Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Taking a chance on Boston?

A great question, via Twitter:

Is there a city in the United States (or, for that matter, the world) where you would recommend someone move to without a job to get a job in chemistry?*

My short answer: no, there isn't. My longer answer: If you HAD to move some place without a job in order to look for work in science/chemistry, I would choose either Boston or San Francisco, but still seems really risky. You might be able to move into the pool of temporary workers, but it seems that temp pay probably doesn't cover the high rents.

Readers, what say you?

UPDATE, 11 AM 10232019: Anon10:21AM helpfully reminds me that there's such a thing as "the oil and gas industry"; I agree entirely.

*There was a while back where driving to Williston, North Dakota seemed like a great place to get a job and earn some money, but I don't think there were very many chemists there...


  1. There are several industry jobs near Houston for chemists.

  2. If you're willing to move anywhere, why go someplace where the cost of living is astronomical? If you're not picky about location, take a job in some undesirable rust-belt or rural area where your pay will go far. Cleveland and Detroit have most of the amenities of trendier cities - hipster restaurants, coffee shops, etc. I know a few people who advanced in their careers by being willing to move to undesirable locations (not horrible locations; just non-cool rust belt places).

    Boston or SF are only good if you're in pharma or biotech. Anon 10:21 had a great point about Houston.

    Another reason not to move somewhere before getting a job - booming cities like Boston, SF, and Houston are known for awful traffic. You could easily end up commuting 90 minutes if you pick a location first and job second.

  3. Thrilladelphia corridor is still plentiful with chemjobs - and much cheaper than Boston or SF.

    1. Philly/NJ are perfect if you've got a two-body problem. Plenty of jobs, and way cheaper and less congested than Boston or SF. Pharma is decimated, but still around. The glamorous stuff might have moved to Boston and SF, but the generics makers didn't, and neither did the companies making colorants, adjuvants, etc. There's also lots of surviving old-school manufacturing (coatings, etc) that you won't see in an ultra-expensive area.

  4. I tried this in '09-'10 in RTP. It was a mistake, and by the time I landed a temp chemjob locally I had a better offer far away in a non-hub. I wound up leaving the hub and it has been for the best.

  5. Simply being in Boston in no way gets you closer to getting a job here, and so there would be no point in tanking the cost of living here while you potentially spend months unemployed. I also don't see any problem with applying for a job in Boston remotely, particularly if it means you can live more cheaply elsewhere. If your phone or skype interview goes well and you get an invited for an on-site, then you can arrange to fly to Boston. In all likelihood, the company will cover the costs, and if you get hired they may also contribute to relocation costs - neither of which you would be offered if you'd already taken it upon yourself to move here.

  6. Related: if you are in Biochem, want to be near a big city, Tarrytown New York, a small suburban town outside of NYC has Regeneron, a Seimen's Heathineers, and a few other related places for BS/MS/PhD and Postdocs.

  7. I work at a pharma company in the greater Boston area. We have temps, contractors, and FTEs. I know of a few people who got a temp position at the company while they were working elsewhere in the US. They moved here hoping that the temp/contractor position would get transferred to a full time position.

    I've seen a number of temp/contractors be transferred to FTE, but there is no guarantee. That being said I've also known a few of those temps/contractors to go to other companies in the Boston area as well.

    If you do sign on a as a temp be aware that you can only be a temp 18 months then have to work someplace else for 4 months before you can be brought on again as a temp at the same company. The temps that have gotten hired here are struggling with the pay vs living expenses (especially those with high student loan payments). It's not impossible, but be aware.

  8. I have a few coworkers here in the SF Bay Area that moved out and just started interviewing to get a job. I'm conflicted on whether that is a good idea or not. There is a very healthy 'second tier' set of companies in the Bay Area (startup to mid-size) that are hard to get interviews at without being local, at least in the mat sci side of things. On the other hand, it can be expensive and your resources can be depleted quickly.

  9. I would never move to SF, even if I had a job. Who wants to live in a walk in closet, commute two hours to work and send their kids to crappy public schools because they an't afford private schools?