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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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January 29, 2014

What STEM Shortage? Where? How?

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Posted by Derek

Most readers here know how brutal the employment situation is for chemists (especially those involved in drug discovery). Knowing that and seeing constant headlines about the crippling shortage of so-called STEM workers is always hard to take, but there's always the danger of extrapolating chemistry (especially organic chemistry) to science and engineering in general. Surely the electrical engineers are finding jobs, right?

Surely not. The number of employed electrical engineers in the US went down by 10% last year. And according to Ron Hira at the Rochester Institute of Technology, there's more:

The number of employed software developers, the largest IT occupation segment, increased by only 1.75%, to 1.1 million, a gain of 19,000. The unemployment rate for developers last year was 2.7%, which is still elevated, according to Hira.

Jobs for computer systems analysts increased by 35,000, to 534,000, an increase of 7%, but Hira said it is the most common H-1B occupation and that nearly all those gains went to H-1B visa holders. . .

. . .Claims of shortages of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workers "have no support in fact and no connection to reality, " Hira said. "The NASDAQ is at its record high in more than a decade, only at the height of the dot-com bubble was it higher." adding that hiring for electronics engineers should be booming.

There are plenty of other numbers that say the same thing: there is no shortage of scientists and engineers in this country. There may still be some specialties where it's hard to find good people, although I don't know what they are and I'd like to see proof of that first, but overall there is no STEM shortage. Unless, of course, you ask the head of PhRMA. Or Eli Lilly's CEO. Or Bayer. Or the schools that profit by driving more people into science and engineering studies. Or the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Or Accenture. Or Mark Zuckerberg.

We have a serious disconnect here. Is there a shortage of skilled labor, or just a shortage of really cheap skilled labor? Some of that disconnect may be on display later this afternoon, as David Harwell of the ACS Career Management and Development office starts taking questions live over at Reddit Science. Might be worth a look. . .

Comments (50) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. Engineer on January 29, 2014 9:46 AM writes...

Welcome to the party. It's been common knowledge on the computer blogs that the STEM shortage is, at best, manufactured talking points. If it was a true shortage, we'd see reduced unemployment and increased salaries - and professional societies like ACS should have all the data they need to prove this. I suspect they have all the data they need to REFUTE these arguments but choose not to as it would interfere with their getting new members.

Industry doesn't want to train. Industry doesn't want people who have lives, or potential medical issues or just happen to be older than 20-25. It's a short-sighted, destroy our customer base approach to business but it's what's popular now. Hopefully, things recover in a few years before real harm is done to the remaining work process in North America (or the West).

I remember a .sig i saw: I find it disturbing that the best minds of this generation are deeply concerned about sending ads to mobile devices. Not quite so noble as the greater good, is it?

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2. Anon on January 29, 2014 10:09 AM writes...

I find it hard to believe that software engineers have a hard time finding a job. I happen to have several friends in the field and in the last few years almost every single one of them has found a job, typically with companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, eBay and Amazon. I know this is anecdotal but I would be interested in more data. I also remember reading somewhere that chemical engineers wanting to work in the oil and gas industry (especially fracking) are being scooped up by the truckloads.

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3. a. nonymaus on January 29, 2014 10:14 AM writes...

If only the ACS were like the AMA or the ABA, which act in the interests of their professional membership. Or if the IUPAC really were an international union. The white-collar working class must realize its true situation, which is the same as the blue-collar working class a century ago.

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4. Anon on January 29, 2014 10:27 AM writes...

ChemJobber also has audio of Beryl Benderly (who has been a great proponent of getting the truth out) directly asking Lechleiter this question. It hurts to hear him give a BS answer as he is a chemist by training himself.

Right now there is also a bill being pushed through that will make the issue worse:

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5. Chemjobber on January 29, 2014 10:32 AM writes...

@2: I agree that "software developers are having trouble finding work" would be an odd thing to say.

But Hira is saying two things: 1) software developers are below his projected level of full employment and 2) software developer positions are growing at 1.75% for 2012, which is lower than expected.

(That would be an 18% increase of 10 years, which is a little less than is expected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for this field for 2012-22.)

I think that the T of STEM (for job growth) is the strongest portion; it is not surprising to me that even that field is not as strong as expected.

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6. Anon on January 29, 2014 10:38 AM writes...

