I really see no hope for employment in the US

  • #1
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The US chemical industry has lost 66,000 jobs since 2007. Let's face reality here, many, many of these jobs are never coming back, they are all now in China and India. I'm sure people who have experience working with outsourcing companies know this firsthand. At my old job I was repeatedly warned time after time by my bosses with PhDs to never pursue a PhD in chemistry because you will be caught in a cycle of a never ending job rat race or always be pursuing a post doc. And I have to say, I feel like they were absolutely 100% correct. From my experiences, there always seems to be 30 PhD applicants for 1 job, in fact since being laid off 2 years ago, there are STILL some of my ex-coworkers who are still unemployed. The main thing they have in common: a PhD. Now this isn't to say I never had trouble either finding employment in the chemical industry with my BS. Sure many of us who got let go that had just BSs have since found jobs, but the most disturbing trend among many of my colleagues is the fact that most of them have only found temp work that is low paying and that also offers no health insurance. Many of the jobs I came across for almost 1 year of job searching while I was unemployed were only temp positions that were low paying. Welcome to the reality of the 2011 economy for chemists. You are either a low paid disposable temp with no health insurance, or a PhD hopping around from post doc to post doc or are simply unemployed all together. Sure there are some "niche" fields out there that a few people might be able to specialize in and can find jobs, but these are the exceptions not thebstandard.

I really don't see any hope for employment in the chemical industry in the US, that is of course you are satisfied with making only $40 K a year in your 50s and never want to own a house because you are constantly under the threat of being laid off. I guess that's why many of us from my old company have moved on to different fields, one guy in his mid 40s is now in school for nursing, another went back to school for accounting, and me starting from the ground up again pursuing engineering.
 

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  • #2
chemisttree
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The US chemical industry has lost 66,000 jobs since 2007. Let's face reality here, many, many of these jobs are never coming back, they are all now in China and India. I'm sure people who have experience working with outsourcing companies know this firsthand. At my old job I was repeatedly warned time after time by my bosses with PhDs to never pursue a PhD in chemistry because you will be caught in a cycle of a never ending job rat race or always be pursuing a post doc. And I have to say, I feel like they were absolutely 100% correct. From my experiences, there always seems to be 30 PhD applicants for 1 job, in fact since being laid off 2 years ago, there are STILL some of my ex-coworkers who are still unemployed. The main thing they have in common: a PhD. Now this isn't to say I never had trouble either finding employment in the chemical industry with my BS. Sure many of us who got let go that had just BSs have since found jobs, but the most disturbing trend among many of my colleagues is the fact that most of them have only found temp work that is low paying and that also offers no health insurance. Many of the jobs I came across for almost 1 year of job searching while I was unemployed were only temp positions that were low paying. Welcome to the reality of the 2011 economy for chemists. You are either a low paid disposable temp with no health insurance, or a PhD hopping around from post doc to post doc or are simply unemployed all together. Sure there are some "niche" fields out there that a few people might be able to specialize in and can find jobs, but these are the exceptions not thebstandard.

I really don't see any hope for employment in the chemical industry in the US, that is of course you are satisfied with making only $40 K a year in your 50s and never want to own a house because you are constantly under the threat of being laid off. I guess that's why many of us from my old company have moved on to different fields, one guy in his mid 40s is now in school for nursing, another went back to school for accounting, and me starting from the ground up again pursuing engineering.

I've been discouraging students from Chemistry for over a decade now. I've seen this happening since the late '90s. Masters in Chemistry is more employable than PhD according to the ACS but without a manufacturing base to soak up all of the graduates, you have niches and government work mostly (including teaching). Watch out!! Engineering is next!
 
  • #3
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The chemical industry is in a race to the bottom: lay off as many people as possible until only a skeleton crew is left. Create a huge pool of unemployed scientists (with M.S.'s and Ph.D's) on the job market, and then hire them back as low-paid temps to fill work that would have been filled by a B.S. or even a high school diploma before 2007. That way, they have no commitment to the employee and can dispose of them and replace them as easy as they hire them.

I feel you dude. The only answer is socialist revolution and a scientist union that demands to be treated better and sets a minimum wage for itself.
 
