May 28, 2024, 03:06:18 PM
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Topic: A Warning To All Students Who Are Pursuing An Undergraduate Degree In Chemistry  (Read 20720 times)

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Offline GCT

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I think it's time I joined in here. 

First a bit of background on me:
I'm from the UK.  I have a degree and PhD in chemistry, completed in 1995.  My degree included two placements working in industry for 5-6 months each. I have worked in the UK chemical industry for the last 13 years. I have worked for 3 different companies, 1st an international fine chemical manufacturer, 2nd a small dyestuffs manufacturer/importer and currently a contract manufacturer specialising in polymers.

GCT - you make some good points badly.
As far as I can make out your real problem is you are finding it hard to get a job in the chemical industry in Georgia and the pay is low even though you have what you consider to be a good degree in chemistry.

Welcome to the real world.  1st degrees are not worth a huge amount in chemistry.  They teach you the basics and are easy to get, harder than most 1st degrees but still easy.  I wouldn't trust a new graduate in our lab without supervision and would keep them well away from the pilot plant for quite a few months.  I wouldn't send them on a vocational course though I'd train them in house or more likely recruit someone with some industrial experience.  No course in going to suit every job.  I think any academic course trying to address the needs of industry is going to be a waste of time and effort.  Academics do not understand industry.  Who other than you is going to do this 2 year training course on the Chemical industry in Georgia?  You want it to cover HPLC and organic synthesis.  OK how much theory and how much practical hands on?  What HPLC instruments, what software, what columns, what types of separations? what synthesis? repeating a literature prep or designing your own? what scale? what kind of work up and purification?  what analysis? what is success? can it be scaled up? how can it be modified to be scaled up?
There are loads on loads of variable on just those two area's that mean any course will be a compromise.  It is not going to work, can you not see the problems with what you are suggesting?  I guess the answer is no because you do not have the experience and knowledge to see what a narrow little corner of chemistry you're describing.

If you want to get a 1st degree and walk into a high paying job then don't do chemistry become an accountant or some other boring job. 

Sometimes I think I should've done a different subject and taken a different career path but I picked a subject I liked.  Who knows how it would've turned out studying and then working in a field I have little interest in other than the pay?

There's should be a way to train an undergraduate with basic HPLC maintenance so that they can be hired for an entry level analytical chemist position , this kind of training is better than nothing.  This is the type of certification that would enable an employer to trust the newbie with the instrumentation a bit more.  Again, this is the kind of relationship that is needed between academia and industry.  Trust.

I am currently employed as an entry level process chemist, however I sense that I'm not gaining any skills here, this is verified by the fact that all of the companies that have inquired about my online resume are turned off by my inexperience with certain skillsets such as HPLC, this seems to be very big in Georgia.  I know that this position isn't going anywhere, I want to move even if it means obtaining an entry level analytical chemist position or entry level organic chemist position and performing routine tasks all day long day in and day out, I sense that I'm not developing as a chemist here.  I studied a lot in school, I got a high gpa, employers seem to acknowledge this however as I mentioned it doesn't mean anything concrete even for an entry level position.  In this I am very upset, I had a certain expectation that the gpa would mean something, and yet it doesn't in the industry because it isn't equivalent to skillsets.

I sense that there are some gaps in the current academic system , I have modified some of my original statements based on comments by Dan and DrCMS and the new ones are below.

1)  Some skills are more industry-fundamental than others, one is HPLC, so some kind of basic HPLC maintenance course should be required .  This isn't a certification for everything, I'm just pointing out a few, perhaps it's just HPLC and organic synthesis.  The certification should involve basic training that would increase employability in the industry.   
2)  A " vocational Bachelors degree " should be devised for people who don't wish to pursue graduate school.

Offline enahs

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There are many stand-alone programs that do just that:
Such as:

And just like getting a B.S. in computer science does not mean much, you still need a Microsoft Certified System Engineer certificate to get a good job if you are going to be working with Microsoft related products.

You are asking educational institutes to teach specific skills. This is not going to happen. There are too many skills to teach. You feel HPLC is an important skill, but I know quite a few people that all they do at work are Western Blots. So. therefor I say Western Blots should be taught over HPLC.

