Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Now that's #altchemjobs: E-4 radiology specialist

Fascinating post from a B.S. chemistry graduate on the Chemistry Reddit:
So here's what I did. I was in a similar situation as you. I got to my junior and senior years of college, and realized that I should have majored in education. I didn't want to teach English or anything like that. I had started tutoring and helping others with chemistry, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. So I realized that I wanted to teach chemistry. But at that point, I didn't really want to go on for a Masters or PhD immediately; I was tired of school and studying. Also, my GPA was nowhere near competitive enough to get into a decent graduate program. I had worked too much throughout my college career and slacked off too much as an underclassman to make it up in time. 
So what to do. I know this isn't for everyone, but I joined the Army. I was initially going to commission as an officer in the Navy, but as I say, not a competitive GPA, among other things. So I enlisted in the Army as a Radiology Specialist. Since I had my bachelors, I was able to join as an E4; I didn't have to start at the bottom. My chemistry degree gave me a leg up in understanding the physics, chemistry and biology in the training for my job, and that part was all a breeze. Now I'm at my first duty station, and I've got a national registry in Radiography, which not all military techs bother getting. 
Here's the part that made me type all of this out for you. I'm stationed in Washington, and the hospital I work at has us working a Panama schedule, twelve hours at a time. It's a rotating two on, two off kind of schedule, so I have various weekdays off each week. Somebody mentioned to me, when they found out that I wanted to be a teacher, that all Washington requires for its Emergency Substitute Teachers, is that they have a bachelors degree (doesn't matter what field) and pass a background check. So that's what I did. Being military and having a chemistry degree, the people at the school district were very excited to have me, and the interview was a breeze. I got the job no problem, and I can teach whenever I want. I'm always getting calls for schools needing substitutes.
I suspect that this person will have a far more varied, interesting life than most chemistry graduates, They've certainly shown a lot of adaptability.

(Enlisting! Man, is a B.S. in chemistry what it takes to get to E-4? What kind of rating would they give a Ph.D. who wanted to enlist?)

(I'd hope that'd rate E-5 at least? (not a chance, I'll bet.))

9 comments:

  1. Doesn't having a B.S. allow you to apply for OCS straight away?

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    1. Hi! I'm the person who wrote the original post on reddit. I mentioned it briefly in my writeup, but my GPA didn't allow me to get into Navy OCS, and when I went to talk to the Army recruiter, I didn't even ask about it. I got the MOS that I wanted, as a Radiology Specialist, and in a few months I'll have been at my first duty station long enough that I'll be able to put in a packet to get into OCS, if that's what I want to do. Even then, it wouldn't be a sure thing.

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    2. Thanks for coming on the blog to comment as well.

      If you don't mind sharing, what was your GPA and what's a competitive one for Navy OCS? If one does want to work towards that direction but has an uncompetitive GPA after graduating from undergrad, would retaking courses and taking extra courses or doing another degree help?

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    3. My GPA was about 2.5, and at the time the reruiter said they weren't even considering anybody with a GPA below 3.0. I would imagine that closer to 3.5 would make somebody competitive.

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  2. The government actually has rules about grade levels for Ph.D. When I was at the NIH, a young Ph.D. w/ 2-5 year postdoc was not allowed to be hired below GS-11, and if they were to join in HHS's uniformed service branch they would enter at an O2 level. Generally, people turned down entry into PHSCC and stayed on the GS scale due to the higher salaries.

    To answer your question though, uniformed services has to commission a Ph.D. to at least the O2 level. A BS/BA/BFA has never been a guarantee of officer grade though. Although, BS's typically can get a commission, the rates of that are declining due to the active decreasing size of the military.

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    1. Just to spike off of what you said, there is an E4 soldier in the lab department downstairs at my hospital who has a PhD. So I'm not sure if you were saying that the Army doesn't allow you to enlist if you have a PhD, but it is possible. I apologize if I'm misconstruing what you say though.

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    2. Ah, as I reread the post, I noticed the fine print questions at the bottom. I missed those initially. Sorry.

      It is never possible to enlist right off the street as an E5; the only way to start is to be prior service, that is, coming in from service in another branch of the military.

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  3. A substitute high school teacher in DC city schools? Well, at least you *might* get a govt pension in the end, if you are not murdered by gang members first because your test was too difficult.

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    1. Hi! I'm the person in question. I'm actually stationed in Washington state.

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