigmatropic Hazard to Others Posts: 240 Registered: 29-1-2017 Member Is Offline Mood: No Mood Currently working in a small contact research organization, I am about halfway based on qualifications, but projects tend to be similar whether or not you are BSc, MSc or PhD. In fact the chemist I most deeply respect has only a BSc. Challenging projects are everywhere and certainly not only put onto PhD employees, perhaps contrary to what some clients request. The interpersonal variance is unusually broad, some PhDs cannot reproduce your procedure simply because their too stubborn to try something that been proven emperically to work, taking 'shortcuts' that eventually lead to failure of the route. While some BSc sees your process, adds things the other way around, in an order that is against 'the theory', but ends up decimating (1/10th) the volume required to do a certain transformation. To me, currently, the credentials of whoever do not mean anything but the work performed by someone, or the manner in which they do it, does! I believe majoring in something we truly love doing is not a mistake but you may have to move town (or state) in order to find that rare job where you can practice what you loved studying. I believe that when you are good at what you do and enjoy doing exactly that, that the world is at your feet. Let's not forget that you will be working for much of your lifetime and we should enjoy that time, dept or no dept, anything else I consider a waste. [Edited on 5-10-2019 by Sigmatropic] hodges National Hazard Posts: 495 Registered: 17-12-2003 Location: Midwest Member Is Offline I have a friend who was a chemistry major. He works doing basically mechanical engineering (designing air conditioning systems). I majored in engineering, but have worked my whole career in IT (though I did once work on a mechanical engineering team). I think part of what you learn in college is "how to learn". The more challenging the degree, the better you learn to learn, out of necessity. A while back I remember reading about a study that showed that medical students who had majored in engineering (as opposed to the usual pre-med courses) did better academically in medical school than those who took the usual courses in their major. If you major in basket weaving, you probably won't have very good career prospects for a career. But if you major in something challenging, it gives you the ability to learn. 95% of the stuff I've worked with during my career I didn't learn in college. But college helped me learn how to learn. And having no student debt puts you ahead of the majority of the population as well, and allows you to be a lot more selective about the jobs you accept. I don't know if you will end up working as a chemist or researcher or not (it really depends what you want to do), but I highly doubt you will be working at Walmart (or some similar low-paying job), at least not for any significant amount of time in your career. Steam Hazard to Others Posts: 223 Registered: 25-3-2014 Location: Minnesota Member Is Offline Mood: Triple Point What I have found is a pretty significant thermocline out there between those with graduate degrees and those only with a bachelors (at least in the US). The fact is that in the United States, University has simply turned into an extended/remedial high school where you happen to pick a specialized field. It has for better or worse diluted the value of degrees to the point where grad school is now becoming almost a requirement for any leadership type job in the chem field. Engineering is slightly better, but it also suffers from the same problems. I got my undergrad in chemistry and materials engineering, and I am finishing my Masters in metallurgical engineering really soon. However, I decided that working in STEM fields as a scientist/researcher/engineer is really not for me and thus I a moving over to the legal side and will be attending law school this coming fall. As Sigmatropic said, all is not lost. There are plenty of worthwhile jobs and projects out there that are accessible to someone with a B.S. degree. Your degree will get you your first job, but after that, what really matters is your performance in that job- that is what is going to move you up. Entry PhDs are often managed by guys with B.S. degrees that have been augmented with 20-30 years of industry experience. Do something that you enjoy doing with people which you enjoy being around. Never stop learning and never stop improving yourself. DISCLAIMER: The information in this post is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. andy1988 Hazard to Self Posts: 88 Registered: 11-2-2018 Location: NW Americus ([i]in re[/i] Amerigo Vespucci) Member Is Offline Mood: No Mood If interested in healthcare, I suggest reading through 'Career Opportunities in Health Care: A comprehensive Guide in Exciting Careers Open to You in Health Care' (Shelly Field, 1997). Or newer edition/equivalent. Many entry level positions managing tests/specimens/instruments don't require more than high school (on job training), as well as associates/certification/Bachelor's. Advancement up the career ladder to better paying positions does require better credentials however... The book contains many good tips for entry. I agree there are serious structural problems and I hope the future is better. CharlieA National Hazard Posts: 488 Registered: 11-8-2015 Location: Missouri, USA Member Is Offline Mood: No Mood First, I agree with hodges: the most important thing that you should learn in college is how to learn. Cou, I hope that you are just temporarily "down in the dumps." Believe me, things are never as bad as they seem, although they have certainly changed. When I graduated with a BS(Chem) degree, my student debt was US$7-800. I had one interview a month or so before graduation with a then-subsidiary of Sigma Chemical Co. I was offered, and accepted, a job at a salary approximately as much as my father, a gasoline station attendant, ever made in his life. I started work about a week after graduation.
I survived two cancer surgeries totaling about 18-20 hours, a chemically induced 5-day coma, have a jaw partially made from by right fibula, no teeth, reduced feeling in my lower limbs, and am a 16+ year cancer survivor. In all of this, I take no credit and readily acknowledge that I have been extremely blessed. I guess what I am trying to say is that just plain life can be far more challenging than any job.
When I was getting out of college, I had no idea what lay ahead of me, but all of the really important things in my life experiences had little or nothing to do with my education.
Now, I'm looking forward to my 80th birthday in ~6 months.