Another link for those reading this from a tech worker's perspective:

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7. clueless on January 29, 2014 10:39 AM writes...

always lack of true talents not degrees

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8. Alex S. on January 29, 2014 10:42 AM writes...

@2: According to the article, electrical engineer unemployment was 4.8%, software developers 2.7% (with an anemic job growth rate of 1.8%). Anecdotally, I've seen companies shedding IT jobs left and right and center for the last few years. And those jobs are not all being sent offshore. Many are just gone.

Software developers are still in super high demand in certain segments (mobile/big data/smart systems), but vanilla IT/engineering is not as robust a job area as you might think.

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9. featherson on January 29, 2014 11:03 AM writes...

The reason why chemists can not get jobs any more-simple- HR makes all of the hiring decisions now. HR-people who have absolutely no knowledge of science, or anything for that matter, make hiring decisions. Unbelievable. I recently applied for a job as a book stacker at my local library at $10.38/hour and was told that in spite of my Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry I was not qualified for the job. HR and computer resume screening must be taken out of the equation in order to restore sanity in the pharmaceutical industry. The reason no new drugs are being discovered is because HR is in charge of the companies, they only hire people who fit their demographics which does not include talent but does include minorities, foreigners, HS-1B visa holders, and people under 50 years old. To make matters worse the CEOs have to abide by their decisions because they don't want to lose their bonuses.

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10. ClutchChemist on January 29, 2014 11:19 AM writes...

@8 The HR screening thing is an interesting problem. Whenver a job posting goes up for a chemist position, there are literally hundreds of applicants, many of whom are not qualified. It's too time consuming for some group leader to go through all of the docs, so what is the solution? A non-scientist HR person screening the resumes is not a good one, but are there any better ones? If I had to come up with a way to do it, I would have the senior members of the research group split up the resumes equally and pick their favorites. I would love to be able to do that, but some scientists would scoff and say "thats HR's job."

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11. Anon on January 29, 2014 11:26 AM writes...

Postdocs make 39k by NIH standards (assuming you are lucky enough to go to a school that abides by this). They could easily do the job and for much less pay than your current HR person.

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12. ClutchChemist on January 29, 2014 11:31 AM writes...

@10 I made less than that as a post-doc just a couple years ago, but I would have rather been an underpaid post-doc than someone screening resumes, unless there was a good chance I could turn that around into a research position.

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13. See Arr Oh on January 29, 2014 11:34 AM writes...

@8-10: A thought experiment - If we invented a "scientific employment screening" firm, who could return higher-quality data from a typical resume screen than HR could, would there be a market for it?

Do such firms already exist?

(I know recruiters and headhunters perform some of these functions, but they also pull from a more limited starting pool. I mean solutions to deal with 1,000+ resume deluges)

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14. Anonymous on January 29, 2014 11:36 AM writes...

@6. Very true.

As a hiring manager, I see many applicants with the requisite paper qualification but many are lacking in the right mindset (curiosity, drive) and soft skills crucial to our work. We believe strongly in developing our people and are willing to train, but you'd be surprised at how many applicants resist developing beyond their comfort zones.

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15. ScientistSailor on January 29, 2014 11:46 AM writes...

@9 'If I had to come up with a way to do it, I would have the senior members of the research group split up the resumes equally and pick their favorites.'

That's exactly the way we did it and it worked very well. Grew our department from ~30 to >100 over a few years, with only a couple of hiring mistakes. Our CEO at the time said 'A-level people hire A-level people, while B-level people hire C-level people.' (or something like that) We all wanted to work with the best people, and knew that HR wasn't going to get them for us. So we invested the time to do our own screening, and only looped HR in at the end.

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16. Am I Lloyd peptide on January 29, 2014 11:49 AM writes...

I think it's ok to have HR screen out the blatant outliers (of which, depending on organizational need, there can be many). After that HR should let the professionals step in.

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17. Chrispy on January 29, 2014 11:51 AM writes...

It's anecdotal, but folks I know in software have an easier time getting high-paying jobs than any others. And a layoff is not a career-ending catastrophe the way it has proven to be for my chemist friends.

Actually, come to think of it, many of my chemist friends have been forced out of chemistry altogether.

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18. NoDrugsNoJobs on January 29, 2014 11:59 AM writes...

Having so many unemployed and experienced medchemists is a societal problem, the ever evolving world of designer drugs has expanded considerably in the past 5 years, wonder if there is any correlation?

