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Author: Subject: Looking for a Job
Texium
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[*] posted on 27-3-2019 at 13:02
Looking for a Job


This May, I will be graduating with a BS in Chemistry. Afterwards, my current plan is to continue working in the research lab that I have been in since I was a freshman for a year, full time, to finish my current research. I plan to apply to PhD programs this fall for the following year.

However, as great as it would be to get a PhD, the idea of another five years of school is rather daunting. I’ve come to realize that if it was possible, I would prefer to find a full time job in the private sector instead—if I could find one that would be both intellectually stimulating, and accepting of one without more formal qualifications than a bachelor’s degree.

So I’m posting today to see if there is anyone currently or formerly in the industry who might have, or at least know of, a job opportunity for an enthusiastic, young organic chemist who is ready and willing to move across country if necessary. I have three years of research experience in an academic research lab, in which I have trained other student researchers (including grad students) and been made Laboratory Safety Officer. My responsibilities with this position have entailed preparing SOPs for the more hazardous chemicals present in our lab, organizing and color-coding all of our chemicals by hazard class, and instructing other students in lab safety and hygiene. My university has awarded me with the titles of Outstanding Chemistry Junior and Outstanding Chemistry Senior in the past two years. And as you all know, I have been studying chemistry on my own time since 2013, and have been passionate about the subject as long as I can remember. Overall, my point is that I am not the average Joe with a BS in Chemistry. If there is any interest, I can provide a full resume and strong letters of recommendation from my PI and other professors who know me.




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AvBaeyer
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[*] posted on 27-3-2019 at 19:22


Texium- Congratulations on your achievements and what appears to be an extraordinary record!

In my experience, jobs for BS chemists are true "entry level" and unless you could find a special organization, the work might well be below your immediate capabilities. In the pharma/biotech world (which is my experience) BS chemistry hiring declined many years ago primarily due to outsourcing and less so to synthesis automation. BS chemists that are hired do primarily supervised routine laboratory work at least at the outset. Contract synthesis companies do hire some BS chemists but the work is not particularly satisfying. One of my sons did this type of work for a while after his BS and it drove him crazy due to the routineness of the job. He threw in the towel and went to law school.

Have you considered a master's degree? Given your background as I see it you should be able to pull that off in 2 years or less. Your opportunities in industry would open up. You would also be in a much better position to go on to a PhD if you decided to do so. Does your school offer an MS degree?

If you are intent on getting a position with regard to pharma/biotech, and since you are in Texas, you might want to check out what may be available in Houston at the MD Anderson Center or the Baylor medical center. Small chemistry groups are sometimes hidden among the medical research groups which need chemistry support. There are also a few start-ups around there that may employ chemists. Dallas and Austin may offer similar opportunities. Forget California unless you are already wealthy or want to live in your car.

There are also the consumer product companies (eg food, cosmetics, paint, plastics) which in the past tended to be good places for BS chemist careers. I know several BS chemists who have had very satisfying careers in these sorts of companies. These companies seem to lack the "PhD-arrogance" so often found in the pharma world.

Are you a member of the ACS? Local section meetings, particularly in large population areas (Austin, Houston, Dallas, etc) and even national meetings are often good places to network.

Having said all of the above, I do urge you to seriously consider grad school. Apply to the very best schools that have professors with research programs that interest you. Do not assume that a PHD will take 5 years - there is no reason that it cannot be achieved in much less time unless your PI needs cheap forced labor or has unworkable projects. If you have a strong broad based BS degree with a bit of graduate level coursework as well, some schools may allow you to "test out" of many first year grad courses and shorten your degree time considerably. Overall, the longer the time span between BS and entering a good grad school, the more difficult the transition.

