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(Scientific American)   The market value of a Ph.D. in chemistry is now limited to asking 'Would you like fries with that?" On the positive side, chemistry students are bumping the hell out of English majors in the paper-hat careers   (blogs.scientificamerican.com) divider line 98
    More: Interesting, chemistry, Ph.D., Chronicle of Higher Education, postdocs, apprenticeships, graduate students, job interviews, pharmacy  
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3825 clicks; posted to Geek » on 19 Apr 2012 at 5:48 AM (3 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-04-19 12:28:54 AM  
This is what happens when people go to college to find themselves, instead of finding a job.
 
2012-04-19 12:40:21 AM  

foo monkey: This is what happens when people go to college to find themselves, instead of finding a job.


I'm pretty sure most chem grad students aren't so much worried about finding themselves at that point. They want to further their knowledge to do advanced science.

But what do I know, I only have a Ph.D in Chemistry with a great job that intellectually stimulates me and pays well. The writer with a philosophy degree seems much more apt to have a handle on the current state of things in the science field and technology market.
 
2012-04-19 12:47:42 AM  

SumFrequency: foo monkey: This is what happens when people go to college to find themselves, instead of finding a job.

I'm pretty sure most chem grad students aren't so much worried about finding themselves at that point. They want to further their knowledge to do advanced science.

But what do I know, I only have a Ph.D in Chemistry with a great job that intellectually stimulates me and pays well. The writer with a philosophy degree seems much more apt to have a handle on the current state of things in the science field and technology market.


Did I ASK for ketchup?!?
 
2012-04-19 01:06:50 AM  
What, no "Breaking Bad" reference?

/I am disapoint.
 
2012-04-19 01:19:35 AM  

SumFrequency: foo monkey: This is what happens when people go to college to find themselves, instead of finding a job.

I'm pretty sure most chem grad students aren't so much worried about finding themselves at that point. They want to further their knowledge to do advanced science.

But what do I know, I only have a Ph.D in Chemistry with a great job that intellectually stimulates me and pays well. The writer with a philosophy degree seems much more apt to have a handle on the current state of things in the science field and technology market.


The writer also has a Ph.D in chemistry.
 
2012-04-19 01:28:48 AM  
There's never too much of any particular field, only poor utilization of who's available. It used to be a lot of PhD's got hired up by R*D departments at companies where the only goal was to do research to see if perhaps, maybe, they came up with something cool. That doesn't happen much anymore. The problem isn't that we have too many chemistry PhD's, the very statement is nonsensical on its face, it's that we don't do things like advanced R&D much any more. The problem isn't how many people have chem PhD's, it is in a sense, the rest of us.
 
2012-04-19 03:24:11 AM  
As with any other field of study: Market supply and demand. A lot of companies no longer do a lot of R&D. This means that there's more people competing for fewer jobs, driving down the price that will be paid for those jobs because the companies have a huge pool to choose from - people who may be desperate to take ANY job will not quibble about the pay they are given, nor the conditions in which they have to work.
 
2012-04-19 05:51:38 AM  
Seriously? Move overseas to the places where they ARE doing the research. With a chem PhD you will be welcomed with open arms into almost any country in the world.
 
2012-04-19 05:54:44 AM  
I've got a PhD in chemistry, so I'm getting a kick...

/employed
 
2012-04-19 05:55:55 AM  
FTFA: The post with was itself a response to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by a neuroscience graduate student named Jon Bardin which advocated strongly that senior grad students look to non-traditional career pathways to have their Ph.D.s as well as permanent jobs that might sustain them.

Apparently a Ph.D. in philosophy gets you a job blogging for a science magazine where no one proofreads. Exactly how career pathways are supposed to have Ph.D.s was simply too grammatically farked up for me to fix it this late at night.
 
2012-04-19 05:58:23 AM  
What shall I do now....

i29.photobucket.com
 
2012-04-19 06:06:46 AM  
Once you have the method down for analysis, anyone can be trained to perform wet chemistry and read/run GC or HPLC. Have one sciency person on staff to do deeper troubleshooting and your department is fully operational.

/manages a chemical testing lab
//thats how I roll
 
2012-04-19 06:09:40 AM  
Meh, who cares? How many chemists are we supposed to need, anyway? It's been a while since I've called a chemist out to the house, and I haven't been by the chemistry store lately, either. I guess they're better than excess Womyn's Studies majors, but not much.
 