Cheer up Cou, the best is yet to come. I wish you every success and happiness!

[Edited on 10-5-2019 by CharlieA]
VSEPR_VOID
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I am two years into a BA in Chemistry. I completed the first two years in high school, and could finish my BA with no debt. I am going for my PhD, god help me. If I could not be a chemist I would rather die.

Within cells interlinked
Within cells interlinked
Within cells interlinked
Cou
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 Quote: Originally posted by VSEPR_VOID If I could not be a chemist I would rather die.

exactly my point. I feel that society has constructs like "masculinity" that try to give a meaning of life besides pleasure. Like, be a hard-working man who works hard, establishes a career, buys a home, etc. A strong young man who works hard and makes himself a good living. "Pick a career that makes you the most money, has the best job market, then pick the major that goes with the career". it's all some abstract attempt to pretend that you should aim for something more noble than pleasure. Like, a decent hard-working all-American man forces himself to do things he doesn't want to do, for the sake of manhood.

Frankly i have concluded that the point of life is pleasure, and if you can't get any pleasure at all (e.g. miserable because you are working full time doing something yuo don't like, can't eat cookies all the time because it will put you in the hospital, can't orgasm because you're circumcised), then suicide is logical. Learning about chemicals gives me pleasure, and I still have a chance of establishing a chemistry career, so i'm not a suicide risk at the moment.

[Edited on 6-10-2019 by Cou]
j_sum1
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Well, Cou. That post was a trip to the dark side (again). I could analyse and comment specifically, but will refrain. Suffice to say that your response to your situation comes across as both unhealthy and disproportionate.
Texium (zts16)
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Well, I wasn’t really expecting this to be the subject to draw me to post again (I know it’s been a while), but I feel like I should give an update and might as well do so in the context of this thread.

I graduated with a BS in chemistry in May of this year, and since then I’ve continued working in the research lab that I worked in as a student. Leading up to my graduation, I was unsure of whether I wanted to pursue a PhD or find a job right out of my bachelors (details in this thread). I’ve since committed to the idea of going for my PhD, because it will only improve my job prospects in the long run, and will give me another 5 years or so to be paid to research and learn about chemistry. Regardless of where I end up going, and whether I even finish my PhD, I don’t feel like the future is “perilous” at all for me.

If there’s any bit of Cou’s post that I agree with, it’s that there are too many people pursuing degrees in chemistry or biochemistry who don’t have any business doing so. There are too many premeds. There are too many people who started off in chemistry, realized too late that it wasn’t for them, but stuck with it anyway cause they already sunk too much money into their classes and couldn’t afford to change majors. They struggle through it and lower the expectations and standards of college chemistry classes. I’d argue that this is true of all STEM fields. It’s hammered into every kid in high school that STEM is the place to be if you want a good job. Some of them say, “well, I got a B in high school chemistry and I made it through precal, I guess I’ll be a chemistry major.”

Here’s where our views diverge: I don’t believe that the abundance of these people provides any kind of barrier for someone who is actually passionate about chemistry and really wants to succeed. Chemistry professors find it refreshing to meet students who are actually passionate about chemistry and want to do research. At my university, two semesters of undergraduate research are required. Most students put it off until senior year, and by that point, they don’t have time to get established in a lab or do anything valuable, so they’re mostly a burden on the PI and the grad students. Or they research washing glassware . I fulfilled my research credits by the first semester of my second year, with the intention to stay on afterwards to continue my research. My PI was (and still is) happy to have me stick around, because it’s hard to find productive and competent student workers. Most premeds who don’t know what they’re getting into get chewed up and spit out, becoming biology majors (or sometimes even business majors, if they’ve abandoned all hope).

