Getting a chemistry PhD is now like playing college ball. You are exploited for the benefit of the college and coach (prof) and if you are one of the lucky ones, you get drafted by the pros but no guarantees of course. Your career will be short (but not as lucrative) and when the pros kick you out into the real world, you will find you have absolutely no marketable skills to secure your future.Yet another frequent commenter You're Pfizered comments in a similar vein:
If you're at North Dakota State to study synthetic chemistry, you've got to think about what this will get you. I'm sure even the Ivy graduates are having a much harder time to find work, as the original subject of this thread indicated.These comments remind me of my running thesis of the past 2 years of blogging: the structure of the chemistry job market is changing, and not for the better. I don't have many bold predictions, but if I were to summarize the learning of the last two years of blogging and working as a industrial chemist, it would be this:
Because of the contraction of the pharmaceutical chemistry job market over the last 8 years, the structure of the available positions and their origins have changed. Before 2003, if you graduated from a R1 university with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, you were likely to find a position somewhere in the industry. During this time, top universities would send their graduates and postdocs to the large pharmaceutical companies. Less elite schools would send their graduates to less august positions, but they would still be employed.
After 2008, this structure has changed: now, only the top graduates/postdocs of the most elite schools are placing students with the pharmaceutical companies. Everyone else is now competing for jobs at startups, CROs* and the like.
I predict that this will have a profound impact on the nature of synthetic chemistry as a long-term career path, as the salary gap widens between those still employed by pharma (who command top dollar) and those who stay in the industry at smaller companies or startups. Unless the trend changes, these disparities will become more and more obvious and the people will choose their paths accordingly. During this time, I predict that we will see the income inequality between the top 10% of industrial chemists and the median salary (as measured in the ACS ChemCensus) will increase significantly.
Best wishes to all of us.
*The CAFOs of the chemistry world (TM milkshake.)