Nessa Carson, a synthetic organic chemist, says she is “extremely lucky” to be working for a big pharmaceutical company in southeast England. Since she moved back to the UK in 2017, after completing a master’s degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carson says she has seen many friends and colleagues leave chemistry because of a job market that offers young chemists fewer opportunities for exciting science or financial gain than they had hoped for....
...The mood in the UK among early-career chemists who actually want to do chemistry is somber. Disappointed by the roles the job market has to offer, chemistry graduates say they are feeling undervalued and underpaid. Many are threatening to leave the country for better opportunities elsewhere.
Some researchers, however, say they find little passion in working for a CRO. “It’s safe to say that where I am working, nobody at the junior level is particularly happy with their jobs,” says [Redacted], a medicinal chemist who, to protect her job, asked that her full name not be used.
[Redacted] works for a large CRO in east England that hires chemists on fixed-term contracts. This means job security is low for everybody, she says. “Half the people I work with are [University of] Cambridge graduates, fantastic chemists, but that doesn’t matter. The company offers them no help with career progression.” Earlier this year, the company laid off 15 chemists, then hired another 15 a few months later, she says.
Another young chemist, [Redacted2], moved to England from Spain for grad school at a public university in the northwest. Like [Redacted], he asked that, to protect his job, his full name not be used. [Redacted2] picked up plenty of job offers in the UK after completing his PhD, but he rejected them all because of the low salaries on offer.
“Perhaps my expectations were high because I did my PhD on a Marie Curie scholarship, which is roughly double the normal PhD salary in the UK,” [Redacted2] says, referring to a scholarship granted by the European Commission. “But in any case, the offers I got in the UK were about 40% lower than the ones I received in [continental] Europe.”Sad to hear things aren't going so well for younger UK chemists. Regarding CROs, it's not a surprise to me that people don't find the work particularly enjoyable - "owning" a project is one of the reasons that people get into research, and the CRO model really messes with that in a fundamental way. Here's hoping things improve.