  • #4
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My life right now consists of doing endless amounts of mindless hplc injections, making buffers, and cleaning glassware....all for what you expect, pretty low pay after I took a $15k paycut from my old job just to be able to find work. It's nice knowing you're underemployed, underpaid, overeducated and headed into your 30s with no light at the end of the tunnel doing a job a high school freshman could do. At this rate it'll only take me 20 years to pay off my student loans!
 
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  • #5
symbolipoint
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My life right now consists of doing endless amounts of mindless hplc injections, making buffers, and cleaning glassware....all for what you expect, pretty low pay after I took a $15k paycut from my old job just to be able to find work. It's nice knowing you're underemployed, underpaid, overeducated and headed into your 30s with no light at the end of the tunnel doing a job a high school freshman could do. At this rate it'll only take me 20 years to pay off my student loans!

gravenworld, be glad you have a job. You might be able to change jobs more easily than you could find to if you were unemployed. Employers have the opinion which makes it so.
 
  • #6
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gravenworld, be glad you have a job. You might be able to change jobs more easily than you could find to if you were unemployed. Employers have the opinion which makes it so.

I'd be happy at this point also being a manager at McDonald's making the same amount of money I am now without out having to have had to take out all those college loans and just working my way up at Micky D's right after high school. OH why did I even waste my life learning quantum physics and organic chemistry? I've seriuosly considered saving up $10,000, finding a Latin GF, and moving to Costa Rica where I would open up a fried plaintain stand and teach EFL on the side. Believe me, I've looked for other jobs...it's just a never ending wave of temp positions.
 
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  • #7
Gokul43201
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My life right now consists of doing endless amounts of mindless hplc injections, making buffers, and cleaning glassware....all for what you expect, pretty low pay after I took a $15k paycut from my old job just to be able to find work. It's nice knowing you're underemployed, underpaid, overeducated and headed into your 30s with no light at the end of the tunnel doing a job a high school freshman could do.
...
OH why did I even waste my life learning quantum physics and organic chemistry?
Yet you pity the fool doing a postdoc? And earning anywhere between $35K and $75K, working in a challenging research environment, learning new skills and material, actually using that quantum physics and organic chemistry that he learned, periodically visiting cities around the country/world to participate in an all-expenses-paid conference, and (I imagine) having a virtually guaranteed faculty position in some college chemistry department if he wants it?
 
  • #8
AlephZero
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I'd be happy at this point also being a manager at McDonald's making the same amount of money I am now without out having to have had to take out all those college loans and just working my way up at Micky D's right after high school. OH why did I even waste my life learning quantum physics and organic chemistry? I've seriuosly considered saving up $10,000, finding a Latin GF, and moving to Costa Rica where I would open up a fried plaintain stand and teach EFL on the side. Believe me, I've looked for other jobs...it's just a never ending wave of temp positions.

If that's what you really want, stop whining and JFDI (just .... do it).

The only person who is stopping you is youself. The hypothetical GF and $10,000 are optional extras - all you actually need is a one-way cheap air ticket.
 
  • #9
Pengwuino
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I'd be happy at this point also being a manager at McDonald's making the same amount of money I am now without out having to have had to take out all those college loans and just working my way up at Micky D's right after high school. OH why did I even waste my life learning quantum physics and organic chemistry? I've seriuosly considered saving up $10,000, finding a Latin GF, and moving to Costa Rica where I would open up a fried plaintain stand and teach EFL on the side. Believe me, I've looked for other jobs...it's just a never ending wave of temp positions.

Except you would be working at a McDonalds....
 
  • #10
chemisttree
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Yet you pity the fool doing a postdoc? And earning anywhere between $35K and $75K, working in a challenging research environment, learning new skills and material, actually using that quantum physics and organic chemistry that he learned, periodically visiting cities around the country/world to participate in an all-expenses-paid conference, and (I imagine) having a virtually guaranteed faculty position in some college chemistry department if he wants it?

I wasn't aware that postdocs had a virtually guaranteed faculty position in some college chemistry department. I'm glad to hear that.

Things are as http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/88/pdf/8828acsnews.pdf" [Broken]

One would think that when the economy turns around, the jobs will come back but I'm not convinced with th manufacturing losses that we have suffered. University and government work does seem to be growing but those jobs might not be as secure with the 46 states budget problems catching up with them. It hasn't happened yet though. Cross your fingers.
 
