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Science Careers thread?

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 
I know we have a number of people here in the sciences and we don't really have a relevant career thread. I'd be interested to hear some other people's stories.



For me: I got my PhD a few years ago in physical chemistry. My wife is also a chemist, and I got a teaching job for a few years after graduation while waiting for her to finish. She finished up and got a nice government postdoc. We landed in the DC area, which is a great area for scientists, but I didn't manage to time anything to start at the right time and am still looking. I want to transition out of teaching, and don't want to do academic research (not that I'd get a job as a PI anyway to be realistic). I'm not really sure I understand industry yet, trying to figure out how to sell myself and my skills. I understand the procedure for academics and government but industry is a different story. I'm still learning which companies are even in my field, which certainly makes things interesting. Been spamming resumes, working the contacts network, but unfortunately most of my contact system from grad school was in academics from the nature of who I met rather than by design. Got some good leads in government but they're damn close about hiring and they all seem to be freaking out because of budget issues and such.

Not frustrated yet, but it's a dense web to penetrate. My set of skills puts me into the defense/aerospace industry, and lots of great looking jobs require a security clearance which of course I don't have yet.
post #2 of 62
I wish I had a science career. Unfortunately I was stupid in college and didn't get my science credit out of the way until my last year. So, had I taken Geology as a freshman, my life and career would have probably been much different.
post #3 of 62
It's tough. There's a lot of transience. It's worse when you have a two body problem. In a year or two when your wife finishes up her postdoc and looks for a job.. more jumping around. Some PIs will be able to negotiate a position at the university for the spouse but that would be later in one's career.

I'm going through a similar situation. Seems to happen more in science than other fields. I guess nerds marry other nerds.

I would think chemistry would be in high demand for industry. Good luck.
post #4 of 62
Have you considered pursuing a post-doc yourself? That would probably fluff up your CV more if you're interested in becoming a PI than lecturing basic chemistry to bunch of community college students.

There are job listings here you could check: http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_CAREERS&node_id=87&use_sec=false&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=a39deed8-8f10-4320-8dd5-09d8b5f4778b
post #5 of 62
Thread Starter 
I have no interest in being a PI in academics, beyond the fact that I accepted that I don't have the chops for it (I've seen the people who get decent faculty jobs), it's just not the lifestyle for me for a lot of reasons. I want out of the whole university/college environment, at least for awhile. Four years of undergrad, five in grad school, and two teaching is way more than enough.

I'm trying to avoid doing a postdoc, going to give it a few months of looking for a "real" job and then I'll consider a government or industry postdoc. Can be a good way to wrangle a security clearance, I hear. Screw academic postdoc, not interested in being a slave for $35k and there's no real reason when I'm not looking at academics anyway. There's also the two-body problem, few enough academic jobs around where I'm at.
post #6 of 62
I obtained a BS and MS in Environmental & Occupational Health. it's probably one of the easier science majors. I switched over from biology when I decided med school wasn't going to work out for me. Jobs in the field are wide and pay decent off the bat. The downfall is that jobs only exist in more developed countries.


I don't think I have the discipline for a PhD, not to mention (IMO) the money spent vs the increase in pay is not worth it to me. With that said, I'm pursuing a 2nd master's, my MBA.
post #7 of 62
I graduated this May with a bachelor's in chemistry, but haven't had much luck finding an entry-level position. That being said, I was a pretty terrible applicant and was only looking across the country for the first month or so. I have an interview with Columbia University this coming Tuesday for their department lab tech position, and I'm pretty psyched. I really want industry experience, but I suppose I'll take what I can at this point. Having Columbia on my resume won't hurt....right?
post #8 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilong View Post

I graduated this May with a bachelor's in chemistry, but haven't had much luck finding an entry-level position. That being said, I was a pretty terrible applicant and was only looking across the country for the first month or so. I have an interview with Columbia University this coming Tuesday for their department lab tech position, and I'm pretty psyched. I really want industry experience, but I suppose I'll take what I can at this point. Having Columbia on my resume won't hurt....right?

The question is: what do you plan to do with your degree and what are your career goals? The only people I know that majored in chem/bio/bio-chem were pre-med/pre-dent/pre-pharm students since the pre-req for most programs overlap nearly the whole requirement for the aforementioned bachelors'.

