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Job Skills Two BS degrees in Chem and Phys w/ Minor in Biochem in May

  1. Dec 5, 2016 #1
    Hello. I'm feeling a little bit depressed, desperate and excited, because I am graduating in May of next year. I will have a BS in chemistry, a BS in physics and a minor in biochemistry.

    What I am wondering is, what kind of job can I hope for with these degrees? I've done research work in an instrumental/analytical chemistry and a biochemistry lab, and to be honest, I hated working in the lab. I have about two years of experience working in the lab, and I hated pretty much every minute of it.

    Of course, I thought I would like science research majoring in nothing but basic science, but the real deal is a lot less exciting than what I read in textbooks. To me, research is mostly bullshiting your way around crappy data and trying to force things to work out the way you think they should with little to no success.

    So what are my options here? Should I apply to a national lab or something? What else can I do? I would have just majored in engineering and been done with college in four years, but I ended up going for six and getting two degrees because I had no idea what I was doing. But a BS in chem and phys has got to be worth something. I can't stomach the disappointment if it was all a waste of time.

    I have pretty good grades, above 3.5 GPA. It's got to be worth something, right? Please help, guys. I'm not interested in going to graduate school, because I've still no idea what I want to do. I just really need money, and honestly, I would rather die than live off of the pathetic stipend the grad students receive from my university. I need to find some kind of direction or career path before going to grad school. Like one of my professors said, going to grad school is not a plan! The end goal should be a specific job.

    So far, it seems as though I'm only qualified to be a tutor or a technician. It doesn't seem like the six years paid off in the end. Some advice would be nice. Thank you.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 7, 2016 #2


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    You could become a biometrician. But although you don't have to stand in the lab, you still have to tackle other peoples crappy data. Welcome to the real world!
  4. Dec 7, 2016 #3
    I'm afraid I don't have good news for you. So many people are enthralled with the notion of doing exciting research, and get a BS. But then they find out that a BS is not enough. In physics and chemistry, a BS qualifies you to be a lab tech. If you want to be a principal investigator or lead researcher, you need a PhD. A lab tech with a BS then works under the direction of a PhD, performing tasks such as preparing samples, setting up equipment, taking measurements, and (maybe) analyzing data. If you're lucky, you might have the opportunity to work up the ranks under the mentorship of a PhD and eventually become a principal investigator or lead researcher. But this is the exception, rather than the rule.

    If you don't want to be a lab tech, and you don't want to get a PhD, an option is to go into production (manufacturing). The career path is to start out as a technician on the production line, work your way up, get an MBA (sometimes the company will pay), and end up in management and administration of the production facility. Other options include sales engineer for instrumentation companies and administrator for analytical services labs. The path is to leverage your BS to advance a career in marketing and sales, again with an MBA along the way. Yet another option is a career as a patent agent (see other thread); unfortunately, a BS in chem or physics won't get your foot in the door.

    Other fields also have the same problem. I know several BS CS who dreamed of developing the next Big Algorithm, then ended up writing line after line of code instead. At least in some fields (such as ME or EE), an MS is sufficient to land you a slot as a lead design engineer or manager; PhD not required.

    There are exceptions of course. But if you're one of those exceptions you would probably be planning on running your own startup already.
  5. Dec 8, 2016 #4


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    To the OP:

    What I'm about to say may sound harsh, but you should have started thinking about what career path about a year earlier. At this stage, you need to take stock of what (1) skills you have gained, and (2) what career path you want to pursue.

    To determine (1), you need to determine what skills you have gained (both through your coursework and your experience working in a lab). I would presume you would have the chance to learn to analyse experimental data, learn to use lab equipment? Start from there, and consider those to be important analytical skills that could be of use to you. I'm sure you have other skills as well, that you need to take stock of.

    To determine (2), ask yourself this -- OK, you hated lab work. Ask yourself why. What is it that you specifically hate?

    Next, ask yourself the following questions: what do you like? What do you enjoy?

    Do you enjoy socializing with people, explaining your love of science and sharing knowledge? OK, good -- a career path in education, science communication, science journalism, or marketing research, among others, for a scientific firm will be open to you.

    Are you a good writer, able to explain complicated technical issues to a layperson? OK, good -- a career path in technical writing could be a path for you.

    Are you interested in medicine? OK -- consider pursuing a follow-up degree in medicine or pharmacy, or a graduate program in medical physics.

    Are you interested in further research? OK -- consider applying for graduate school in chemistry or physics (whichever you are more interested in).

    Are you good with computers and programming? OK -- consider a career in scientific programming.

    As you can see above, you have a lot of options open for you, but it is up to you to decide what path to pursue, and you have to start making some strategic decisions to make sure that you have the skills necessary to pursue those options.
  6. Dec 11, 2016 #5
    I didn't like lab work mostly because they didn't use me. Most of the time I just cleaned stuff or analyzed data. Over one summer, I analyzed data everyday full time and that's all I did. It was very dull and stressful.

    I don't feel as though I gained many skills during my work, unless you count sweeping and cleaning as a skill.

    I wanted to become a scientist, but my experience in the lab was bad enough that it made me reconsider. I don't have any plans on becoming a scientist anymore. What I want to do is find a job that is at least analytical so that what I've learned in school is still applicable.

    I will also have experience in programming after next semester. I need to take a graduate level programming course to graduate. Unless I fail (which I think is unlikely), I will know how to do some programming and will have gained more competence with computers. As of now, I am proficient in Excel. I've used it extensively in data analyzes during my work in lab and in school. I also have a lot of experience tutoring and teaching underclassman.

    I thought that I would have been steered in the right direction by now, but it didn't happen. I'm still as lost as I was entering college. It makes no sense for me to go to graduate school because I've no idea what I would go for, and I think that entering grad school without a plan is a bad idea. I'm hoping to find a job that can steer me in some direction.

    I think I am a competent person. After taking an overload of credits and being on the cusp of completing two bachelor of science degrees in notoriously hard subjects, I feel like there is really nothing that I can't do. I just need some kind of guidance, because I don't know what I specifically want to do. I really have no idea. What I liked about science was learning. I like math, physics, chemistry and biology. I just enjoyed learning and playing the mind games you have to play for test preparation, and stuff like that. I like to think and solve problems, and also learn in a descriptive way that is necessary for biology and chemistry. What fascinated me about chemistry and physics was the atom and molecule. However, having worked in a chemical and biochemical lab before, I don't think that I will be happy doing that, and I will be very hesitant going into more laboratory work. It didn't seem right for me. I'm, perhaps, one of the few people who enjoy reading text books more than working in a lab. I've learned very little from working in labs.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
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