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  • #11
I'm very receptive to all information concerning unemployment in sciences. I've been struggling dearly to reconcile a very apparent discrepancy between projections of labor analysts, rosy promises of academia with gloomy outlooks held by practitioners like yourself. So, people like you - disillusioned with dark reality - are of particular interest to me.

If it all possible, would you describe the family (social circle) pressure you experience to change career path? What are the suggested directions? In this thread, you seem to have gone on to describe some of the expectations placed on you. For example - and this reflects something I often suspect reading unemployment reports - you say:

"...I really don't see any hope for employment in the chemical industry in the US, that is of course you are satisfied with making only $40 K a year in your 50s and never want to own a house because you are constantly under the threat of being laid off...".

This comment is just a treasure-trove of learnings for me.

I wasn't raised in middle-class America, and only recently, after earning masters in biology, and finding myself in your boat, I discovered the underlying factors shaping the mentality of a stereotype white-educated-middle-class man (which I don't suppose you are.) Through reading about ascendency of corporate America in 1950s and emergence of middle-class professionals, I see ambition of owning real estate - and earning commensurate salary with appropriate responsibility - to be something of a motivating factor, driving career decisions and determining lifestyles of the an educated American achiever.

Being educated - especially in sciences - seems to imply earning potential. What do you believe, if anything, needs to be amended in this view? American dream, science education or something else? And, perhaps more importantly, do your friends (social circle) agree with you?

Sorry for being a bit vague, but there are just too many interesting questions, and I can't ask them all at once. This is a question to everyone in the forum, so please join-in with your comments.

Thanks,

Monte
 
  • #12
turbo
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Things have gotten bad for chemical engineers in Maine. Once, you were pretty secure if you hired on with a pulp-and-paper mill because the physical plants are large and expensive and you can't effectively out-source the chemists' jobs. That has changed over the last couple of decades. As mills' equipment has drifted toward obsolescence, paper companies have increasingly opted to curtail operations, shut down production lines, and close entire mills. Recently, the Federal government has made moves to address dumping of foreign paper on the US market at below the cost of production. Unfortunately, the damage is already done and some large mills are closed. The once-safe technical jobs in pulp and paper are looking very shaky.

I was a process chemist in the newest, largest pulp mill in the state in the late '70s, but moved on to a better-paying job on the new paper machine. 10 years of that, and I opted out for a career as a technical consultant.
 
  • #13
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I wasn't aware that postdocs had a virtually guaranteed faculty position in some college chemistry department. I'm glad to hear that.

Things are as http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/88/pdf/8828acsnews.pdf" [Broken]

One would think that when the economy turns around, the jobs will come back but I'm not convinced with th manufacturing losses that we have suffered. University and government work does seem to be growing but those jobs might not be as secure with the 46 states budget problems catching up with them. It hasn't happened yet though. Cross your fingers.

Does anyone ever believe self reported ACS and CEN data on salary and employment statistics? I find the data they report to be laughably overinflated. Not once have I ever come across a position available that offers a salary that even comes close to the median average for BS chemists that they report. The ACS and CEN reports also hardly take into the account the swaths of people that only are hired now as permatemps and also likes to lump in post docs. I don't consider finding "work" the same thing as finding a "job". How does one ever get ahead as a permanent temp with no health care or retirement benefits? Hope and pray that they don't get sick or injured? Anecdotes aside, what does the BLS say?

http://www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs008.htm

Employment is projected to decline rapidly, and applicants for jobs are expected to face keen competition.

Employment change. Although output is expected to grow, wage and salary employment in the chemical manufacturing industry, excluding pharmaceuticals, is projected to decline by 13 percent over the 2008-18 period, compared to 11 percent growth projected for all industries combined.


That's excluding pharma, which is probably much worse.
 
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  • #14
symbolipoint
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gravenworld, the same employer opinions are still applied. You have your dull jobs because you are still accepting assignments from your agencies. You can still look for positions outside of the agencies. Also so often employers will take candidates with more education when they can get them, instead of less.
 
  • #15
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Over the past couple of years I have seen ads on PBS and Discovery Channel (or those types of channels) by the ACS promoting "American Chemistry" as a proud tradition that young ppl interested in science should pursue.

