Sunday, September 20, 2015

Was Bill Carroll excellent?

There's a new post on the ACS Network from Bill Carroll, Jr. Before you read what I think of it, you should go over there and read it.

I write this as a 10+ year member of the ACS* - after reading that, I was never so close to resigning my membership.

Dr. Carroll writes about an early ACS president, Henry Hill, who established the first code of conduct for both chemists and employers of chemists. I find the guidelines kinda quaint ("The employer should, by appropriate business practices, provide stable employment and avoid terminating employees whenever possible except for cause."), but hey, at least there are some guidelines. He talks a bit about President Hill's thoughts on job loss from chemists in the early 1970s and then really goes off the rails here:
...Our predecessors—even before the dismal economic days of the ‘70s--had many of the same concerns with respect to employment and the balance between supply and demand as some of our colleagues express today.  In many ways, today’s situation is more difficult and complicated.  The enterprise is profoundly global, and it was not in 1975.  The business that employs so many chemists—big pharma—struggles to find its place in the context of 2015.

And even more startling: we’re graduating about twice as many bachelors and 50% more PhDs today than we were then.  Yet the overall unemployment rate is relatively low, even if it’s higher for new graduates.

So here’s a hypothesis: maybe then and now are not so different.  Maybe for some reason we virtually always have too many chemists and too few jobs…or if not always, maybe most of the time.

So if that hypothesis is plausible, what do we do about the situation, individually and collectively? If chemists are in oversupply, our first thought is to encourage industry to hire more of us.  But realistically, that only works for them if they can make more money by doing so.  That’s harsh, but it’s the nature of the enterprise.

I believe that each of us is a single-proprietor business—even if we work at a corporation or a university.  If we take that point of view and constantly work to improve our capabilities we have a greater chance of avoiding the tragedy of an atrophied career and a layoff because the enterprise changed and we didn’t realize it was happening.

Employers have a responsibility to us as employees, but our responsibility to ourselves is an order of magnitude greater.  That’s what it means to me to be a professional: to make a career a continuous series of learning experiences; adding to our toolkits; making ourselves better and more valuable in a competitive market.  ACS’ responsibility in exchange for your dues is to do what it can to enable you.  I think Dr. Hill might agree.
[deep breath]

First, let's establish who William Carroll, Jr. is. He is a current director-at-large of the American Chemical Society. That means that he sits on the board that ACS members elect (one from each district); this board hires the CEO/executive director (that CEO used to be Madeleine Jacobs, it's now Tom Connolly.) Dr. Carroll was president of the ACS in 2005 (?) (which means that he was on the board in 2004 through 2006, I think), and then he's been on the board since 2007 and has a seat on the board until 2017. He was chairman of the Board from 2012-2014.

I mention all of this to say that Dr. Carroll is just about as responsible as anyone for ACS' response to the Great Recession. Let's remind ourselves of the butcher's bill of those years: thousands (if not tens of thousands) of layoffs of chemical professionals, the highest unemployment rate for chemists in the history of the ACS' Salary Survey, and median wages that continue to fall against inflation over a decade.

Instead of analyzing the lessons that ACS staff and volunteers have learned over those Great Recession years, how the response of the ACS could have been improved and what lessons could be learned for the future (and his role in that response), instead, he has the temerity to remind me that I'm a "sole-proprietor business." Are you freakin' kidding me? After over a decade of zero loyalty from multi-national/American corporations, the last thing a working chemist member of the American Chemical Society needs is that we're on our own. Yeah, buddy, I $*&*&@ know that already.

Instead of reminding me once again that I need to prove myself at my job daily (something I actually really do believe), I would ask Dr. Carroll to have the courage to analyze his successes and failures as a member of the board of directors and how ACS is doing at "enabling" us.

*Yep, not very long, comparatively.

33 comments:

  1. Puh-lease CJ: make up your mind. Whose side are YOU on?

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  2. I have to agree with CJ that we need to prove ourselves at our jobs daily. Where Dr. Carroll (and the corporate masters) purposefully confuse the matter is what kind of "proving ourselves" is needed for our own health. We actually don't need to prove ourselves to anyone else to stay satisfied. We just need to prove ourselves to us. The awareness of a job well done comes from within, not from external corrections or awards.

    If we look for our own worth in the mirror of corporate leaders' eyes then our self worth will be determined by those very leaders. When the business objectives change the we are deemed expandable our self-worth stays where our desk once was. The only recourse is to not give the measuring cup to someone else.

