Monday, June 6, 2022

The geographical distribution of chemistry jobs from 1991, 2011 and 2021

An ad from 1991 
Credit: Chemical and Engineering News
I am pleased to find myself back in the pages of Chemical and Engineering News, this time looking at pages of old back issues and analyzing the geographical distribution of the various jobs. I think you'll be somewhat surprised at what I found, so read the whole thing. 


  1. A-freaking-men on the last paragraph of the article. I have been making this argument for years after watching talent use the Boston area as a revolving door to jump from company to company gaining little additional experience. However, their titles and salaries that reflect a seasoned veteran in the pharma industry with 15+yrs of experience with 2-3 NDA filings and not 1 pre-IND (if I am lucky).

    Speaking with friends, who have companies and departments in Boston and SF, all agree it is a huge problem and locating somewhere outside these hubs would help retain talent, but there is a stigma that you won't be taken seriously if you are not there.

    In addition, at the current lease rate of lab space in the Boston area (>$150/sq ft), these companies could clearly get more and reduce their cash burn at a different location (some midwest spaces are <$10/sq ft). That cost savings would allow for great talent to be recruited and retained. After all, it is harder to commit to moving your residential address to a different part of the country versus your subway stop in Boston when seeking new opportunities.

    Just my 2c's from someone who has seen this issue first hand for many years.

    1. im in a CRO and it makes sense to me to aggregate biotechs into a concentrated area as shipping BSL samples can be a lengthy process; however if genscript can ship peptides all around the US I do agree jobs can and need to go elsewhere cheaper.
      its also jawdropping to see 1800+ job openings on c&en back 30 years ago and merely <400 in recent years. people just don't use paper platforms for advertisement as much anymore and I wonder if indeed/linkedin's data will suggest a different geo distribution (im leaning toward yes)?

    2. Good point that electronic ads may give better data. I suspect the C&EN print ads may not be representative. I also wonder if ads in general might not be representative since many positions are not advertised and filled through headhunters. This includes those garbage temporary QC scut work Joule/Yoh/Aerotek positions as well as more specialized ones filled through recruiters who actually know the industry. I get recruiter calls all the time for situations where someone is trying to fill a specialized job in some unsexy rust-belt location like Youngstown or Grand Rapids.

    3. To be perfectly clear, the 2021 data was from their electronic database, i.e. the website, C&EN Jobs. But even then, I think it is quite possible that the various companies have moved away from C&EN as their primary means of advertisement, i.e. nowadays, you can advertise on your own website etc etc. - Chemjobber

    4. The print vs electronic vs head hunter argument def affects number of postings, but I’m not sure it affects the geographic distribution of postings.
      I can’t help but wonder if part of the issue is that people are less likely to move to change jobs if they have a partner already employed in one area. You need your company where the resource (employees with ideas) is in that case.

    5. I think it's a combination of 2-career families and the end of lifetime employment. It was much easier to recruit employees to some rural backwater when they didn't have to worry about finding their next position in 3-5 years.

  2. Good to see you back in C&EN!

    As for the whole job hopping in the major hubs and premiums on lab space I think this is just the environment that companies decided to create. There is plenty of cheap land out there that a company could own, build their own lab, and possibly their own plant too. It's not impossible, but you have to be able to find talent willing to go live somewhere that isn't on the east or west coast.

    There are plenty of large world class cities and smaller places that are not on the coasts that could easily take in chemistry oriented start-ups. Chicago, Denver, Twin Cities to name some big ones and on the smaller side you've got Boulder, Indianapolis, and Portland (Maine).

  3. That ad brings backs memories.

    Back in 1991 where I was working at what was a Dupont site when I joined back in 1981. Part of it got split out and it became a shared site with Dupont/Merck though I don' recall the year... after the split there was significant interaction been the two parts.

    I stayed with the Dupont part after the split, but some of those I worked with went to the joint venture with departmental transfers (not sure if i was before or after the split).

    The ad was not for my site, but seeing Dupont/Merck again got me thinking about the people I knew who became part of it.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20