Ultimately, you get out what you put in. If you do what is required to get the piece of paper, you’ll get the piece of paper and nothing more. If you want to do research you have to want to, and you have to seek out professors and persistently, yet politely, ask them about openings in their labs, ask them questions about their research, and appear interested (hopefully you genuinely are, if you’re trying to be a part of it). But if you really aren’t able to get into research as an undergraduate, it isn’t the end of the world.

For someone who wants to pursue grad school for chemistry but hasn’t been able to get any research experience as an undergraduate, an MS is a perfectly valid option. Typically, in the United States, if you are a chemist, you are either BS tier or PhD tier. An MS is basically purgatory- on the job market, you’re more likely to get a BS level job than someone with only a BS, and that’s about it. However, it can be a nice stepping stone to get into a PhD if you need more time to figure out what you’re doing, lack research experience, or if your undergraduate grades weren’t the best. I have several friends who did exactly that. Because the university that I went to doesn’t offer a PhD in chemistry, there are actually a lot more MS students than you’d typically see in a chemistry department. I’ve seen all of my friends who went with that path successfully get into great PhD programs.

In summary, the situation is not really that dire. Anyone who wants to go to a university and study chemistry because they love chemistry can still do just that. You just have to ignore all the students who don’t have the same priorities as you, and power through. You need to develop people skills too if you want to succeed, because you’ll need to develop interpersonal relationships with professors and move up the ladder. You’ll need those skills in the workforce too regardless of what job you want. That’s just how it is.

PirateDocBrown
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Switch to Chem Engineering. Better job prospects, with just a Bachelor's. If you stay in pure chem, either go to grad school, or get a teacher's cert, and teach highschool science. Or get a law degree, and go into patent law.

Phlogiston manufacturer/supplier.

For all your phlogiston needs.
DraconicAcid
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An MSc isn't really purgatory- you can teach at the college level with an MSc. You won't end up doing any real research in such a position, but it has its own rewards.

Please remember: "Filtrate" is not a verb.
Write up your lab reports the way your instructor wants them, not the way your ex-instructor wants them.
Ubya
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 Quote: I don’t believe that the abundance of these people provides any kind of barrier for someone who is actually passionate about chemistry and really wants to succeed. Chemistry professors find it refreshing to meet students who are actually passionate about chemistry and want to do research.

Probably it's not a problem in the US, but I felt on my skin this problem.
I decided I wanted to do chemistry at university since I was a child, during high school my science professor was happy about me, I was the only enthusiast of the class( second best, the first just studied all day but didn't like the subject at all), she said to me multiple times that very few people choose chemistry at Uni, that the classes had less than 60 students, well when I started I was disappointed.
During my first year we were over 600, and each year more and more people take chemistry, this year there were more than 800 students of the first year. Good chemistry is now loved by everyone right?
Nope.
Here in Italy the most chosen course is medicine, medic school, more than 50% of high schoolers take that path, but our institutions can't handle all those students, so they made an entry test (many faculties have an entry test), you pass it, you can go to med school, you don't pass it, you wait next year to retry the test.
Usually who doesn't pass that test tries the test for a similar faculty, so you didn't pass the test for med school? You try the one for biology, didn't pass that also? You try pharmacy, not even that? You go to chemistry, that doesn't have a test, everybody can sign up.
My first day at uni, while trying to know my classmates I got always the same question.
"you also are here because you didn't pass the medicine test?"
"actually no, I signed up for this course because I wanted to do it in the first plase, not as a last resource"
As you can imagine, who wanted to really study chemistry were the usual 60 people.
But our labs, made for a class of maximum 100 students can't handle all of us, we get less and less hours of lab, and we are crowded, like 6 people using the same fumehood.
Last year I got the announcement, from this year, we would not make a research thesis, just a compilative one, there aren't enough labs or professors to follow all of us, so now that I'm working on my thesis, I just read papers and reviews, 0 lab, 0 experience, and I have 10 minutes to talk about it. It's a joke.
All because people don't know what to do, they never really liked any subject at school, and when forced to choose a path at university they just follow the herd, medicine.
I love chemistry, but during these 3 years I did more lab at home playing maybe a few hours a month, I pretty much have 0 knowledge of a real lab, I did maybe 15 titration, 1 distillation, 4 or 5 synthesis, 1 run with an Hplc, 1 with a gas chromatograph, 1 IR spectrophotometry and one Uv-Vis, do you think it is enough to call me a chemist?
No