2012-04-19 06:11:15 AM  
Make more L.S.D..
 
2012-04-19 06:12:19 AM  

foo monkey: This is what happens when people go to college to find themselves, instead of finding a job.


Oh, fark off.

If someone has a crappy job and no education, the reply is always "You shoulda paid attention in school!".
If someone has a crappy job and their GED, the reply is always "You shoulda gone to college!".
If someone has a crappy job and an arts degree, the reply is always "You shoulda done a real degree!".
Now you're looking at someone who has a crappy job and a PhD in a hard science and you're saying "You shoulda just got a job in the first place!".
 
2012-04-19 06:33:41 AM  

Gunther: foo monkey: This is what happens when people go to college to find themselves, instead of finding a job.

Oh, fark off.

If someone has a crappy job and no education, the reply is always "You shoulda paid attention in school!".
If someone has a crappy job and their GED, the reply is always "You shoulda gone to college!".
If someone has a crappy job and an arts degree, the reply is always "You shoulda done a real degree!".
Now you're looking at someone who has a crappy job and a PhD in a hard science and you're saying "You shoulda just got a job in the first place!".


Don't you know that things go in cycles? Once, a degree was rare, and was difficult to get, and was correspondingly valuable. Now, a degree is common, easy (tho expensive) to obtain, and worth less. Qualified, skilled laborers are now more rare than those with degrees, and are thus more valuable. Once college degrees become more scare, they will be more valuable again. This is just basic economics.
 
2012-04-19 06:37:53 AM  

Gunther: foo monkey: This is what happens when people go to college to find themselves, instead of finding a job.

Oh, fark off.

If someone has a crappy job and no education, the reply is always "You shoulda paid attention in school!".
If someone has a crappy job and their GED, the reply is always "You shoulda gone to college!".
If someone has a crappy job and an arts degree, the reply is always "You shoulda done a real degree!".
Now you're looking at someone who has a crappy job and a PhD in a hard science and you're saying "You shoulda just got a job in the first place!".


welcome to circular reasoning.
 
2012-04-19 06:38:58 AM  
Wow, very surprising. Who would have thought the prospects for a science major would be grim in a country that values Abstinence-Only education, that rejects scientific discoveries and instead seeks explanations from a 2,000 year old book, and seeks medical advice from online trolls like Andrew Weil, "M.D.".

Color me shocked
 
2012-04-19 06:45:11 AM  
If you are not developing a marketable skill, then your education is not an investment: it is an expense. This is not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it necessarily an indictment of any particular field of study, as almost any field of study can yield marketable skills if you take the right approach to it. But you need to plan accordingly: financing an education on money you will never see again is a very different thing from financing an education on money you can expect to regain with it.
 
2012-04-19 06:48:06 AM  

DubyaHater: Wow, very surprising. Who would have thought the prospects for a science major would be grim in a country that values Abstinence-Only education, that rejects scientific discoveries and instead seeks explanations from a 2,000 year old book, and seeks medical advice from online trolls like Andrew Weil, "M.D.".

Color me shocked


Hey now... the Bible is MUCH older than 2,000 years, especially if you count the origins of its contents in oral tradition that preceded the written word.
 
2012-04-19 06:49:26 AM  

DubyaHater: Wow, very surprising. Who would have thought the prospects for a science major would be grim in a country that values Abstinence-Only education, that rejects scientific discoveries and instead seeks explanations from a 2,000 year old book, and seeks medical advice from online trolls like Andrew Weil, "M.D.".

Color me shocked


Hey, to be fair, accredited scientists don't have that great a track record for accuracy, either: Link
 
2012-04-19 06:51:09 AM  

untaken_name: Now, a degree is common, easy (tho expensive) to obtain, and worth less. Qualified, skilled laborers are now more rare than those with degrees, and are thus more valuable. Once college degrees become more scare, they will be more valuable again. This is just basic economics.


The problem is we keep telling kids from age 5 to 18 that college is the ONLY way they'll ever be happy and successful. We lead them, like lambs to the slaughter, into a trap of extraordinarily high debt and dubious employment prospects.

There should be a lot more discussion in schools about other options besides college. