Friday, December 3, 2010

How many chemists are working in the US?


Estimates of ACS Members from Wikipedia.
# of US chemists (5/09 BLS estimate) and definitions here.
# of US chemistry professors (2008, BLS estimate)
# of US chemists in pharma and basic chemical manufacturing (5/09, BLS estimate.)
# of US chemists in NJ, CA, WY here (5/09, BLS estimate.)

16 comments:

  1. While these may be awful statistics ... shouldn't the number of pharma and manufacturing chemists WAAAAAYYYY outnumber the number of chemistry profs. (I'm not arguing that the statistics are wrong. I'm arguing that it SHOULD work that way). Is there something I'm missing out on here?

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  2. I think BLS uses a very narrow definition of a chemist:

    "Conduct qualitative and quantitative chemical analyses or chemical experiments in laboratories for quality or process control or to develop new products or knowledge. Exclude "Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers" (19-2042) and "Biochemists and Biophysicists" (19-1021)."

    While overall employment of chemists might be higher for pharma than academia, it doesn't surprise me that there might be more parity than we though.

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  3. There's also a lot of small schools--community colleges, etc--that could add up to a large number of employees overall. Maybe?

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  4. @Matt: Scientists (bench and desk) actually comprise a *small* fraction of the employees at any Big Pharma company. I've heard that despite having over 100,000 employees each, both Pfizer and GSK have fewer than 2,000 researchers (all levels, all departments). Furthermore, as CJ has alluded to, BLS may only be counting those who explicitly do chemistry rather than former chemists who moved into regulatory affairs, business development, marketing, etc.

    "I'm arguing that it SHOULD work that way." Unlike any private corporation, most universities and government agencies aren't intended to be profitable. Hence chemistry refugees have recently fled to academia and the public sector. Anyway, with the apparent resurgence of combichem, improvement of automated synthesis, and endless labor supply in Chindia, industry needs fewer US/EU chemists.

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  5. @Anonymous
    Alas, I already get your answer to my "SHOULD" work that way point. It is a statistic that is depressing to me. Seems that academics should inevitably trend down with this as well if we don't NEED to train any chemists. Just a sad statistic.

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  6. @6:40am
    "former chemists who moved into regulatory affairs, business development, marketing, etc."

    Where is the point where you stop counting yourself a 'chemist'? I think that chemists who move into regulatory affairs, business development, and marketing are still chemists if that is the perspective at which they are approaching the new field. Perhaps, even, they may need an even deeper understanding of chemistry to accomplish some of these jobs well. What do others think?

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  7. Nope, only about 4200+ higher ed schools in the US. About half are junior colleges, which may only have one or two chemists. So 24800 chemistry professors at an average 4-6 professors per school... still seems high.

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  8. Also it is common for people to have a chemistry job and then teach chemistry at a junior college on the side. I wonder how many chemists are counted as being 'employed chemists' twice?

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  9. @bad wolf: 4 to 6 professors per school is not that high since BLS is considering ALL fields of chemitstry (analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical). Basically a chemistry department needs to have at least 4 professors (1 in each field) to be ACS certified. One interesting pattern that I've noted is that general chemistry tends to be taught by analytical, inorganic, and physical chemists. Also consider the disproportionate distribution of faculty at schools: R1 places like Berkeley can have upwards of 50 while SLACs like Bryn Mawr have around 12-15. Heavily enrolled junior/community colleges can have more than 2 chemistry instructors.

    @Anon10:56 A few years ago I met a person who was a Big Pharma researcher in Boston and an extension school instructor at Harvard. (Incidentally, he got his PhD at Harvard, which wasn't surprising.)

    @bad wolf: BTW what is your blog?

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  10. Chemjobber: How does BLS count fossils, oops I mean "emeritus faculty" at academic chemistry departments? I've met emeriti who are totally retired and others who still teach or lead very small research groups.

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  11. A11:29a:

    BLS counts chemistry professors as professors, not chemists. (Technically, they're "postsecondary teachers" (SOC 25-1000).) The BLS entry does not say anything about emerti or retirement; I assume that they're not considered 'employed', but I don't know.

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  12. @Anon11:25: Good ideas on those numbers. It would make an interesting graph.

    Anyway I don't have a blog myself (just a login profile) but maybe i should think about it. Thanks for asking though!

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  13. I find this all so amazing. We can not even get these simple numbers, yet everytime we turn around someone is proclaiming an impending shortage of chemists and the need to import even more talent. How do we actually know when there is or is not a shortage of chemists when we can not even get a simple number like the number of chemists employed as chemists in academia and industry? If we track salaries which do ape the labor market needs there has never been a shortage of chemists just jobs for chemists.

    Chemists are people who practice the chemistry profession in industry, government or academia. Businessmen who are lawyers are not tracted as lawyers and chemists who work at as Walmart greeters are not employed as chemists and should not be listed as practicing chemists - perhaps as unemployeed chemists or chemists dreaming to have a job as a practicing chemist.

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  14. According to the ACS Directory of Graduate Research, there are only about 5000 chemistry professors in the US. I suspect the other 20,000 or so people are employed as postdocs?

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  15. That's a fascinating catch, A011620121241p. I assume that there's some discrepancy at this level, but a 5X error is unfortunately. I'll have to look into it further.

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  16. For chemist, It seems no one really has any idea of what is going on in the job world. Appears to be mainly speculation that you would see on a forum about any topic. Their are a lot of opinions. Is there any good data or insight on this subject anywhere?

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