Offline P

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 ..There's should be a way to train an undergraduate with basic HPLC maintenance so that they can be hired for an entry level analytical chemist position

You don't need a degree to be a lab technician you know.  You may have missunderstood what doing an academic degree is about.   Yes the guy with experience of working the same machine for 2 years running will be better than you at running that machine (and probably very similar techniques).  But I'd still rather have the degree for the broad scope of knowledge it teaches.  I agree with DrCMS that the post grad work is where we learn about putting all our theory into lab practice.  Doing a PhD will give you 3 years of practical lab work and some management skills  (you can get technicians to run HPLCs for you for instance).  Throw in some industrial placements - and nowadays some of the old gift of the gab during your interview and you are in a position to get started.  No-one just walks straight out of their degree into a high paid job anymore - not unless you have the contacts before hand anyway.

Good luck -  and don't get to depressed about it.

Tonight I’m going to party like it’s on sale for $19.99!

- Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

Offline GCT

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As for the final note on this thread I would like to make a few pointers as well as acknowledgements

I should have known before endeavoring in the Chemistry major that becoming a chemist would involve getting at least a Masters degree even if it seems that even this degree simply leads to , by eventual requirement , obtaining a phD . 

A lot of people that I knew who had just obtained their Masters were very unhappy with the experience and believed that their degree would not help them in the industry.  I once new a girl from UC Davis who had obtained her Masters and had commented to me that she didn't know where the degree would take her.  Kyle at Thechemblog had recently remarked on the rather modest reality of his prospects in the industry now that he is about to graduate.

My two supervisors at my past two jobs in the industry had no respect for chemical theory.  They were very good scientists nevertheless, they were quick at picking up on the literature and were able to devise  of
ingenious experiments accordingly.  They had the brains of medical doctors in this sense, they could care less about the theory, however they could pick apart information from good memory.  My previous supervisor who has a phD got furious when I wanted to discuss some theory with him to explain why we were finding a higher pH of a solution after an organic reaction when a acidic pH was expected.  It turns out that he had forgotten his theory, as he scribbled a short explanation on the marker board - all the while foaming at the mouth - he blurted " … I don't care if it's SN1 or SN2 … " when clearly the reaction was an Nucleophilic Addition Elimination reaction. So where are the people who appreciate the theory?   My first supervisor  seemed to believe that discussing theory was not worth the time, he had a Masters from U of Texas at Austin.  Both supervisors were earning the big bucks as both companies were prominent in the medical sector.

I understand all of your statements that there is no way to become a chemist, a physicist, or a medical doctor without extensive schooling since all of these fields require a wide range of expertise.  In this sense I guess a Bachelors in Chemistry doesn’t really mean anything to the industry.  I wonder why there are so many jobs out there that simply require just this degree e.g. Analytical Chemist with at least 2 years of HPLC experience.  Who on earth gets these positions?

 I obtained my degree with a great gpa, and now the only place to go is academia for another degree, a Masters.  I'm not able to get entry level positions at this time in either the analytical or organic sector, although I am currently in process chemistry.  I wonder if I'm going to be cheated again with a Masters degree.  I make this remark because I get the sense that these days that Chemistry is becoming more and more ancient as a science and that the relationship between Chemistry academia and the industry is especially a fuzzy one.  And as I have mentioned before a Masters is not deemed to be advantageous in some states.  Maybe it'll have to be a phD.

For those of you who wish to hear about my revised proposition for a vocational Bachelors degree please refer to my previous post.

Offline Benzene Martini

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One way to make good money with chemistry knowledge is to learn to buy low and sell high. Hear me out.

A buddy of mine worked as a metrologist fixing HPLCs and other equipment at different chemical companies. One day it dawned on him that he could start his own business being an independent consultant. He started off by finding old equipment and buying it for cheap or even finding out about companies that went out of business and were just throwing equipment away.

He saved up enough pieces and parts to different equipment to start refurbishing and reselling equipment to different small businesses and universities. Sometimes he would just take a whole unit and sell different parts and end up making multiples of what he could make from selling the whole piece of equipment.

See, he didn't rely strictly on his degree or training or experience. He created his own experience. He found out about the value of what he knew and used that to enter into niche markets. There was no job posting on the internet for what he started doing. He simply invented his own job and became his own boss. He learned that being able to communicate, hustle, understand customers' needs, and deliver on expectations set him apart from 95% of "scientists" simply looking for a job.

Your value and worth are already there. You have to learn how to acquire your tools and knowledge for cheap and learn how to package them for sale at a higher price. Work on your delivery relentlessly. That is what brings in the money.

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