I would just like to share my chemistry story. I chose to major in chemistry because I had been so passionate about it in high school. I loved science and I couldn't see myself choosing a major in anything but science. However, there comes a point where your interests and the dynamic of your personality collide. For me, the information overload was utterly overwhelming. I recall a time where I burst into tears in front of my professor because I was so stressed out from the mountain of work before me. This caused me to become slightly bitter toward my chosen field, and my passion began to diminish. I couldn't think of anything else I could do, and I didn't want to be in school forever switching from one major to another like some friends did, so I stuck it out and got my degree. I felt the pressure to find a related job in the field, so I did, and worked for a couple months on contract as a lab tech at a very large and notorious home products company. I enjoyed my coworkers, the environment and the area, but after a couple of months I had to return to my hometown for personal reasons. I probably would not have minded staying there had I not had other issues to deal with. The person who had the job before me had been hired on full-time in another position at the company, and everyone there was friendly, passionate and cultured. The pay was not great, but that has never been a deciding factor for me.
Back in my hometown, I got a lab tech job at a glass company. The difference between the two environments was astounding. I sincerely feel that location is everything. Certain areas attract certain types of people and/or certain areas have an effect (positive or negative) on people. Either way, the culture at this place was horrific. Everybody was uncultured, self-centered and juvenile. No one seemed to have the talent of diplomacy. Complaining, usually as an attempt at a "joke," was prevalent. The management was uninvolved, one-dimensional and lazy. There was just this overall feeling that everyone was unhappy and hated their job. Again, I sincerely feel that location is everything. Yes, it was my hometown, but I am a realist and feel no sympathetic ties to it. I have had other jobs in both places and have experienced the same attitude/culture trends, across the board.
While working at this job, I reached a place existentially where I asked myself what I was really doing in this field. I had long since lost my passion for research and chemistry as a profession, and I was working a demeaning, unfulfilling contract job when I was *supposed* to be starting my "career." In a series of rapid-fire job changes, I finally got a part-time marketing-arena job that I actually enjoy. It is minimum wage, but it is one-hundred times more fulfilling than the lab tech job I had making $17/hr. Right now I am so glad to be doing something I actually enjoy, with enough free-time to read up on my new hobby, science, that I haven't even given much thought to possible career changes. (I must point out that I have a partner who is able to help out financially, and we do live quite cheaply.)
My advice to anyone out there with a degree in chemistry, or anything else, who is not 100% sure that they want to continue in their field, would be to be simply honest and true to yourself, and to do what *you* feel is right for *you*, and to not do something "out of obligation" or because someone else wished it upon you. I have found that I enjoy learning about science, but I don't think I can "do" science. Making a hobby your career is a good way to ruin that hobby. Furthermore, consider the location of a potential job as a good indicator for how that company's culture is going to be, and determine how important that is to you. It seems like areas where arts and culture are important tend to have better people. Just sayin'.
I just wanted to share my story, because I wish I had known a lot of things before trying to get a "chemistry" job. I was actually quite clueless. Maybe chemistry programs should require research credits or co-ops, to expose chemistry majors to the real world. Maybe it would be beneficial to speak with a professor or with someone at the career center before entering the job market, to get a better feel for what you are getting into. My last comment will be that, if you do decide to leave chemistry as a profession, don't feel guilty about it. Being unhappy is so not worth the "use" of your college degree.