Hi all. I'm a recent chemistry college grad planning to take a rather nontraditional route to graduate school. I have a few concerns about it so I was hoping that I could get some advice from more experienced and objective minds than mine.
I graduated in May 2009 from a top 20 liberal arts school with a B.S. in Chemistry (A.C.S.-certified); my overall GPA was a 3.25 and my major GPA was 3.15 (my general science GPA is a tick better). The only significant black mark I have on my transcript is my senior fall in which I overwhelmed myself by taking biochem, p-chem, and inorganic all at the same time. I didn't fail any of my classes but it still wasn't pretty. However, the following semester I was able to bounce back and put up decent marks in second-semester p-chem and advanced organic. I also spent a summer and a full academic year working in a synthetic organic laboratory as an independent study. I have no official publications but I have given symposium presentations and written analytical reports for the faculty. Long-term, I want to get a Ph.D. in Chemistry with a focus in Organic Synthesis.
After a grueling 8-month job search, I've recently landed a job with an environmental analysis laboratory for which I'll be doing a lot of work with GC/MS and a little bit of ICP and AA. Obviously, this isn't that related to organic synthesis, but the pharma market is in the tank right now and it's incredibly difficult to make any headway on that front with just a B.S. I'm happy to be working in some chemical capacity, and I know it'll look good on my resume, but I'm concerned that my lack of a more research-oriented lab position will make me look less competitive against others who, for example, are coming from a year or two of work in the pharmaceutical industry.
I'm also seriously considering the Peace Corps for next year; I'd like to go off and do some humanitarian work before I focus on my career. I recently spoke with a recruiter and she made it pretty clear that there's a 99.9999124435% chance I'd be assigned to work as a chemistry teacher since they're always in need of more math/science minds. I know teaching chemistry for the Peace Corps would look fantastic to grad schools, especially since T.A.-ing is such a huge part of the process, but I'm also concerned about how such a long break from a laboratory environment (the Peace Corps is a 27-month commitment) would look. Also, by the time I'm applying I'll be a good three or four years removed from doing anything related to organic chemistry, which could make me look rusty.
So that's where I'm at right now. I'm generally comfortable with my plan, but there are still a few uncertainties floating here and there. Any general thoughts on my situation or advice for the future would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read this! Cheers.