Thursday, July 23, 2015

Just to send it on down the line: is being a chemist meaningful?

From Jordan Weissman at Slate, an interesting survey from PayScale, asking if chemists find "high" meaning in their work. A bare majority, apparently.

I confess that I do find meaning in my work - it allows me to help feed my family and I help make tangible products that do good in the world. I enjoy the day-to-day aspects of it, which helps. Maybe I have a low threshold for "meaningful", but I confess that I attempt to find contentment in my work (and outside my work, for that matter - this blog helps.)

Readers, do you find your work as a chemist meaningful?

(It is interesting that PayScale's median annual pay for a chemist of 53k is well below the BLS number (73k) and the 2013 ACS numbers (lowest at 74k for B.S.-level ACS members.)

14 comments:

  1. The "chemistry" aspect of my job is less meaningful to me than the people that my work affects. (Loosely speaking, I am in education.) I've had to lower my threshold and alter my definition of "fulfillment," but it's working out.

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  2. Funny... I can't find "teachers" anywhere. Just "teacher assistants." And even though the median pay is 31,000 less than for "chemists," 82% still report "high job meaning."

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    1. An inverse correlation between pay and "high job meaning" could be effort justification--a term psychologists use for the idea that if you're doing something without getting paid a lot for it, you must really, really believe in it.

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    2. There are jobs outside of chemistry that I could do that would pay more, but I would be sacrificing some of my self-respect. Is that still effort justification?

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  3. Nope. I feel I could make a pretty good argument that if youre not working on the real problems (energy, clean water, food), then being a chemist is pretty meaningless.
    Feeding/housing the family - I can get behind that, but I would ultimately say that your local plumber/contractor/waiter/etc serves society better than I do. What a bummer man - sorry to harsh your mellow this morning.

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    1. Most people aren't working on those problems, though - the people with more common jobs you cited aren't really doing much more to help those problems, and may be hindering them (digging our hole deeper); while they may have more contact with other people, the level of care and meaning for humanity they have may not be much greater than zero. Under your definition, few people have any meaning in what they do, which will probably make meaning of that sort irrelevant for most people (if they can't get it and do what they need, then they will probably ignore it or satiate it other ways, and that form of meaning won't be so important to them).

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  4. Understanding biology (i.e. studying disease) is pretty meaningful.

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  5. Meaningful? I'm not sure. Do I think what I do is important? No, but for the most part, I enjoy it.

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  6. I think helping make drugs for desperately sick people, even knowing most of what you do will fail, is pretty meaningful (maybe making drugs to treat submental fullness or ED is also, no idea). It is a pity that society at large doesn't share that belief and rewards the Khardasians of the world much much more handsomely than the Sharpless' or the Barans, though I'm sure all the above are doing OK.

    Now those who trade pieces of paper back and forth (cf. https://twitter.com/gselevator?lang=en), those are the real heroes!

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    1. Thanks for that link. Seriously, I like that.

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  7. Ew. Noxious link to questionable hero. I'm going to go wash my hands now.

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  8. On closer inspection, perhaps not so questionable.

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  9. If my projects are successful, Meaningful to the bottom line, perhaps. Interesting at times. I really question, who, if anyone actually benefits from my work. Then add to that the corporate bs, I really question my career choice.

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  10. Moral of the graph: Go to med school

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