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Office Jobs with Science MS

  1. Jul 21, 2013 #1
    Hi everybody,

    First, hi PF! It seems like there's a pretty wide array of backgrounds on the forums, so I'm hoping I can solicit a little advice.

    I recently graduated with an MS in Physical Chemistry from a top-ranked program. I passed my qualifying exam and everything, but decided that the career direction the PhD was taking me wasn't really good for me. On top of that, I wouldn't say I worked in the healthiest environment. So, long story short, here I am, MS P-Chem in hand, happy that I left when I did, but a little lost on the job front.

    I currently work in a lab position at a large pharmaceutical company under contract, but that's mainly to pay the bills. The market for non-PhD lab jobs is horrendous at the moment and it's not really a direction I want to work in anyway. I'm really looking to get out of the lab and move into an office-based role. On top of that, contract positions won't last forever. So, as I search for jobs, I'm finding a lot of things that I do feel qualified for, but don't quite have the degree for. Things that sound appealing include patent agency, clinical data/research coordination, logistics management, and even financial work (be it accounting or quantitative analysis type work). That said, I'm open to any large career change, so long as it's away from the lab direction - my willingness to learn new things and make big changes isn't the problem, the problem is convincing employers that I can do it in an economy that is sufficiently supersaturated that there seems to be an exact fit for every job out there.

    I know that online applications tend to be a black hole, and that cold-calling and cold-e-mailing are going to get me a lot farther. Networking is obviously great, but most of my contacts are academic and only able to help with jobs that are explicitly scientific. What I'm looking for is actually suggestions on even what careers might be viable options, ideally without additional schooling. To summarize my question succinctly: What are possible office-based career paths for an MS Physical Chemist? How do I make myself appear qualified on paper for these roles? My background is in Raman spectroscopy and my grades in all of the math-heavy courses (QM, Stat Mech, etc.) are good; I can make a case for having strong quantitative skills, but perhaps not up against someone with a PhD in Math/Physics, etc. I can find examples of people with my background who have made changes like this, but they did it 10 - 20 years ago, when I'm guessing the job market was quite a bit different.

    I'm not wholly against the idea of going back to school, and if I did, I'd likely pursue an MBA or something along those lines, but it'd be great if there was something I could jump into now, even if it were entry-level type work. I'd love to not pay for any additional schooling.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2013 #2


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    Education Advisor

    I used to work for a large pharmaceutical company and currently work for a contract research organization (CRO) for the pharmaceutical sector. One of my co-workers at the pharma company started out, much like yourself, in a lab position before transitioning to become a clinical research associate (CRA). I don't recall if she had taken any certification courses to train as a CRA, but I am aware that these programs exist, and often the company itself will pay for any certification that maybe required. Another co-worker used to work in a lab position before applying and landing a position in health informatics for a large teaching hospital.

    My advice would be for you to check with the current company you are working for to see if there are positions like these that are open, talk to any people working in such an area about their experiences and submit an internal application (with a referral from people in that department if possible). Many companies often look to internal employees who they can train as opposed to hiring someone new, so you have a shot at this.

    Best of luck!
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