Friday, April 9, 2010

Who gets hired first?

Paul Hodges (of the great "Chemicals and the Economy" blog) recently said that the global recession is more or less over; now we're just waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting) for the recovery.

So who gets hired back first? Some of this comes from Anon3:20 from yesterday, who's concerned about being young and competing against much more experienced folks. I have a (W.A.) guess:

Here's my boring theory: first, you hire good, high quality worker bees. Then, you hire new folks, once you run out of experienced people. After that, you hire folks to manage all of them -- presumably, you need a good bit of experience to be a manager of chemists. I suspect that it would take quite a robust economic recovery for people to get absorbed into senior management.

This makes sense to me, even though my theory does not bode well for folks with more than 10 years of experience. What does everyone think of this?


  1. Yikes. My question is, with the current volatility of the pharma industry how is a new chemist even supposed to amass the experience necessary to be one of the early hires, let alone move into upper management? Work 5 jobs for 2 years each?

  2. PhD. 25+ yr exp.

    I'm screwed.

  3. Anon7:02- There IS a competing theory, of course, and one that also makes a lot of sense.

    You hire the really experienced Ph.D. first, and then (s)he hires the crew second. You get the more experienced people in first, establish a good core, then you hire in the less experienced to train and round out the group.

    That would put the "category 6" candidates first, as opposed to last. Then again, there would be a lot fewer of those jobs.

  4. The PhD's with 10+ years of experience may get in if the company needs team leaders or managers. The MS with 10+ years of experience is probably just screwed. (Especially if you're at 20+ years or more.) The experienced MS chemist probably isn't seen as a potential team leader or manager, but is still expensive compared to the less experienced chemists. That's one reason I got out of bench chemistry - once you're over 40, no one wants to hire an MS chemist, unless you have a really specific talent.

  5. I agree with your perspective if it is limited to large corporations.

    From the unique perspective of the company that I work for, a newly minted B.S/M.S./Ph.D is utterly worthless to us. Ditto for anyone with 10+ years experience in the same industry.

  6. I think people with BS/MS and a long experience and good resume/references will not have such a terrible problem if they are willing to relocate and take a considerable pay-cut. (Still better than the unemployment).

    I think its the PhDs with lots of experience, over 45+ years old who used to be in charge of a small group and run a lab of their own but did not do much research with their hands lately - those people are really screwed. For them the only fitting position is to find a similar group-leader job, and there are far fewer those than jobs for bench chemists.

    (And no boss likes to hire his potential replacement. Freshly-minted PhDs and BS/MS with experience are a much safer choice in this respect).

  7. Interesting topic! At my company, there are several BS/MS folks in their 40's (some in their 50's!). I think their situation depends on how good one is and how much your boss/other management likes you. I feel if one is flexible, BS/MS folks can find work when they are 40+. There are some MS folks who are lab heads, although they usually have 20+ years of experience. It's rare, but some folks do break through the glass ceiling.

    I feel as if high ranking PhD's have a harder go of it. Some of the hardest hit folks I saw were folks who were associate research fellows or higher (R7+) at PFE. But, as others say, the higher one rises, the less of these jobs there are.

    Good luck to everyone out there searching.

  8. I would put the 0-3 years exp BS/MS as 2nd. I know plenty of guys landing interviews right out of school. As for new PhDs, they didn't get squat, had to beg for post-docs.

    I'm in grad school seeing this stuff happen, new grad students know this is happening. We are still getting grad students, LOL! Even ex-associates are still rolling in for that PhD!

  9. That raises an interesting point. You say you're seeing this complete lack of demand for Ph.D's, yet the department is continually attracting talent. This is actually less surprising than the fact that many of you that are seeing this mess will still probably continue on to finish your Ph.D rather than leave with a Master's and much better job prospects.

    I'm not judging you, I would have done the same thing. But what is it about being a doctor that seems so glamorous that we'll willingly pull the wool over our own eyes and hope/expect that we'll beat the odds? A Ph.D has exceptionally false positive connotations, and I'm discovering that this has been the case for at least a decade now, not just since the housing bubble burst. That was just the catalyst that pulled the curtain away and revealed everything.

  10. MS and PhD chemists (fresh from school) do exactly the same job in a synthetic lab. The difference is that while PhD is promotable into a PI and lab boss, MS chemist is always crippled, career-wise.

    My recurring problem as a non-PhD at Scripps Florida was that I was being left out from patents and publications and it was happening on purpose, despite the fact that I was the person who did most of the chemistry work on these papers and we had some high-level faculty who got automatically added on any of our papers and patents that crossed their desk. I fought this abuse (it happened to other colleagues too) and I ended up fired for "creating trouble".

    So being non-PhD means that you will have a direct boss your whole career, and for your good work you get pat on the back and little condescension ("he is an interesting character who lives in the lab and works on Sunday nights") and when the time comes for your boss to fuck you over he will duly fuck you over.

