|Getting on or off the chemistry train? Credit: bakersfieldqdc|
It drives me batty when people suggest that the true value of a scientific education is critical thinking and problem solving. If that were so, why do we waste billions of dollars and man-years on equipment and specialized training when we just need a "Ph.D. in Problem-Solving" program with work done with paper and pencil. Was it all just a mental exercise?
Put another way...The first paragraph could apply to anyone...physicists, engineers, biologists, physicians, real-estate agents, plumbers...they all solve problems and use the scientific method to some degree. I was under the impression that the discipline of chemistry is valuable because it is specialized. Apparently, I could have saved a lot of time and money becoming a plumber.
I appreciate that Dr. Balbes is helping folks escape a train that's coming off the tracks. But let's be honest here: Most of us like riding that train. There's a lot of inertia keeping us on...and it's a helluva ride!I think Anon has a good point in that if you know what you really want to do, you should go do it. Right now. Without delay. Quit doing that thing you're doing right now (chemistry?) and go do something else that you like better.
But that's not how life works. Most of the time, it takes a while to figure out what you like (and what you don't like.) It takes exposure to jobs that you like better than the one that you have now, or the prodding of the market that tells you (sadly) that your degree is now worth 5% less in annual income than it was ten years ago. Or the market tells you that your skills aren't what they need to be to be hired and/or keep a job -- that's a terrifying possibility (to me, anyway).
But I think the problem solving/critical thinking thing is signaling; it tells future non-chemistry employers that you understand a difficult subject, that you've mastered that difficult subject and actually found something new to say about it. It typically means that you're intelligent enough to communicate that difficult subject to the layperson, and you might be able to do it with other equally difficult subjects. Hopefully, a chemistry degree (or an advanced degree) is a better signaling mechanism that that of a real-estate agent or a plumber, even though I believe there's no guarantee that chemists are smarter than plumbers.
All of this to say that alternative careers aren't typically the goal that's directly in front of the chemistry train -- it's a different, equally interesting and (hopefully) equally honorable track.