1. Helping chemists find jobs in a tough market. 2. Towards a quantitative understanding of the quality of the chemistry job market.
You turn a corner, and there's your advisor! He holds your very future in his hands! (Turn to p. 16)The HPLC is on the fritz (again). Should you go home early? (Turn to p. 17)All your friends have great jobs, houses, and fast cars (Turn to cover, begin again)
I used to have as much hair as that kid. Then I went to grad school.
I used to think that way, but not anymore.In my experience, grad school was pretty fun. Yes, it was a lot of work for somewhat poor pay, but at least it was really intellectually satisfying and there were a lot of fun times. I don;t think there are that many opportunities to really immerse yourself in a single pursuit. Who doesn't still remember the first time they saw their name on a published paper, or passing comps/thesis defense? I guess starting in the workaday world at 30 puts you behind the curve economically (at least short term), but there's more to life than dollars (well, not in my current job, but overall). I don't see how an extra 8 or 9 years in corporate America is a worthy goal.Knowing what I know now, had I opportunity to go back in time and skip grad school there's no way I would do it.
bbooooooya,So you would be willing to be a graduate with a fresh PhD right NOW? I don't doubt that going back in time, graduate school may be worth it. But unfortunately, we grads cannot go back to that time.
"So you would be willing to be a graduate with a fresh PhD right NOW?"If I were still a bright(er) eyed 20something, probably. Had you asked me back when I got laid off from 2nd biotech job in mid 30s, I'd probably say NO.
I would probably still recommend someone go to grad school, but, I would just tell them to not take it too seriously to the point where you lose your identity, health, and passion (you might need those to network or even change careers). These days, there is no shame in pouring coffee for a living with a B.S., so there should be no shame in being a grad student either. It's like a service job, with more intellectual stimulation. That stimulation is probably worth more than 40 hours a week, but certainly no more than 50.In time, PIs will adjust their expectations accordingly. They need the labor to get tenure, publication, and grants and students aren't just going to passively give their 20's away as an investment in a "job" in the future. Maybe there will be more Masters than Ph. D.s. Maybe PIs will just give up and hire techs and rebudget their proposals accordingly.I guess, the only thing I regret about my Ph. D. was my acquired cynicism and compromised passion in chemistry. Maybe being pushed to avoid and compromise life for the sake of the project made life that much harder to deal with? In hindsight, I guess it was totally unnecessary.
There is not a day I wake up and wish I could redo my twentys and avoid a PhD. I'm in my 40's now, unemployed and employable.
Er... I guess there are negatives, but I look at the positives. When I left my home and family, I didn't have a job and I was kind of bumming around the East Coast. Then I applied to grad school because I was dangerously close to running out of money even with all those crappy jobs.The advisor was great and the project was fun. I published a lot in jackass and played lots of videogames after the work weeks went below 60-80 hours a week in third year. Most important thing is, I met my fiancee. I don't care about the PhD; it's just a piece of paper and apparently it makes you more unemployable, but it's not like I really had much of a job in my early to mid 20s. My advisor was a bit angry when I told him that though. That thing gave me a piece of paper to get the hell out of North America without having to shell out lots of money as a tourist. Now I have a job overseas and I'm learning new languages. It's much more fun to not have a job and be worried for your future if you're doing it 5000-15000 away from Podunk, Maine then if you are in Podunk, Maine.
Before the postdoc overseas, I never had any money to take a vacation in a foreign country and my parents certainly didn't take me. Six month after starting, I went to Germany for vacation. It's still the only place where I had a real foreign vacation but it was awesome. I rented a Merkedes, got a bunch of speeding tickets, spoke German with the locals, found out Bavarians are understandable since they just speak to you in Hochdeutsch, and walked all over Wuerzburg and some other cities which I always wanted to see but never could before. It was awesome! And all thanks to the PhD....
Uncle, anytime you want to write in for an interview, you know my address. You sound like you've had an interesting life.
"Maybe there will be more Masters than Ph. D.s."I doubt it, unless there starts to be a glut of graduate students hoping to move to China. Most of the M.S. and B.S. positions have gone to Asia. With the glut of PhDs many M.S./B.S. chemists are paid very poorly. The situation will get worse, not better with time.
Anon11:37: great comment. Grad school isn't all fun and people have to keep the pressure on in some ways, but students need to vote with their feet and professors have to adjust their expectations. if you are not at a 1st tier school/famous prof, don't kill yourself for a project! if your PI is a slavedriver, change groups or schools! don't get sucked into believing you need to sacrifice your life only to wonder what the rush was afterwards.
almost 40, org syn phd, considered myself fortunate that i am working for 50% of my salary since my layoff in 2009, there is no hope.
"Uncle, anytime you want to write in for an interview, you know my address."Nahhhh.... I can't reveal too much info since I still need a real job. The postdoc hasn't been going as well as I hoped since I don't have enough jackasses and andjewandtes from it, and the latest project is really frustrating. Maybe after I get that MBA or get that tenure-track job... but by that time my life will have gotten considerably more boring.
Ah, well. You know, I'm pretty [redacted] at hiding stuff about [redacted]. Good luck with the search, too.
Hey, I just thought you might like to know that recently in the country that I'm in right now, one major company froze management wages and increased the salaries of common workers by a lot. They had a statement where they said, to the effect, that they "realized that they are dedicated to serving the domestic market, and they can't be totally dedicated until they treat their own workers with respect they deserve since they represent a part of that market". True, there was a bit of bad press before, but still, it was the weirdest thing that I heard in a while... Like something that came out of a different era, but a little comforting. Too bad it's not a chemistry company.
Anon 4:57, "With the glut of PhDs many M.S./B.S. chemists are paid very poorly."Very poorly is an understatement. If you go to a non-target grad school, breeze through classes, pass your cumes, and get an MS, you're still paid technician wages. Most employers (recruiters/HR, more likely) look for those top schools/PI names on the resume as a filter for the hundreds of applicants they receive.