  11. To 11:56 pm and 7:59 am,

    The need for grad/PhD students doesn't swing with the need for TT professors and industry positions. It swings with the NIH budget and the need for TA's. No matter how cruddy the job makret is on the other side from graduate school, profs/schools always need folks to generate data for their grants and teach classes.

    I have to be honest, being an associate really isn't that bad of a career if you're happy working in the lab (debate as to how much of these jobs will be outsourced aside). Yes, you'll never be project/group leader, but it's easier to find a job. The pay is still good. The associate works less hours than the PhD and has a lower stress career. Not everyone wants to rise to the level of project leader/department head/director. Quite a few associates I know are very happy in their roles.

    That's not to say being a PhD can't be a rewarding career both financially and intellectually. It definitely can. But, it's much harder to find a PhD level position than back in the late 90's or early 2000's.

  12. Milkshake, I always appreciate your insight. Know that the abuse you speak of happens to Ph.Ds as well, but while they're graduate students/postdocs. I have stories of my own to tell, but they pale to some of the other stories I've read from bloggers who work for big-name profs.

    For what it's worth, after making poverty wages all through grad school and now trying to balance my finances on a postdoc salary that is less then what I made as a BS level scientist, I would happily leave my name off a patent if it meant I would be rewarded financially. No, I'm not above that.

  13. Anonymous grad student back here again.

    Well in response to 7:59AM, I actually agonized over the decision to pursue a PhD. All I can say is that it is really a catch-22. If I don't get it, my career is over. I'll be doing SOP under a PhD forever. If I do get it, I'll get more credit for things (like milkshake said). This PhD scheme really sucks, I wish we could just work and let the talented move up. If I don't make it, well, I'll just have to start all over again in another career. I'm really passionate about science, so that is really what is keeping me going, it's not a lot of work for me really. Though the money definitely stinks right now.

    There are a lot of students leaving with an MS in my department, so people lose their momentum after a few years of seeing PhDs and Post-Docs leave empty handed. They have managed to get jobs, which is why I say they should be 2nd.

  14. I understand, like I said, I would have done the same. My situation was a bit different though because a nice looking carrot was dangled before me and then the carpet got yanked out from under my feet. Several people in my department got exceptionally high paying jobs straight after graduation without having to do a postdoc when I was starting my 4th year of grad school. By the end of my 4th year the banks went under and so did all the jobs. Now I don't know anybody that's graduating that isn't doing a postdoc.

    It's beginning to look like if I won't be able to make a career out of being a lab rat, which is unfortunate because I really like it.

  15. The other big issue is that MS work is much more easily outsourced to China/India. Right now, it's just low level work, but I think more and more of it is going to happen. Some of the PhD work is going to be outsourced too, especially the entry level PhD work, but if you manage to stay employed for a few years and gain experience, you have a chance at becoming a manager of the outsourced workers. As an MS chemist, that option is not really open to you.

    That's a change from when I started out in pharma 15 years ago. When I started out, there were BS/MS chemists who were independent researchers and even team leaders. But that seems to be disappearing - companies just don't see the point of hiring and promoting an MS chemist when there are so many PhD chemists out there willing to work for less money and do the work that MS chemists once did. Also, a lot of small startup companies are coming from academia and tend to hire only PhD's. (Not all, but I've seen it a lot.) So as an MS chemist, your career options are more limited than they once were. (I remember the good old days, when companies were so desparate for MS chemists that they were recruiting students out of grad school...)

  16. So the conclusion is, there are no jobs. Well ... most of the jobs that are found are for those that will take a painful, expensive, and arbitrary relocation. I don't think any of us expected to get "rich" but most of us were hoping to get taken care of. I think the debate of the M.S. vs. Ph. D. it's not about money, it's about pride. Grad schools rarely recruit for masters anymore (I think now they are starting to recruit for masters, because a Ph. D. is almost worthless these days). Most of the people I know who have masters, well not only do they have jobs, but they got their masters when either they tacked it on at the end of their undergrad, quit their Ph. D. programs or got thrown out.

    So in science, we reward quitters ... weird.

    Really, as for job satisfaction ... I suppose it matters not. I stuck out my Ph. D. because of pride and because I couldn't look at the mirror and consider myself a quitter. Right now, I just want a good job, a stable lifestyle where I'm not moving around the country for a postdoc. Date, attempt to settle down ... and have a LIFE. I've already proved my pride and resiliency. The LAST thing I needed was another "character building" experience.

  17. Karen,

    The prize you speak of is not really worth the effort. After 6 years of PhD, 2-4 yrs post-doc and THEN sticking it out for another few years to displace an old guy, just to get that nice $75K job of his? Take that effort and make partner at a law firm, start a medical practice, start a business or become a bankster. Leave this science work up to people whose only other option was working on a farm in Chindia. Don't steal their opportunities!

    There's not much pride in this work anymore kiddies, look away from this situation and learn from our mistakes. You're better off attaching your pride to your financial security than a bunch of years of hard sacrifices in the name of science.


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