    The professions who lead today's corporations are business management, sales, marketing, and legal. I know and personally respect several people in these professions. There is, however, a dichotomy built into the jobs, and maybe professions themselves. One cannot successfully lead a scientific enterprise by pushing only marketing values. In a long term science suffocates and with the science so do our careers. Let's not let our self worth suffocate as well.

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  3. I was at an ACS thing earlier this year, and had an opportunity to speak with another ACS Director. After introducing myself, he asked me what my background was. I briefly explained that I had returned to graduate school when I was 33, earned a PhD ten years ago, and had been struggling to find a permanent position since. I was at the time a temp with a small company that was losing business left and right, and was sure that I would be let go soon (which happened not long after the conversation, and after four months am still unemployed). Instead of offering me even an insincere expression of sympathy, he launched into a fifteen minute monologue recounting how sweet his life has been. A few years ago, I would have told him to go f himself, but after struggling to build a career in this field, it just made me sad.

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    1. Hmmm, I wonder... From your description, I am not sure he would notice your rather charitable comment anyway...

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  4. "I write this as a 10+ year member of the ACS* - after reading that, I was never so close to resigning my membership."

    CJ, just do it- I guarantee you won't notice a single difference. Seriously.

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    1. I would miss my subscription to C&EN.

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    2. You can get enough material for free online.

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    3. Deleted, GC. I don't talk about your personal life online, you don't talk about mine.

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  5. The current correspondence does rather suggest that there are some (I am sure not all) members of ACS who have a lot of spare time to rant and rave - so perhaps there is after all not enough chemistry related work (whether science, marketing, legal or something else - all vital components of the mix) around for them to be devoting themselves to?
    As someone who worked in the industry (and before that in academia) in the USA and Europe and had the privilege of working with Bill Carroll from time to time, I would just like to ask you all to take a little time to take a deep breath and reflect. Bill was (and I am sure still is!) a great guy - as a scientist, as a very active promoter of our joint profession - in industry and in academia and as a human being. There is a good debate to be had but at least let us conduct it in the civilised fashion that befits our profession and our joint humanity. Bill - thanks for all you did for science and our industry; it was a privilege to work with you from time to time. Mike.

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    1. When I think of people who did a lot for science, I think of the actual scientists, not ACS board members.

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    2. The problem with what Dr. Carroll wrote is that it is the old "the unemployed are just lazy and shiftless and don't really want to work" trope that has long been used to characterize the generationally poor. It is a lazy and shiftless argument, and is used by people who don't really want to work at finding the root causes of unemployment and solving those problems. It is an argument that is intellectually and morally offensive to me, as is your implication that I "have a lot of spare time to rant and rave" because I'm not busy enough with a job/looking for a job. I assure you and Dr. Carroll that none of us want to be unemployed.

      As for you assertion that Dr. Carroll is "a great guy", I'm sure that it is entirely possibly for someone to be a great person and still say (write) stupid things. The two are not always mutually exclusive, and the one does not always negate the other.

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  6. Dear CJ,

    I like Bill, and he puts on a lot of career-related workshops and mentoring for ACS in his spare time, of which, there isn't much. It's true, he has been successful and has been paid nicely for his day job, but his service to ACS is on a volunteer basis. The same as yours.

    I will also fess up to asking Bill to write this blog entry. I thought that it was important to see that there have been periodic gluts of students entering the market over time, and that high unemployment is something that we can count on to return. The other thing that we can count on is that businesses will have the upper hand. In may respects, higher unemployment means bargain shopping to them, and higher salaries mean lower profit margins. I have found that telling companies to hire more chemists is a bit like telling a 3 year old to eat their broccoli. In both cases, I generally come away from the argument wearing my argument.

    What is most ironic about your response to Bill's blog entry is that you agree on almost every point. If you haven't visited with Bill, I think you should. He has been pushing ropes longer than either of us, and occasionally, he makes progress.

    Dave

    PS - These comments are mine, and not those of my employer, so flame on.

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    1. Thanks for your response, Dave.

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    2. "I have found that telling companies to hire more chemists is a bit like telling a 3 year old to eat their broccoli."

      The difference, of course, is that companies are motivated by profit and not id. If it amounts to "pushing ropes," then maybe the problem is that there's not actually a business case for hiring more.

      But if there is a strong business case, why is ACS so demonstrably horrible at presenting it?

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  7. mikh43 - The question is not whether Bill is or was a great human-being or chemist. What has infuriated several people here is really that the expressed attitude in Bill's public comments is a partial reflection of what the ACS governing body is thinking. Many view the ACS (rightly?) as an organization that exists to empower chemists as a group...our membership dues go to support the organization and we (some of us, at least) feel that the organization should help support our causes in return, in-as-much as the ACS is able to do this. Some of our bitterness comes from the fact that we see ways in which the ACS could improve the situation for regular "work-a-day" chemists (by acknowledging the overabundance of PhDs/PhD programs, for example) and improve the health of the field as a whole but many official ACS comments seem to be "you just aren't working hard enough (paraphrased)." As a disclaimer, I am happily employed right now, but I am not so far removed from the job search that I have forgotten the panic of worrying about how to support my family, when I was already doing everything I felt I could manage to improve my employability. The broader issue here might be that many of the chemists that wield the most power (as managers, academic department heads, or ACS board-members) seem to show by their comments and opinions that they have lost touch with the true situation for the bulk of the employees in the industry. I am using precious time to write this comment for some of the same reasons that I think Chemjobber keeps this blog; not to rant and rave, but to ensure that chemists who are struggling do not feel isolated, so that ideas and viewpoints can be shared, discussed, and hopefully acted on when appropriate, and to inform those who are entering the field about some of the challenges that they must be aware of if they are going to succeed. In conclusion, I will consider Bill Carroll's position again more carefully, but please keep in mind the position of many readers here as well.

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    1. VTJ and Sustainable, I couldn’t agree more.

      It has been over half a decade since I was unemployed. I am now juggling a full-time job, a part-time contract position, and a small, modestly successful entrepreneurial enterprise of my own, but these sources of income are all pretty far removed from what I did in graduate school and in my first industrial positions before the layoffs began. I am constantly working long hours and I have to deliberately and consciously give myself permission to stop and take breaks to spend time with my family (or comment on a blog post that is demanding my attention because it is just so damn relevant to my entire existence. I apologize if this just adds another voice to an echo chamber, but there’s an echo because so many of us, I think, are here because we understand each other as fellow struggling chemists.)

      Sadly, in fact, if I had known before I was unemployed how difficult this would be, I may have questioned our choice to start a family. Due to the particular needs of our children, if my spouse or I ever lost our full-time jobs, it is probably not an exaggeration to say that our situation would be dire.

      My current sidelines-of-chemistry professional role is one in which I regularly talk to chemistry undergraduates. To the ones who are receptive I give concerned, undiluted advice: graduate school in chemistry may be about as likely to lead you to a stable, engaging career in the city of your choice as trying to make it as a movie director, but you won’t have nearly as much fun. A graduate degree in research is not a ticket to steady, intellectually-rewarding employment; it is a hunting license. You think you love it for the science? For the thrill of discovering something new? Then continue to educate yourself by reading, thinking, learning, and talking about chemistry while you happily pursue some other career that isn’t as likely to leave you unemployed or marginalized. (Sorry, I have no idea what that may be.)

      One thing Bill's right about, GC, whining isn't going to get us anywhere, and I think pestering ACS leadership isn't going to get us anywhere either. Either pay for your membership for what it is, or drop out. This particular system of power and privilege isn't going to change any time soon.

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  8. VTJ - Even in the best of times, there will be suffering among our community, and empathy should be the top skill of a leader. Whether they know of a job or not, they should acknowledge your situation and have compassion for your story. That applies to TheSustainedChemist as well. Perhaps the person that spoke to you was having an off day. I am going to hope that is the case.

    Here is what we know. There is a glut of chemists on the market, especially among new graduates, and the long-term unemployed. People with more experience are having an easier time finding positions that new graduates. The trouble for Masters and PhD graduates is slowly easing. We still have too many bachelors-level graduates for the current demand level, and the pace of production for new bachelors is outpacing projected demands.

    ACS President-Elect Donna Nelson has appointed a task force to look at the employment situation for chemistry-related professionals. They are also looking at the portfolio of employment-related services being offered by the Society to help members. CJ has testified to the task force, as well as several other prominent and often contrarian bloggers. If you would like to feed your stories and/or comments to the task force, you can send them to me at d_harwell [at] acs.org. I will make sure that they see it. I know that Donna and her co-hair Attila Pavlath would welcome your input, and especially your suggestions.

    Dave

    PS - Still my comments, not my employer's.

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  9. Very topical.

    Bill Carrol will be here on our campus come Friday as part of an ACS thingy.
    Any questions I should ask him?

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  10. Dear Dr. Harwell,

    My understanding is that Donna Nelson is considering the long-term employment situation for BSc chemists, but not PhD level ones. Can you please either confirm or deny this, or otherwise elaborate?

    Another topic for which your perspective -even personal, not of your employer- would be appreciated is the preponderance of short-term adjunct faculty without benefits in teaching - also in Chemistry. It is probably safe to say that if their salaries were on an hourly basis, then it would be better worth their time to work at McDonalds. If the ACS represents US chemists, then should it not also take a stance on this issue?

    A third topic of interest would be training opportunities for those of us who should already be well into our careers, but have not the same opportunities as others. For example, it is puzzling why both the federal labs and even the military ones have clearly demonstrated a strong disinclination towards providing such opportunities for citizens whose doctorate is more than five years back.

    Thank you

    GC (we know each other already)


    PS, Anon 5:50 PM: maybe ask Bill Carrol he can state in a straightforward if the ACS CEO has a responsibility to represent US chemists before all other responsibilities.

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  11. Dear Generic Chemist (if that is really your name),

    The task force is looking at all degree levels, but the problems related to employment are more pronounced for bachelors-level graduates. The production of bachelors degrees in chemists ramped up markedly starting in 2008 and has remained high. Production of PhD's remained relatively constant during the Great Recession. Demand for all chemists when down as the Recession hit, as can be seen in salary and unemployment levels. Demand levels for all advance degrees have returned to pre-recession levels. Since PhD's were not over-produced during the downturn, most of them are being absorbed by the system.Earlier graduates that were displaced into the post-doc pool are still having trouble.The glut of bachelors-level chemists that were produced during the recession along with the excess over demand being produced today has shifted the equilibrium in the favor of employers.

    Underemployment and low pay are the biggest problems now. Neither is easily solved through protectionist measures.

    One of the things that has changed since the time of Henry Hill is the globalization and global mobility of our economy. In the 70's or before, workers could band together to pressure employers for better conditions. ACS and other organizations were also able to apply great pressure by outing companies with bad employment practices. That was because we had a closed system. Think of it as adiabatic. Today's economy is global with an easy transfer of technology and wealth throughout the world. That means borders once closed are open, and companies will easily escape political and cultural pressures.We could close borders and talk about restricting visas, but the real action is happening below the surface with electronic transfers and internet-based communications. Bringing it back down to earth...if we restrict the labor market in the US, the pressures will push companies to other areas where the pressure is lower, like the diffusion of a gas.

    Educational institutions are still more localized than industry, so some restrictions may work better in an academic environment. Colleges and universities in India and China especially are on the rise. Internet-based training, in particular MOOCs, are pushing academics to global standards driven by commercial employers' needs. For example, China has built world-class institutions and brought in world-class researchers to teach and foster innovation. Peter Stang does as much research in China as he does in the US, because it is easier to obtain funding and talent there. In the US, research intensive universities are just starting to feel the pressures, but I think that they are too heads down to see the global trends affecting them. Community and liberal arts colleges are starting to respond to the pressures, because they must rely on tuition to survive. In many ways they function like small to medium-sized businesses. They have to produce students who can obtain jobs (a quality product), or people won't pay to go to school there. Because of market pressures, they must lower costs and decrease overhead (personnel costs) to compete.

    Government jobs and labs are also more closed systems, and could be part of a stimulus. The challenge here is between conservatives concerned about rising debt and government growth, and the more liberal socialist-minded compassionates. I'm not going to wade into that one.

    I know I glossed over a lot, but that's a primer. Our best solution right now seems to be stimulation of US innovations and competitive business policies.

    Still just my opinions, I don't speak for anyone else.
    Dave

    PS - Anonymous, if that's really your name, look for Bill at NAU. He is happy to talk.

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  12. Hello Dave,

    Thanks for your time in providing a narrative explanation. Some follow-through questions, if you can spare a second:
    (a) "In the 70's or before, workers could band together to pressure employers for better conditions. ACS and other organizations were also able to apply great pressure by outing companies with bad employment practices. "
    It is surprising to read that the ACS ever explicitly represented workers (i.e., chemists) in its past, especially back in the 'good old days', when the job market was less out of balance.

    (b) "Demand levels for all advance degrees have returned to pre-recession levels."
    Again, I am surprised to read this. Speaking as an unemployed doctoral-level chemist, this demand seems to be either for (i) very narrowly defined entry-level chemists or (ii) those already having years of off-the-shelf industrial experience for not infrequently short-term contracts. As I have written elsewhere on this blog, I personally know a talented PhD colleague who –out of fear from gaps in his resume- have worked on a volunteer basis in a tyranical bay-area start-up.

