Monday, June 29, 2015

The 2014 ACS Starting Salary Survey is out

Credit: C&EN, 2014 ACS Starting Salary Survey
The 2014 ACS Starting Salary Survey is out; it's a look at 2014 graduates, conducted in October and November of last year. Here's Linda Wang and Sophie Rovner's article on the issue and here's a link to the report itself (ACS membership required).

Some comments on the topline data: 
  • Unemployment of 2014 B.S. chemistry graduates was 12.4%, down from 14.9% in 2013. Good news. 
  • Full-time and part-employment of B.S. chemistry graduates was basically flat, with 38% with permanent, full-time positions  (37% in 2013) and 9% with part-time positions (same as 2013). 
  • Median starting salaries were up/flat for B.S. chemistry graduates to $40,000 (up from 2013's 39,600.) Median starting salaries were down for M.S. grads at $52,000 (down from $55,000 in 2013) and for Ph.D. graduates $62,000 (down from 2013's $75,800.) 
    • All salaries fell in measurement from 2005 constant dollars. 
  • Women were 52% of B.S. chemistry graduate respondents.
  • The pay gap between male and female respondents was pretty steep around 17%. 
What is noticeable to me is the relative drop in the number of students going to graduate or professional school, which reached a peak in 2009 and 2010 at 46% of students. It's 35% now, which I figure is within 2-5% of the Natural Rate of Progression to Graduate School.*  

Also, how is academia hiring in all of these B.S./M.S. chemistry graduates? Academia was the largest employer at 34% of B.S. chemists, 47% of M.S. chemists and 51% of Ph.D.s. While this is understandable for Ph.D. chemists, what about the non-Ph.D.s - are they research assistants?

Finally, as always with the Starting Salary Survey, the Eka-silicon caveat: the response rate for the 2014 ACS Starting Salary Survey was 16.4%. This is quite low, which brings into question how representative the data is of all 2014 chemistry graduates. 

This survey was performed by Gareth Edwards of the ACS Department of Research & Market Insights; he is to be commended for his continued work on this survey. 

*I'm going to register NRPGS as a trademarked acronym, kinda like Friedman and NAIRU. 

23 comments:

  1. I graduated last year with my PhD. Been an ACS member for over 7 years. I didn't get asked to fill this out (least not that I recognized). Given how dogged the ACS is with membership renewal reminders (emails, snail mail, phone calls), it's annoying to miss out on something like this.

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  2. "While this is understandable for Ph.D. chemists, what about the non-Ph.D.s - are they research assistants?"

    Also lab assistants, stockroom clerks/assistants, department office staff, TAs, low-level library/reference staff. Also, I suspect the high number of B.S. holders with academic jobs reflects a certain number of students getting *unrelated* jobs connected with academia (i.e. college recruitment, low-level college admissions, etc.). I couldn't say whether the apparently high percentage somehow reflects tutoring 'employment' but it might - also not sure whether that should be considered in all cases. It might also include a certain amount of employment which falls into a gray area between state government and university extension services (and the like), where there are sometimes RA-type positions available at the B.S. level in the sciences.

    "It's 35% now, which I figure is within 2-5% of the Natural Rate of Progression to Graduate School.*"

    It might be instructive to know something about how CJ is calculating this, yes?

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  3. It's disheartening to realise that after 4 years of dedicated hard work and hoop jumping that you might be lucky if you're making as much as someone with a high school education who's cleaning toilets, and who has more time off, and more job security, with more or less assured promotions, and all without the overhang of student loans.

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    1. Totally agree. I just keep reminding myself that I "love" chemistry more than cleaning toilets :)

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  4. For the US in June 2005 the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5%, so BS chemists seeking a job had it 60% worse than the average American. In May 2015, the SAUR in the US was 5.5%, and BS chemist (with 13% of those not working seeking employment) had it 140% worse than average.

    I guess all the platitudes spouted by ACS presidential candidates over the past decade haven't been so helpful in improving the lot of chemists....(a gem from 2005: http://pubs.acs.org/cen/acsnews/83/8336acselections.html#2...."In an increasingly competitive world, jobs are being automated, outsourced, or offshored. Globalization is upon us, and there is no turning back.", she got that right).

