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Should I bother with a chemistry career?

  1. Aug 5, 2013 #1
    Hello, PF!

    I'm a second year undergrad student at one of UK's leading universities (arguably one of the best in the world).
    Until now I've done really well in chemistry and enjoyed every second of it (I got medals at International Olympiads in high school, good grades first year at uni).
    Recently I've been reading about the career prospects in chemistry and I was very disappointed. It seems the only way you can get a good job in academia is spend 4 years doing your PhD while receiving a stipend a little higher than minimum wage. I am not too worried about the PhD, but after that, the things don't seem to get any better. I'd have to go through a couple of postdocs, working 60+ hours on a meager salary with little job security. I'll be in my 30s and earning less than any of my non-sciency friends. I'd be quite depressed if were unable to live a nice comfortable middle-class life. Don't get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound arrogant, I am genuinely interested in science, but I feel that all my hard work will yield almost no results. I need some motivation to carry on.

    Is there any hope for me to find decent jobs in either chemistry or materials science? Is there any particular subfield that could potentially lead to a reasonably well paying career? Perhaps in industry the situation is different, but I have little knowledge about it. I will appreciate any advice you will offer.

    I understand that my opinion could be biased as it solely comes from browsing the web and reading anecdotal evidence, but I can't help but to be worried.
    If the field is entirely hopeless I will probably switch to chemical engineering (which I find terribly boring and I don't know if I'll be good at, but at least the pay is good).

    Again, I'd appreciate any advice!
    Thank you all!

    PS: I apologize for any eventual English mistakes, English is not my native language, but feel free to PM me if you spot any mistakes.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2013 #2


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    I'm glad you did some research at this stage. My opinion: yeah it's a tough, tough market for Chem majors. I started in chemistry in college, but switched to physics. Even so, most of my jobs have been chemistry related because back then (~20 years ago), chemistry was more valuable in the job market.

    Now, those chem lab jobs that were so plentiful are just gone. Most jobs now are in QC labs and the pay is terrible. Neither you nor I can see the future, extrapolated from the present it doesn't look good for chemistry majors :frown:.

    I'd strongly advise you to consider Chemical Engineering!

    Just my $0.02 of course.

    Oh and welcome to PF!
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