What are they (ACS) up to if what most ppl here are saying is true? How long can they keep encouraging ppl to enter the field given the apparent reality?

Just curious.
 
  • #16
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I've been discouraging students from Chemistry for over a decade now. I've seen this happening since the late '90s. Masters in Chemistry is more employable than PhD according to the ACS but without a manufacturing base to soak up all of the graduates, you have niches and government work mostly (including teaching). Watch out!! Engineering is next!


Did you mean chemical engineering or engineering in general? I have seen according to the BLS that chemical engineering is expecting a 2% drop in the next decade.


Over the past couple of years I have seen ads on PBS and Discovery Channel (or those types of channels) by the ACS promoting "American Chemistry" as a proud tradition that young ppl interested in science should pursue.

What are they (ACS) up to if what most ppl here are saying is true? How long can they keep encouraging ppl to enter the field given the apparent reality?

Just curious.

If I was part of a group that was getting less members(according to what's been said here) I would advertise too. I don't understand what's unordinary about that.
 
  • #17
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gravenworld, the same employer opinions are still applied. You have your dull jobs because you are still accepting assignments from your agencies. You can still look for positions outside of the agencies. Also so often employers will take candidates with more education when they can get them, instead of less.

I don't belong to a temp. I have permanent (if you can call it that since I can tell they are trying to move operations overseas) position. After sending out 150 resumes, yes this is all I could find--a job that pays $35k even with my BS and 5 years of synthetic organic experience. Going from doing organic transformations to cleaning glassware, great! You know you've hit rock bottom when even your glassware cleaning gig gets outsourced overseas. LOL.
 
  • #18
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If I was part of a group that was getting less members(according to what's been said here) I would advertise too. I don't understand what's unordinary about that.

Yeah, but that can only be a temporary solution given that the source of the drain is not being addressed. It's like getting ppl to buy your stock when you know you're going under. Sooner or later ppl will find out, and raise heck.
 
  • #19
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I'm very receptive to all information concerning unemployment in sciences. I've been struggling dearly to reconcile a very apparent discrepancy between projections of labor analysts, rosy promises of academia with gloomy outlooks held by practitioners like yourself. So, people like you - disillusioned with dark reality - are of particular interest to me.

If it all possible, would you describe the family (social circle) pressure you experience to change career path? What are the suggested directions? In this thread, you seem to have gone on to describe some of the expectations placed on you. For example - and this reflects something I often suspect reading unemployment reports - you say:

Thankfully, the only family I have are a brother and two parents. I'm not married yet and have no children. The pressure I feel to change career paths doesn't come from any sort of family member, but rather out of necessity. One day I would like to own a house and possibly start a family. The current situation I am in ,and likely see myself stuck in for at least the next decade or more, prohibits that. Why would I ever buy a house if I might have to relocate every 3 years to find another job after being laid off yet again? Have kids? Forget it. Finding a new job only every 3 years is being generous. Heck, one of my ex-coworkers had 6 jobs in the span of over 2 years. I don't see any resemblance of job stability and can likely see stagnant wages for myself, always stuck around the $40k mark. The only thing my wages have done since I've entered industry is go down with more experience, not up.

Being educated - especially in sciences - seems to imply earning potential. What do you believe, if anything, needs to be amended in this view? American dream, science education or something else? And, perhaps more importantly, do your friends (social circle) agree with you?

What we have to come to grips with is the fact that we could very well have the most educated and under/un-employed work force in the history of this country in the future. It sounds cliche, but the system needs to change. Why in the world would a company pay an American worker to do the same work that a person in India or China could do at a fraction of the cost while also not having to be burdened by the costs of social security taxes, health care costs, and retirement benefits? Companies have already started to go around these costs in this industry by now heavily relying on completely expendable permatemps (aka "dash trash") that cost them nothing in terms of retirement benefits, health care, and legal obligations. Maybe I just picked the wrong science, but I have yet to see training in chemistry equating with more earning potential. The jobs lost since 2007 are gone and aren't coming back. Pharma is toast. Chemical manufacturing is declining sharply. Where do I go in order to get out of a mundane job with mediocre pay? I'm all ears.


