Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You have ten years to get yourself established: more from the ACS salary survey

Perhaps it's unsurprising, but it's one of those things worth remembering. After graduating, you have about 10 to 20 years to work before the Turk might come and ask you to turn in your playbook.

More interesting statistics on the 2009 salary survey:

- B.S./M.S./Ph.D. unemployment, respectively: 5.6%, 4.2%, 3.3%. Really? I would have expected the completely opposite trend.

- A bad, bad trend: the highest age decade for postdocs? The thirties, with 7.5% postdocs. Chemists aged 20-29 are at 5.9%.

- Highest age decade for part-time work? The sixties, by far: 9.2. While I suspect that much is by choice, I also surmise that some of it is involuntary, either because of institutional means (why don't you take this nice 0.5 FTE position?) and some of it is financial (your nest egg took a hit.)

- Check out these numbers for respondents under 40:

2005: 27.8%
2006: 33.0%
2007: 27.9%
2008: 24.4%
2009: 31.3%

This level of instability in the numbers suggests that there's something funny about that set of numbers. I dunno -- it just looks weird.


  1. why is it called "the Turk"? I could not understand. My mother tongue is not English... Though, the worse is approaching for any sector.

  2. Hi, xyz: In American football training camps, the fellow who tells you that you've been cut from the team is called "the Turk." I believe the provenance is unknown, but probably has to do with prejudicial views of foreigners from years past.

  3. Re the weird response numbers for people under 40: do you think that's significant? Since the surveys are sent out to a random sample of ACS members (who are likely to be employed), I mean. It's possible that not the same number of under 40s got the survey from year to year, hence the bouncing number of responders. Maybe?

  4. From the report: "A secondary impact of the increase in number of bachelor’s degree chemists is that the median age of chemists is falling. The ACS survey found that the percentage of chemists under the age of 40 rose to 31.3% in 2009, the first time it’s been over 30% in three years."

    I think this is the sentence I'm reacting to in Hanson's article -- I agree that it's more likely to be random chance than anything else. Who knows?

  5. Considering that many unemployed chemists probably did not renew their membership, I would say it's safe to assume the statistics are quite skewed from reality.

  6. Probably so. I believe that unemployed chemists get their dues waived, but you can't measure what you can't see.

  7. "I believe that unemployed chemists get their dues waived"
    Yes, they do, but _only for two consecutive years_. Afterwards, even the unemployed must pay partial dues.

    (a) I myself know know a few chemists who -gasp- are not members of the ACS.

    (b) Even as an unemployed chemist, it's not unconditionally necessary to be a member to benefit from the chemjobs listing (just look up the company offering the job on their own website).

    Hey chemjobber, what was all this talk about an interview, anyway?


  8. As a postdoc at a top-10 school, I can tell you that I only know of three people on my floor - out of 30 postdocs - who were actually hired over the past 12 months. Jobs just aren't there....or you get to the interview and never hear back from them.

  9. I believe the ACS unemployment numbers include self responses from both academic (most of whom are in secure tenured positions)and industrial chemists. I wish they would separate the two so we could get a true -as self reported- measure of industrial chemists' unemployment levels.

  10. @Anon7:00A: Willing to talk? E-mail me at chemjobber at gmaildotcom. Confidentiality guaranteed.

    @Anon7:49A: You know, I think you just might be right, looking at the numbers for this last survey. I suspect that the ChemCensus may be a better view of these issues, but we shall see. Good catch.

  11. Almost every industrial chemist I know who has been laid off remains unemployed. I am in the biotech/pharma industry and know of hundreds of synthetic chemists who have lost their jobs as pharma/biotech/ag/chemical industry has moved jobs off shore/downsized and as biotech companies focused their little remaining money on clinical development.

    The real question is: what is the unemployment rate of industrial chemists who did medicinal, synthetic, and other laboratory-based organic chemistry work? If you were highly trained as a medicinal/synthetic or other organic specialty, you are not likely to move into green inorganic material science without going back to graduate school.

    Unless I am missing something, I do not see our industrial jobs ever coming back, so a whole generation of organic chemists will be lost, thrown out like so much useless trash. The profession will wither away outside of academic departments.

  12. Anon9:06p:

    This is an interesting statement, and a good summary of something I've been thinking about for a while. Can you provide a handle/nickname so that I can attribute your hypothesis to something other than Anon906p071710?

  13. I am a first year chem grad student. I was a coauthor on two papers and I think it's because of this that I keep getting frequent emails and mails from ACS urging me to become a member. I have ignored them so far and it's unlikely I will become a member anytime soon. I don't think an ACS membership will make any difference in my future employment prospects, which given the highest unemployment rate for chemists in 20 years,is anything but promising.

  14. Just a note about "the Turk." I would assume the NFL version refers to the old chess hoax the "mechanical turk." It was an elaborate prank that involved a chess master hiding in what appeared to be a chess playing machine. The turk traveled around Europe playing and defeating many challengers such as Napoleon and Ben Franklin.

  15. I concur with J-bone. The stats from ACS are essentially useless because a large number of unemployed chemists drop their memberships. The ACS could probably get a handle on those numbers if they wanted but prefer not to.


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