I apologize for the ramble. Good luck in your continuing adventures,

AvB
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Dr.Bob
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[*] posted on 1-4-2019 at 10:26


I would also advise you to look at manufacturing companies (paint, adhesives, polymers, oil/gas, biochemicals, teaching) with a BS, as the pharma and biotech industries are not hiring much now, most of their work is either being contracted out overseas, automated, or just gone, as companies trade accounting gimmicks for real R & D. I know a lot of unemployed people in the chemistry business, and I don't see it getting better soon. The engineering world is much better so far, chemical and petroleum engineers do well, and materials and electronic are great areas. In Texas, the energy area would be a great place to look, as well as water treatment, polymers, etc.

I have not seen ANYONE get out of graduate school in less than 5-6 years lately, at least at the major schools, and have seen more people go 7 years than 4. If you are a wealthy genius, you might go 4 years, but most professors I have meet like free labor, and most have poor funding and a lack of good ideas lately. As much as I wanted to go to graduate school 25 years ago, looking back, I could have done almost anything else and had better job chances now. When I left the chemist market was tough, but it got better for a while around 1995-2005, but since then it has been in decline. You may find better work in analytical, scientific sales, or other non lab chemistry areas. And cannabinoid chemistry is taking off, that is one of the few areas of work still in the US, along with microbrewaries and distilleries.

If you really love chemistry, it might be worth doing a PhD, but I would ask your current research advisor where to go and who to work for, because that matters a lot. If you work at the wrong school or for a bad advisor, you will not find a post doc or job easily. I have seen that as well, only a few groups send their graduates to the best companies, if you have a PhD from a small school with an unknown advisor, you will have a very hard time finding a good job. I know a few people in that boat currently.

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[*] posted on 1-4-2019 at 18:40


Well Texium.


I recall three or four years back when I discovered how old you are, thinking to myself, "If I was in a position to do so, I would employ that guy on the spot!" I only know you from this board but you come across as a well-grounded, well-reasoned individual with excellent knowledge, good communication, good manner with people, hard-working, passionate and level-headed. A significant contrast to some of the young people I get to work with. That was before you became a mod and before you started work in a research lab. Things have only improved since then. I am sure you deserve your various accolades. They, along with your career trajectory and experience you have gained, are probably worth more than your BS qualification.

In a more reasonable world, you would not be competing for a job. Employers would be competing to get you; and lucky to get you. I say this mostly to encourage you to not sell yourself short. Work out what you want and go for it.

There is an old saying that it is not what you klnow but who you know. I think this is more true than it ever has been. Opportunities don't tend to open up just because you are the best. You have to nurture your contacts and position yourself correctly to seize oportunities when they arise.

I have recently been in the job market (frustrating place). One of the things I had quoted from numerous sources is that approximately a third of job positions that get filled are unadvertised. And those are often the most exciting jobs and often the ones that can be tailor-made to suit the applicant. Therefore it makes sense to research the industries that your are interested in, make connections with people and push a little on closed doors that seem to be headed in your direction -- just to find out whether those doors were actually locked.

I cannot speak with any authority about the possibilities in your area: vocationally or educationally. My instinct would be to continue your education: begin a grad program either Masters or PHD. But at the same time to be very deliberate about networking. Then when you see an exciting possibility that looks like it would work for you, you can shoot straight for the target. You can approach the right person and say, "I am 3/4 of the way through my doctorate. I want to work for your company. I want to do xyz. I have been doing abc for mutual acquaintance. What do you think? Who is the person in HR who I should contact?"
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Texium
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[*] posted on 4-4-2019 at 08:17


First of all, let me say that I can't thank you all enough for all your advice and varied perspectives (including those of you who contacted me privately). Your responses have certainly given me a lot to think about when it comes to where I’m headed after graduation.

All things considered, I still plan to work for a year full time in my current research lab, and apply to PhD programs in the fall. From there, which programs accept me and how I’m feeling about going back to school for, let’s just say ~4-7 years, will determine what I do next. So I feel like this is a decision that doesn’t need to be made now. By this time next year, I should hopefully have a clear idea.




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