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19. featherson on January 29, 2014 12:08 PM writes...

correctomundo. See Breaking Bad.

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20. featherson on January 29, 2014 12:13 PM writes...

What exactly are soft skills, and you can not tell me that any company is willing to train anyone anymore. They send out a ad for a chemist with 1000 needed qualifications and if one is not met the computer screening software expunges you. I was rejected from a library stacking job because I had never had a position dealing with customers.

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21. Hap on January 29, 2014 12:14 PM writes...

17: Perhaps the lower barrier to training in related tasks facilitates that - not only is a layoff not career-ending but you can find a job even if your particular field disappears. That's hard to do in chemistry, or in any science, I think, and probably hard in engineering.

Of course, for companies who want more cheap labor in scientific fields, that's probably a feature not a bug - a permanent oversupply of people in particular fields means long term low wages, until they don't need them anymore or until people stop showing up to learn how to be unemployed. If they run out of trusting fodder, by then the companies will either 1) be out of business (or at least their management won't be there) or 2) they will complain to Congress that there's a shortage of qualified people and they need to hire (cheap) labor from elsewhere (counting accurately that no one will connect their previous actions and words with the subsequent situation).

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22. Johnjohn on January 29, 2014 12:20 PM writes...

The thing I find most astonishing is the fact that all the major organic departments still have *massive* research groups with 10-15 or more grad students, wholly unchanged from the golden era.

Take a look at some websites... everyone has a jolly group photo. Are these students a) unaware of the situation b) assuming things will change or c) assuming they are in the top x% and therefore immune?

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23. Hap on January 29, 2014 12:25 PM writes...

I'd say that the emphasis on short-term profits while being unwilling to train was a current phenomenon driven perhaps by the need for much of the population to start cashing out of the stock market, but training's been reduced for something like forty years. (see this article from James Surowiecki)

I hope the seed corn tastes good - of course, the people eating it won't be around here come planting season anyway.

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24. RB Woodweird on January 29, 2014 12:53 PM writes...

You must have scientific input into the screening of resumes. Otherwise you end up with coworkers who are the most accomplished at gaming the system and bsing HR people and not necessarily the most accomplished scientifically.

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25. Doug Steinman on January 29, 2014 1:10 PM writes...

I have a number of students every year who are chemistry majors ask me about chemistry careers, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. In my discussions with them I try not to be discouraging but I am also quite clear about the nature of the current job situation for organic / medicinal chemists. I tell them that by the time they finish their Ph.D. and post-doc the job picture may be different but that it may not. Finally, I tell them that if they truly have a passion for chemistry and find that it is truly what they want to pursue as a career, they should find a way to make it happen keeping in mind that they may not be able to find a job in their chosen field when they are finished. Some of them are very talented so I hope that they do pursue their dream and that it does not turn into a nightmare.

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26. Bring the Movies on January 29, 2014 1:20 PM writes...

Graduate student in a PhD program in the organic dept on a first date with an attractive prospect:

" I have a passion for chemistry and find that it is truly what I want to pursue as a career; I want to find a way to make it happen keeping in mind that I may not be able to find a job in my chosen field when I am finished."

Wonder how that first date is going to go...

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27. dave w on January 29, 2014 1:21 PM writes...

I saw a job fair ad for software folks interested in "social, mobile, gamification, and big data".

(I guess that's code for getting folks to log into facebook on their iphones and play farmville so you can sell statistics to the advertisers?)

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28. featherson on January 29, 2014 1:29 PM writes...


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29. Hap on January 29, 2014 1:57 PM writes...

25: Lots of things are worth doing whether or not you can be reasonably certain of being employed to do them. If it's what they love or feel happy and fulfilled doing, then there isn't any reason to discourage them from doing it. The only thing they should be discouraged from is believing the rosy claims of people whose self-interest is based on encouraging their impoverishment. (Of course, if an area has lots of such people running businesses, that might be a negative endorsement of that field of study.)

If no one wants to train employees, then school is a lottery ticket with a high upfront cost. Choosing a field to minimize unemployment probably won't save anyone from it. Choosing something you can do well and like will be useful somehow. There is no reason to destroy one's soul just because (some) businesses have decided to destroy theirs. Whatever else you do, being unhappy or incapable won't help.

