Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2010 ACS ChemCensus: Industrial salary quintiles, inequality

Among the interesting tidbits that the ChemCensus brings is the full-time industrial chemist salary quintiles. I'll just let you sit and read that table. For my industrial readers, of course, there will be the natural tendency to look at how your salary compares to that of your fellow chemists.

But what I'm most interested in is the change over time of the top, median and bottom salaries between the 2010 ChemCensus and the 2005 ChemCensus. With that in mind, I've prepared a Google document that indicates the change between the 90th, 50th and 10th percentiles in the last 5 years for B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. chemists that are 20-24 years after their bachelor's degree. That amount of experience was basically chosen at random -- readers can disagree about the variables that introduces or excludes.
It appears to me that, over the past 5 years, the 90th percentile of chemist salaries is pulling away from the 10th percentile of chemists. The fall in the 10th percentile of chemist salaries is perhaps shocking.

I note that 1) I don't know if my calculations are correct, 2) if correct, what it means and what should be done (if anything?) about it. I find it fascinating that the median salaries have actually increased healthily (noting, of course, that the 90th percentile is doing even better, with the exception of M.S. chemists. Huh?) I think I need more data.

Readers, what do you think? 


  1. What sticks out for me is the 10% BS at 25-29yrs which just fell off a cliff. Maybe that's factoring in unemployment?

    Otherwise growing bimodal distribution, superstar recruiting, outsourcing of low-tier work.... sounds 'normal.' As someone who's been in a low tier for a long time not a great feeling. (Thanks to taking time off and going back to school, i'm always below/behind my 'contemporaries.')

  2. Thinking about it, it makes some sense. Some of the job postings you've featured show that some employers are trying to get chemists on the cheap.

  3. If you have talents in demand then you are doing pretty well, if you don't then you are a prime target for taking a pay cut or losing the job entirely overseas. Not really surprising since that is what has been happening to the whole country's economy for a while now.

  4. Was inflation also a factor taken into account in the 2005-2010 conclusions?

  5. Wow, I knew I was badly paid (I believe I'm in the 5-9 years after BS with MS category), but I didn't realize I was in the bottom 10%. Clearly it's time to seriously start looking for a new job and being a bit more aggressive in salary requests.