Something that many of the stories have mentioned is how they're happier to have gotten an M.S. job instead of a Ph.D. job (e.g. in KT's story, he mentions the geographical flexibility of having an M.S. job versus his colleagues with Ph.D.s). But I've also seen your posts on the ACS salary figures, which show that Ph.D. jobs generally pay better than M.S. jobs, and my understanding is that an M.S. chemist usually does a job more similar to a BS chemist than to a Ph.D. chemist.
My question is, what are the pros/cons to getting an industry job as an M.S. chemist versus a Ph.D. chemist? Aside from salary, what are some other factors (e.g. upward mobility, geographic flexibility as KT addressed, stress levels, etc.)?
I'm fairly certain I want to eventually end up working in industry, so I'm wondering whether I should be aiming for an M.S. or a Ph.D. if my end goal is just to get a good industry job. And what would "aiming for an M.S." even entail? My impression is that there aren't many M.S. programs. in chemistry, and most people who have an M.S. got one by quitting a Ph.D. program.My response to my interlocutor:
My personal thoughts are that M.S. chemists are more easily hired (i.e. they are subject to somewhat less scrutiny in hiring) and they have more flexible slotting into a variety of job functions. It is fairly clear that M.S. roles and Ph.D. roles are well-delineated and it is very common at large companies for senior R&D management to be a Ph.D.-only club. I have seen a variety of instances where perfectly good management candidates are fundamentally ignored because they lack the magic three letters.
I think that what would be best is to think about the different roles of a MS chemist and a PhD chemist (i.e. more bench-oriented, versus not) and think about what would truly make you happy, i.e. if you always want to be the boss, maybe you should be get a PhD!
Finally, I note that it is typical for people to enter Ph.D. programs and declare their non-interest in a Ph.D. about a year or two into the process, i.e. it's strangely okay to fib and say "Yes, I want a Ph.D." when you really don't (maybe I'm wrong there - we will see what my readers have to say.)[I should note here that I forgot to point out that there are M.S. programs where you can get a classroom/internship master's in chemistry (and pay for them, as opposed to being on stipend. It remains to be seen whether those programs are better or worse than the traditional graduate school option.]
So, beloved readers, let's tackle this again:
- What are the pros and cons of industry M.S./Ph.D. positions? Can Ph.D. positions make up the 2-4 of earning years that they give up?
- Anecdotally, it is understood that there's a "glass ceiling" for M.S. positions on the medicinal chemistry side of the pharmaceutical industry. Is that true? Is it true for other subfields?
- Is there more geographic flexibility? Do you trade lower pay for less/different stress?
- What is the best way to get a master's degree in chemistry? Do people still do the "apply and fib" technique?