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30. Chemjobber on January 29, 2014 2:07 PM writes...

14: Can you talk a little about the places where you see people being unwilling to be flexible/grow in their skill sets? (i.e. Q: "would you be interested in doing X?" A: "No, I don't want to do that.")

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31. Chrispy on January 29, 2014 2:29 PM writes...

Pursuing chemistry for the love of it sounds noble, but the fact is that you need a support infrastructure in order to do it.

It is not like pursuing painting or being a musician. No one is waiting tables in order to be able to do chemistry in their off hours, Breaking Bad aside...

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32. Fair Warning on January 29, 2014 4:08 PM writes...

Readers of this blog should do everything to dissuade youngsters from pursuing chemistry beyond the BS/BA level. It is simply not a viable career choice beyond the BS/BA level anymore.

I went off to graduate school in 2005, confident that a career in organic synthesis and medicinal chemistry was what I wanted. Although I enjoyed the topic matter and working in the lab, I became worried about the job prospects with all of the site closures and headcount shedding in the industry. I discussed this with my faculty and advisor, but they all told me this was rubbish and the industry always needs chemists. Couple this with a nightmare PI who takes great pleasure in verbally abusing his students because he went to Harvard, and you didn't.

I made the decision to get the MS in 2008. Colleagues and professors told me what I mistake I was making and how I would regret this for the rest of my life. The market was still good for associates in 2008 - I was able to get a job as a process chemist in big pharma. 2 years later, the department was shuttered entirely. I feared for my future.

I was able to transfer into manufacturing of commercial APIs, and also got a role in cleaning validation. Although the closure of my process development department was saddening, it was the best thing that ever happened to me in my career. The skills I've learned here are more marketable than organic chemistry. With so many places either under consent degree and increasing regulatory standards, there are jobs for this type of work. One has to keep their skills sharp, but, there is still a market. Contrary to what PI's told me, with a BS/MS, you can become a boss, manager, or director in these type of roles. I have known colleagues with BS chemistry who are now global heads of quality, tech transfer and validation.

Organic and medicinal chemists are treated as commodities now, and are seen as liabilities to a company, sadly. My company and most now see IP and Phase I and II candidates to be bought from the outside. Internal R&D is now seen as a cost-center liability. Most young people don't know this going into grad school. I sure didn't. Professors have no qualms about running large research groups with 20-40 grad students to keep the flow of grants and research papers continuing. They have no qualms about using you up and throwing you into an uncertain future. When I brought up the realities of the job market, I was treated as a pariah. Asking academia to scale back the production of PhDs based upon the reality of the job market is futile. Big name PI's entrenched in the system don't care.

Stay away from organic and medicinal chemistry. I have seen many of my old colleagues turned into dog meat over the years gone by since 2005 - I almost was too. You've been warned.

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33. paperclip on January 29, 2014 4:24 PM writes...

"Is there a shortage of skilled labor, or just a shortage of really cheap skilled labor?"


Can't sell your house? Yes, you can. If you offered it for twenty bucks, you'd get a taker in less than a minute. You just can't sell it at the price that you want. And you can find however many STEM employees you need. It just won't be as easy or inexpensive as you wanted.

But, fear not, your senators are there to make it all besser for you. Finding employees is haaaard! [hugs] To the laid off people: Sorry, that's capitalism! Come on, put on your boots and get to figuring something out.

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34. Hap on January 29, 2014 4:45 PM writes...

When large businesses or wealthy people have problems with something, it's clearly a market failure and must be dealt with accordingly. If small businesses or individuals have a similar problem, then obviously they aren't good enough or are too lazy to solve it, and need to be allowed to pay the price for their failure.

Stanza 39 of "capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich" will commence shortly.

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35. gippgig on January 29, 2014 5:02 PM writes...

There's a huge STEM shortage but it has nothing to do with workers. The general population is dangerously ignorant of STEM and that's where the focus needs to be.
#31: Pursuing chemistry for the love of it sounds noble, but the fact is that you need a support infrastructure in order to do it.
Is there any way to get that infrastructure other than by getting a job? There definitely should be.

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36. M on January 29, 2014 7:49 PM writes...

I can believe there are software engineers out there who have trouble finding jobs.

Having interviewed countless applicants with bachelors, masters, and phds, I can say that it is amazing how many get shell shocked when asked to write a small piece of code. Nothing tricky and certainly nothing a smart guy fresh out of high school shouldn't be able to do.