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DraconicAcid
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One thing that you can do, to hopefully improve your chances of getting a research position over the summer, is to read through your profs' papers (the university or department website surely lists their research interest, and should give you references to the papers), enough that you can intelligently comment on the subject. Are your labs supervised by a TA who is a grad student? Talk to them about their research- if it's what you want to do, they may be able to get you an "in" with the prof.

Please remember: "Filtrate" is not a verb.
Write up your lab reports the way your instructor wants them, not the way your ex-instructor wants them.
Cou
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Quote: Originally posted by Ubya

 Quote: I don’t believe that the abundance of these people provides any kind of barrier for someone who is actually passionate about chemistry and really wants to succeed. Chemistry professors find it refreshing to meet students who are actually passionate about chemistry and want to do research.

During my first year we were over 600, and each year more and more people take chemistry, this year there were more than 800 students of the first year. Good chemistry is now loved by everyone right?
Nope.
Here in Italy the most chosen course is medicine, medic school, more than 50% of high schoolers take that path, but our institutions can't handle all those students, so they made an entry test (many faculties have an entry test), you pass it, you can go to med school, you don't pass it, you wait next year to retry the test.
Usually who doesn't pass that test tries the test for a similar faculty, so you didn't pass the test for med school? You try the one for biology, didn't pass that also? You try pharmacy, not even that? You go to chemistry, that doesn't have a test, everybody can sign up.
My first day at uni, while trying to know my classmates I got always the same question.
"you also are here because you didn't pass the medicine test?"

No
I

It is a problem here. like 90% of my organic chemistry class is pre-meds. It's so bad that the syllabus even says that if you struggle to keep up with this course, then a health career may not be for you!
Texium (zts16)
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 Quote: Originally posted by DraconicAcid An MSc isn't really purgatory- you can teach at the college level with an MSc. You won't end up doing any real research in such a position, but it has its own rewards.
Yeah, this is true, but that's the only consistent exception, and as you said, you'd be limited to non-tenure lecturer positions without hope of being promoted or doing research. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it would be a bad job, or that everyone's goal should be to become a research professor, but I feel like it's best to keep all the options open, and the only way to guarantee that is to attain a higher level of education than what is required for any job you might want to have.

@Ubya: That is very unfortunate that pre-meds in Italy seem to see chemistry as a last resort. That is definitely not how it seems to work here. Most premeds here start off in biology or biochemistry. The ones who start off in chemistry usually don’t stick around too long, and those who do make it usually aren’t half bad. If anything it’s the opposite of what you described, since as I mentioned, it’s much more common for people who can’t handle chem or biochem to switch to biology. If you want to get more real lab experience though, you and the 60-odd other “real” chemistry majors should try and get into research labs. Go directly to a professor whose research interests you, rather than through an advisor so that they know you’re serious. Even if it just ends up being volunteer work, that experience will be more valuable than any lab course you can take.

 Quote: Originally posted by Cou It is a problem here. like 90% of my organic chemistry class is pre-meds. It's so bad that the syllabus even says that if you struggle to keep up with this course, then a health career may not be for you!
That's every organic chemistry class, unless you get the good fortune of being able to take an honors section like I did (5 students, all chem and biochem majors!). After that course you'll never see them again.

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Registered: 10-1-2011
Location: yes!
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Mood: verrückt & wissenschaftlich

You're a negative nancy.
I haven't even studied, I started as lab assistant and was later trained as lab chemist.
Now I only started studying, and it does me very well.
I hope the job opportunities are as great as in america when you just can prove you can do the manual chemistry better than anyone else.
It sure helped me a lot to know what I'm capable of, in every job I worked with doctors, me and my colleagues were who did the actual synths, not that morons
Texium (zts16)
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Thread Moved
7-10-2019 at 18:19

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