Chemistry Desperately Needs New Students
Scott Houghton

Look to the job market. The market is saturated with folks here on visas, many of the R&D positions have been sent overseas, companies want to run leaner and expect more because they know the market is in their favor. I love chemistry and I don’t regret the degree but I could never recommend it on the basis of my own consciousness.

For what a student has to devote in terms of time — labs, reports, understanding truly difficult concepts — the pay off is terrible. Many of the jobs are analytical in nature and are contract-to-hire with no benefits. Expect the pay to be in the teens, low twenties if you’re lucky. No benefits for someone working in a laboratory with potentially hazardous materials is shameful!

I spent four years in the pharmaceutical industry performing quality control for FDA regulated medical devices. I did HPLC, GC, wet chemistry, spectroscopy, and while I enjoyed the instrumental aspect I ultimately left the field for the reasons I mentioned above. When you notice folks in other departments with business degrees making more money than you without the stress of making sure you get a test perfect, it’s time to make a change.

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