In my opinion part of the problem is that when people have paid good money to a university they expect to get a degree regardless of whether they deserve it. And universities know they lose applicants if they don't deliver good grades and degrees so they play along. The result is that there are lots of people with software engineering degrees who I wouldn't hire at any salary.

Oh, and I only do second-level interviews. The front line phone interviews get rid of some noise before it gets to me.

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37. Anonymous on January 29, 2014 7:53 PM writes...

Firstly, let me clarify that my group is not in the chemistry field, more of the M in stem.

@20 We are. In fact, we have a great reputation for hiring & training good people, which makes us a desirable poaching ground. Soft skills we look for - ability to communicate & influence, curiosity & drive.

@30 We hire with an eye on long-term career development of the candidate. We highly value people who are able to ask lots of good questions, and have the courage to say what needs to be said, rather than what they think others want to hear. This takes someone who is willing to learn beyond their technical specialization & doing more than just cranking out technical output that their degrees trained them to do. We run into too many of the "tell-me-what-to-do-and-I'll-do-it" type. There are a lot of candidates who are reluctant to think critically.

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38. Chemjobber on January 29, 2014 9:36 PM writes...

Anon: Would you be willing to talk a little more about this? I think that my readership would benefit from your comments. If so, e-mail me at chemjobber -at- gmail/dot/com. Confidentiality guaranteed.

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39. Johnjohn on January 29, 2014 9:57 PM writes...

Can someone out there who's hip to this things put hash tags etc all over the 'fair warning' post above so undergrads etc might easily find it? Seriously- those sentiments need to get out there, and there are many of us who would have benefited from exposure to such realities!

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40. Nick K on January 29, 2014 10:13 PM writes...

This thread should be required reading for anyone considering a career in Chemistry. #32 Fair Warning: excellent summary of the reality for chemists. When will the message get through to potential grad students?

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41. aa4 on January 30, 2014 2:25 AM writes...

A problem is only a relatively small percentage of the population has the natural personality that thirsts for knowledge. A person can be smart, and in a school setting they can force themselves to do the required homework and labs and memorize for exams. This type of person can get any level of degree.

But it is the natural inquisitive people whose innate passion happens to be this field of study, who will continually deepen their knowledge over a lifetime. It is this latter group who are all that really matters for corporations whose whole business is creating knowledge that doesn't exist yet.

In my business I find this type of person by finding out what they do with their free time. If they are researching the subject on their own time, working on their own crazed projects on the weekend.. I have found someone who is by nature this personality.

I don't know if the institutional nature of big schools and big corporations can ever attract this kind of person. Hence a reason we are seeing big pharma focusing on things that do scale well with normal people, like sales, manufacturing, regulatory work, etc. And buying up breakthrough corporations.

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42. gippgig on January 30, 2014 3:30 PM writes...

41: ...and those people likely aren't interested in a job.

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43. Steve on January 30, 2014 3:51 PM writes...

I am always fascinated with the comments on this blog that imply that organic chemists are capable only working in medicinal chemistry. A different view: the company I work at in the chemical industry hires Ph.D. chemists in process/agro/polymer research, as factory managers, as key account managers, as patent/literature experts, as internal strategy consultants, in application development, as technology managers, etc. So when I look at the opportunities open to me, I am quite happy I earned my chemistry Ph.D.

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44. Lu on January 30, 2014 4:41 PM writes...

22. Johnjohn on January 29, 2014 12:20 PM writes...
Take a look at some websites... everyone has a jolly group photo. Are these students a) unaware of the situation b) assuming things will change or c) assuming they are in the top x% and therefore immune?

It's all three.
Also, there is a steady stream of students from not-so-developed countries (think Eastern Europe, mainland China, probably India) who treat graduate school as a good path to immigration. Even a meager $15k TA salary in PoDunk, MN gives higher standard of living compared to rural China. What not to like?
So the problem of oversupply of PhDs simply cannot be solved by educating prospective students about the job market. For every American dropping out of PhD program there are many more foreign students eager to take his or her place.

People often complain about the glut of H1B visa holders driving down wages. But those people usually don't come straight from overseas simply because it's hard to acquire spoken English proficiency if you aren't immersed in the language. No, vast majority of H1B visa holders went to graduate school here or at the very least spent couple of years as a post-doc.