    (c) "Community and liberal arts colleges......must rely on tuition [and] .....produce students who can obtain jobs.....and decrease overhead (personnel costs) to compete."
    The situation which you are describing is undoubtedly true. One might term it a 'wild west' type academic industry. A less polite term is “degree mills“. Does not that same industry need some principles and guidelines to protect its members and clientele from exploitation? If the ACS is able to evolve its perspective beyond that of those 'good old days', then it should be able to set up some guidelines. That ties back into several of the suggestions which others and I have put forth to Bryan, namely:
    (i) obligating all chemistry-degree programs which receive recognition by the ACS to publish current and comprehensive statistics of their graduates’ long-term employment outcomes. We (metaphorically) are talking about meaningful statistics, as opposed to boasting about what happened to a random graduate. After all, we are supposed to be scientists and not data fudgers, correct? Or do we condone the deceptive advertising which is apparent on many departmental websites?
    (ii) Our colleagues in academia who actually carry out the BULK of higher education teaching do so under very poorly paid McContractual conditions. These are NOT the sexy desk scientists who are featured in C & E N. IF the ACS is able to adapt to the times, then its recognition of degree-granting programs should also consider the working conditions of those same colleagues. For example, we could be stipulating that e.g. at least 90% of the lecture- and lab-courses be carried out by full-time academic staff.

    That’s enough for now, I have to return to job-hunting activities.

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    1. It looks like most of your questions are being vetted through the discussion below, so I wont go there. The best way to find solutions is through dialog.

      With respect to supply and demand of chemists, you can see some analysis and data here.
      http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/bk-2015-1195.ch002

      Although I stated that demand for PhD chemists has returned to pre-recession levels, it is important to realize that demand would need to surpass pre-recession levels in order to absorb the glut. The change is encouraging, but not fulfilling.

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  13. "Demand levels for all advance degrees have returned to pre-recession levels."

    I'd also be interested to know from where that data point arises, in particular whether it includes permanent full-time employment. While likely not correct to extrapolate from your n of 1, it does seem fishy to me. maybe I'm wrong.

    ""Community and liberal arts colleges......must rely on tuition [and] .....produce students who can obtain jobs". If producing students who get jobs were really the point of a university education there would be precious few graduates in history, English, or philosophy.

    "obligating all chemistry-degree programs which receive recognition by the ACS to publish current and comprehensive statistics of their graduates’ long-term employment outcomes." This extra work seems to me a disincentive for schools to bother with ACS certified programs. While I admit I am a darn fureigner in these United States come here to steal your jobs, I've never really thought anyone cared about ACS certification. Certainly whenever I have hired chemists I've never even noticed. Tracking job statistics may also be more suitable for trade schools than universities.

    "Our colleagues in academia who actually carry out the BULK of higher education teaching do so under very poorly paid McContractual conditions." Ok, fine. No one is forcing any chemist to work in academe: if the salary/working conditions aren't to your liking, do something else. Ya it sucks that people put in a lot of effort to get chemistry degrees and end up having a tough time in the job market, but there ya go. Life has never been, nor will ever be, fair.

    "we could be stipulating that e.g. at least 90% of the lecture- and lab-courses be carried out by full-time academic staff." Sure, could certainly do that. If I were a dean at a university and the ACS told me to keep my chemistry program ACS certified I'd have to do this, that, and the other thing I'd very quickly drop the ACS certification.

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  14. Hi biotechtoreador,
    Glad to read that you are employed. There are some criticisms to the points which you raise, I don't have the time to go into them in the necessary detail.
    (a) "If producing students who get jobs were really the point of a university education there would be precious few graduates in history, English, or philosophy. "
    Your assumptions are incorrect. They are incorrect because a chemistry department will actively assert that obtaining a chemistry degree will prepare your for specific career outcomes which use the training which is acquired during obtaining the degree. I invite you to study the web pages of any number of departments.

    (b) "This extra work seems to me a disincentive for schools to bother with ACS certified programs. "
    Wrong assumption again, because the data is already available. It is available on the web pages of any faculty member who brags about the positive career outcomes of specific, former students. Please remember the n = 1 parable!

    (c) "Ok, fine. No one is forcing any chemist to work in academe: if the salary/working conditions aren't to your liking, do something else. "
    CJ does not like reference to real world politics on his blog, but at this point I think that other readers may be reminded of certain vocal politicians view on the job market and income inequality.