The ones I know who didn't make it to their intended programs are working at labs for not so great pay sadly.
post #9 of 62
My understanding is that the first couple years with a BS chem can be low pay and shitty, and that the experience should open up a lot of different options. I'll probably end up going to grad school sooner or later.
post #10 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilong View Post

My understanding is that the first couple years with a BS chem can be low pay and shitty, and that the experience should open up a lot of different options. I'll probably end up going to grad school sooner or later.

Set your goals and go for it, man.

There was a girl that I had several classes with when I was pre-med. She got her BS in biology and became a lab tech. She's still working at the same place, making $17-18 an hour. I think she started at around $15 an hour. I live in Southern California so the pay is really low. For reference, my admin makes $17 an hour and she only has a high school diploma. The biology girl doesn't like it too much, and is going back to school for something different.

In most fields, you're going to be working up the ranks because book knowledge doesn't translate to experience. This is what some of the kids from higher tier schools don't comprehend.
post #11 of 62
Thread Starter 
The problem with a chem BS is that you really don't know anything useful when you graduate. You have a foundation for later, but if you're thrown into a lab, you can't really do anything. I was sort of amazed when I got to grad school, started doing research, and realized how little useful stuff I could actually do.

Grad school is a good place to get practical experience, but it's still not a walk in the park finding a job with a MS or even a PhD. You do learn a HELL of a lot, and I'm not talking about classroom stuff. It's kind of a miserable experience, grad school, but at least you generally get paid for it. If you're going to do grad school, I wouldn't wait long, there's a rather significant bias in PhD programs against people who don't go right after undergrad (idea is that they only want people who were really driven to go to grad school right away).
post #12 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibonius View Post

I have no interest in being a PI in academics, beyond the fact that I accepted that I don't have the chops for it (I've seen the people who get decent faculty jobs), it's just not the lifestyle for me for a lot of reasons. I want out of the whole university/college environment, at least for awhile. Four years of undergrad, five in grad school, and two teaching is way more than enough.
I hear that.

I'm curious why you'd like to get out of teaching. I'm looking at teaching positions for next fall..
post #13 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibonius View Post

The problem with a chem BS is that you really don't know anything useful when you graduate. You have a foundation for later, but if you're thrown into a lab, you can't really do anything. I was sort of amazed when I got to grad school, started doing research, and realized how little useful stuff I could actually do.

Our school had no grad students, so us undergrads did all the research. I've worked for the same organometallic lab for almost 2 years, so I hope I know a bit more than nothing. I realize I have a shitload more to learn, though.

Last fall, at the Boston ACS meeting, my labmates and I met a grad student from the lab we unknowingly scooped. She was pretty mad that she got scooped by undergrads.
post #14 of 62
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilong View Post


Our school had no grad students, so us undergrads did all the research. I've worked for the same organometallic lab for almost 2 years, so I hope I know a bit more than nothing. I realize I have a shitload more to learn, though.

Last fall, at the Boston ACS meeting, my labmates and I met a grad student from the lab we unknowingly scooped. She was pretty mad that she got scooped by undergrads.

Undergrad research helps for sure. I came from an undergraduate institution with no grad students, and learned a decent amount from doing undergrad research. My wife had a more rigorous undergrad research experience than I did (different professor, same school), and we were both still pretty shocked at the difference when we were swimming in open waters in grad school. It's worse for physical chemists I think, the learning curve is longer. Synthetic people can jump in a little faster and without the same degree of apprehension just due to the nature of the work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HomerJ View Post

I hear that.

I'm curious why you'd like to get out of teaching. I'm looking at teaching positions for next fall..
Boredom, mostly. I don't really feel like my skills are being used. I also want to get out of the academic environment for awhile, see what "the real world" is like, make some money. I did enjoy teaching overall, the day to day is fine. But it was the same thing over and over, with occasional bureaucratic nonsense to deal with. Very few tenure track teaching positions available now too, they're mostly relying on adjuncts or "full time temps" (what I was doing), where you work a full load, but they underpay you and don't give you benefits because you're technically re-hired every semester.
post #15 of 62
Wait, I thought you applied science majors had no difficulty obtaining gainful employment? Don't make the advice I am giving my nieces and nephews sound like more empty words!
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