So to improve chemistry job market there should be limits placed on the number all kinds of student visas (currently there are no limits for F1 or J1). Or you can require foreign students to be self-funded for the length of the studies. I'm sure this will solve the oversupply issue within a few years. There is nothing wrong in labor protectionism, after all this is what work permits do. But who will lobby for this, toothless ACS?

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45. jacktooth on January 30, 2014 9:37 PM writes...

Your joking right? From my experience, companies do not want to train for any of these positions.

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46. 1099-G on January 30, 2014 9:56 PM writes...

#32 is on the Mark. There is no longevity in a Med Chem career in Pharma/Biotech.

t1/2 is about 8-10 years for a Ph.D. Slightly longer for a B.S/M.S chemist.

After that you have to get really creative about changing careers. You will find that your impressive CV starts to become a lead weight much sooner than you expect it to.

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47. Former Farma on January 30, 2014 9:59 PM writes...

Come on. Do you think HR knows the difference between an organic chemist from a physical chemist? Not in your life! Also, educationally who went to school for an education and who went to college because has was over? The scientists have at the IQ level but often present poorly (introverts) whereas the extroverts learned long ago to have fun and pretend to go to school. Now that we are into experiences of the real world we see the scientists do not rule but rather ahR, for they protect corporate from the legal problems created by those weirdos down in the lab. That ones with strange posters on the walls, odd jokes, strange forms of dress, and most amazingly the total lack of understanding about the duty day 8-5. We see it carrying over to the clinical R&D people too. An eye opener in my initial months within Farma I was invited by the recruiting team that brought me to my first Farma job to attend the US Tennis Open . I joined as soon as I could after work that day. Directly across us at eye level was our entire HR department that covered R&D. During the break they came over and said hello. I asked if this was the first set of matches they had seen? I sat in schlock as I heard then announce almost in unison, "oh no, we've been here all week". What I asked, aware of the price of my free ticket. How? Again they announced "we are sitting in the corporate box, we are a sponsor each year." So bottom line they get while the going is good and are the first to cut you when we hit the generics cliff and have nothing new to show for it. As we often hear, you guys cost us money and go out and make the money. If we fail then everyone job loss is due to piss poor research but R&D is the future. If we want to change things then start with real change and commit to it. HR should work for the research or developmental VP. HR should be co-located out of hR and into the admin offices near the labs. See, feel, breath, smell?, what scientists do for a living. Scientists should be the first ones in line to search for peers that they would respect working with and suggest a group for in-house interviews and tours and presentations to HR. If a scientists has to jump the HR hurdle before ever getting their CV across a scientist's desk then you will see more of the same. After we fix HR then we move on to the next section.

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48. anonymous on February 1, 2014 12:28 PM writes...

I see a lot of get rid of HR or remove it from hiring, but I don't see how that would help get more chemists hired.
The problem is that wall st and thus the business people in charge at companies are to worried about quarter over quarter profits. It drives CEOs to gut research in search of improvements to profits this quarter to get a bonus, but where will the next drug come from then? I'm not sure people know enough (especially not business people) to make more than an educated guess about the long-term success of a program so why is focusing on a few areas considered a winning strategy? I'm wondering if there's room for a large privately held pharma company. Something that wouldn't have to answer to wall st immediately and could afford to keep plugging away in lots of different areas.

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49. James Russler on February 13, 2014 6:06 AM writes...

I could not agree with you more, Former Farma. I have just completed an engineering degree (having abandoned my postgrad chemistry studies), and dealing with the HR of prospective employers has been a nightmare. I'm convinced that I have zero chance of ever actually having a career, all because I committed the cardinal sin of being unemployed for a little too long. When job placement people are saying it is easier for them to place people with criminal records than it is to place unemployed people, something seriously stinks.

My opinion of HR people is now so low I've decided that I'm going to stop telling lawyer jokes, as the disdain I have for lawyers pales in comparison to the disdain I have for HR managers.

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50. exchemist on March 20, 2014 8:14 PM writes...

How many of you jobless people have tried (a) getting a job in oil/gas or (b) moving to a low unemployment area? I realize the two are confounded.

Just use your basic technical skills and brains and do whatever. If that field goes bust or saturates in a few years, move on again. Sorry, but it's a who moved my cheese world.

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