Do my friends agree? I have no idea. People can look at all the statistics that they want, however, my coworkers and I are the ones actually down here in the trenches, and many of them have left all together.
 
  • #20
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Personally, I think the US should raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 year and then use that to fund basic research and build infrastructure. Unfortunately that sort of thing seems too "socialist" for the US. Also if the problem is lack of money, you can print it.

What really worries me in the long run is that this is pretty much what China is doing. The Chinese government realizes that China is about to get "China'ed", and the manufacturing plants that moved from Michigan to Guangdong are now moving to Indonesia and Vietnam, so the Chinese government is putting massive amounts of money into green technology and making offers to scientists to go home.
 
  • #21
symbolipoint
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gravenworld, you have some strong qualifications with 5 years organic syntesis experience, some instrumentation experience, and your B.S. degree. Without knowing any other details yet, many people would maybe even do the dull lab job as you currently have; the pay is better than what some people get now. Since you wonder about what other career to change to, could you consider further education for Engineering?
 
  • #22
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Yeah, but that can only be a temporary solution given that the source of the drain is not being addressed. It's like getting ppl to buy your stock when you know you're going under. Sooner or later ppl will find out, and raise heck.

I don't see what you're getting at. I agree that it would be a temporary solution. But if you're concerned about the ACS being "up to something" as you stated before, then why not contact them directly?
 
  • #23
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gravenworld, you have some strong qualifications with 5 years organic syntesis experience, some instrumentation experience, and your B.S. degree. Without knowing any other details yet, many people would maybe even do the dull lab job as you currently have; the pay is better than what some people get now. Since you wonder about what other career to change to, could you consider further education for Engineering?

Well I'm lucky I also have a math degree. And yes I've considered bioengineering (the only engineering that didn't require an undergrad degree), and have already applied to graduate programs. Interview at Michigan in Feb!
 
  • #24
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What we have to come to grips with is the fact that we could very well have the most educated and under/un-employed work force in the history of this country in the future.

What really worries me is the end of the American middle class. I'm seeing people that make truly insane amounts of money, and people that don't, but the type of job that lets you make a decent amount of money without being hyper-rich seems to have disappeared.

It sounds cliche, but the system needs to change. Why in the world would a company pay an American worker to do the same work that a person in India or China could do at a fraction of the cost while also not having to be burdened by the costs of social security taxes, health care costs, and retirement benefits?

Actually, I think the system needs to change but in a different way. Chinese manufacturers *do* have to pay social security taxes, health care, and retirement benefits. One myth is that China is a low tax environment, but for most manufacturing jobs, Chinese taxes are comparable to US taxes. A lot of the benefits were instituted in the last ten years, but a Chinese manufacturing worker now gets *more* benefits and *more* job security than most American ones.

One difference between China and the US, is that Chinese workers can strike. If you talk to a factory manager in Guangdong they have to pay things because if they don't, their workers will go on strike. Also Chinese factories in Guangdong are closing and moving off to Indonesia, Vietnam, or Mexico.
 
  • #25
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It's called academic inflation: you still "need" quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and organic chemistry for a job where you'll probably never need to use them. Why are employers hiring this way? BECAUSE THEY CAN. They want to improve the overall quality of their workforce while keeping costs either the same or less. It's capitalism at its finest.

Don't blame the Chinese workers or the Indian workers, blame the employers for racing to the bottom and exploiting the third world. Every member of the working class is in the same boat, only some are poorer and more desperate than the others. It's just what employers want: get people desperate enough that they'll work for *any* wage, with or without benefits, as permatemps. Don't like it? You can be replaced the next day.

Nobody even wants to train you anymore. They expect you to come into THEIR labs knowing THEIR SOP's, and have at least 5 years of experience performing THEIR SOP's--it's lunacy. One semester of instrumental analysis is far more intense than any job training for an "analyst" position in a quality control/quality assurance lab.

Again, what you have to understand is that YOU are not the only one in this situation: a huge population of educated and trained scientists. The employers need to stop exploiting us--we should seriously organize and send some proclamation to the chemical industry that we won't take their crap anymore.

If you want a fat check, though, look into the Petroleum industry. $70k/yr+ salaries are quite common there, even for B.S.'s. Oh yeah, 4-6 months vacation/year too :D
 

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