    (d) " If I were a dean at a university and the ACS told me to keep my chemistry program ACS certified I'd have to do this, that, and the other thing I'd very quickly drop the ACS certification."
    Really? Then why do so many smaller departments go to pains to stress that their program are ACS-certified?

    I may just be an unemployed American chemist, but I will still urge you to look at the bigger picture.

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    1. Interesting point about smaller depts asking for ACS certification. I taught summer Organic Chemistry at a regional primary-undergraduate-institution (think western XXX state) and the final was the ACS Organic Chem exam; the highest score in the class was 39/70 questions (I got 61, but I'm a biochemist). Despite the terrible scores on the test, they make the poor students take the test every year, I suppose so that that the Chem dept can meet ACS "certification". I guess the department feels that it gives validity to their program, that's the only reason why I can imagine they want ACS "certification".

      The irony is that this further supports the idea that the ACS is a "paper tiger"-- you think it will help the average chemist but it doesn't. Its really married to academic departments and not the people it pretends to represent.

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    2. The ACS also provides good money and careers for people employed by the ACS.

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    3. Unless you are a writer for C&EN....

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  15. Interesting. I looked at the website at McGill, says that they prepare you for careers in a few fields but nowhere asserts their graduates go on to specific careers. In the minute or so I looked at the UVM site I also didn't see anything about specific outcomes, South Dakota State's site claims chemistry is good preparation for a lot of fields, but makes no specific claims on career outcomes. I'm sure you can find examples to the contrary, but I hope a university education is never reduced to a trade school (nothing wrong with trade school, but seems to me philosophically it ought to be different).

    "Wrong assumption again, because the data is already available."

    Data is plural, unless you're referring to the android on Star Trek....I don't understand what the rest of your point b is, so let's agree to disagree.

    If the ACS could solve "job market and income inequality" that's be great, but I get the sense that may be beyond its purview.

    "Then why do so many smaller departments go to pains to stress that their program are ACS-certified"

    I dunno, they think it imparts some value that it doesn't? Maybe I'm jaded as I did not go to an ACS certified school (I don't think it adversely affected my career...) but ACS accreditation, which provides no legal recognition or regulatory oversight, seems to me a waste of time.

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    1. biotechtoreador, I am currently applying for faculty jobs, usually with departments offering BSc up to MSc degrees. In each case, I verify that the department has the infrastructure necessary to carry out the research which I propose, in addition to confirming that the OC faculty are not sitting on their butts after obtaining tenure. I see many cases of departments which (a) boast of their ACS affiliation and (b) make claims of career outcomes.

      As a McGill graduate, I also did not obtain an ACS-certified degree. Instead, my degree was approved by the Canadian Institute of Chemistry. However, as a former faculty member at a state university in the US, I can assure you that -justified or not- having an ACS certified BSc degree did have some perceived value.


      PS: please surf to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data
      PPS: CJ, if you or Paul want a synopsis of which departments on your list have quality NMRs and mass spec facilities, then let me know.

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  16. This is my guess, FWIW. If you go to a smaller school for some reason, you (or your parents) would like to have some assurance that what they are teaching is somewhere near what you'll need in the future, whether it be because you want to get a job or go to grad school or do something else or for your own intellectual improvement. If a school can't rely on name recognition, or career prospects (because they can't assure them, in any case), then what you have (which should be worth more, probably) is the substance of what it teaches, and people probably use ACS certification as a proxy for that.

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    1. I agree that ppl use ACS certification as a proxy for value, but I'm just not convinced it actually confers any value. My understanding is that one can't practice law or medicine without graduating from an ABA or AMA approved school, but one can practice chemistry without going to an ACS certified school. If ACS certification meant something legally I'd think it had value. I don't know that I've ever even seen a job ad specifying graduation from an ACS certified school as a prerequisite.

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    2. There are plenty of careers in which there are "certifications" (professional licenses) that actually matter in terms of career advancement, e.g., geologist, engineers, accountants, etc. These licenses are typically run by the states, and often use criteria approved by a professional society. Having one of these licenses allows you to do certain things in a state (such as practice medicine), but also makes the license holder legally responsible for ensuring that your work product doesn't cause harm (malpractice). Why the chemistry profession never went this route might be an interesting story. A couple of years ago, it was still possible to become an attorney in several states without going to law school, but instead doing what amounted to a long internship and then passing the state's bar exam. I don't know if this is still true.

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    3. A few additional course are required for an ACS certification of a BSc degree. I'm not entirely certain _where_ I saw it, but yes, there have been occasionally job adverts which stipulate it. The question of course remains what real value it brings with it.

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