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    1. Only problem is, the BLS is pulling the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate from someplace other than their hats.

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    2. ...and toilet paper might possibly be involved...

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    3. On the subject of "platitudes spouted by ACS presidential candidates", here is what our next ACS President, Dr. Donna Nelson, has to say on the subject of employment, namely NOTHING:
      http://www.drdonnajnelson.com/
      http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/N/Donna.J.Nelson-1/
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Nelson
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Diversity_Surveys

      Since I (a) publicly supported her candidacy based on her claimed concern about the job market situation, and (b) she has recently explicitly expressed to me her lack interest in the subject, I am now calling her in Norman, Oklahoma to take her to take her to task about this matter.

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  5. Are constant dollar starting salaries for PhD chemists really down 30% from 2015? $52K starting salary for 9+ years of university (assuming a 5 year PhD)?

    Holy smokes.

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    1. I strongly suspect you mean, "down 30% from 2005, in 2005 constant dollars."

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    2. And also it says 62k, not 52k...

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    3. No, biotechtoreador is reading from the constant dollar column, not the "current dollars" column.

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    4. To make that last comment less confusing, I think biotechtoreador is reading from the article, where indeed constant dollar (2005) starting salaries for PhDs are down to $51,900 ($62,900 in 2014 dollars).

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  6. I'm glad to see the percentage going on to grad school has plummeted. When I was in that situation 15 years ago, the early Internet didn't have blogs dishing the dirt like this one, so I honestly believed there was a "shortage of scientists" and that I was making a wise career choice.

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    1. Not sure that's what that means. I think actually you'll find the numbers of chemistry grads are up, but the percentage intending to pursue an advanced degree (although this figure is not specific enough to interpret easily - is this "intending to pursue an advanced degree" or "admitted students" or what, exactly?) is down. For 2005 I think you'll find 11,000 (roughly) college chem grads * 44% = 4,840 grad students (all fields, though) vs. 16,000 (?) college chem grads * 35% = 5,600 grad students (again, all fields). Hard to say, though, what the breakdown of those grad students are (chemistry, other sciences, health, engineering, etc.) for 2005. For 2015, it's reported as about 34% of these going into grad school in chemistry so 5,600*34% = 1,904 chemistry grad students. I suspect this means there are still plenty of students drinking the Kool-Aid, or maybe just trying to ride out the crap economy.

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    2. For 2009-10 vs. 2014 it's about 13,500 (2009) or 14,000 (2010) vs. 16,000 (?) which comes out to:
      13,750 (avg. both years 2009-10) * 46% = 6,325 vs. 16,000 (?) (2014 est.) * 35% = 5,600 students.
      Once again, though, there's not enough information about how this breaks down by graduate field for 2009-2010. Assuming no departures in chosen grad fields from the 2014 info, this works out to:
      6,325 * 34% = 2,150 students vs. 5,600 * 34% = 1,904 students.
      I suspect this is probably simple statistic-ese for "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."

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  7. The percentages on how graduates found employment was instructive. "...32.3% reported they had success with electronic methods..."
    Put me in mind of this:

    "Cal Graduate Changes LinkedIn Headline To "Synthesis Rockstar" "
    http://cenonion.blogspot.com/2015/05/cal-graduate-changes-linkedin-headline.html#comment-form

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  8. Can anyone help with the number of responses (denominators or numerators) for the number unemployed? I suspect the difference "Unemployment of 2014 B.S. chemistry graduates was 12.4%, down from 14.9% in 2013. Good news." is nothing more than sampling noise...

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  9. Generic Chemist, I will not host that comment; the ACS Job Club should have an expectation of privacy.

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  10. No seriously- can anyone help with those numbers? It would good for everyone to know if the the progress is real!

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    1. Unemployment of 2014 B.S. chemistry graduates was 12.4%, down from 14.9% in 2013.

      The p-value for the difference is 0.023, so we have evidence that there is a statistically significant improvement!

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    2. If E-s says it's so, it's so!

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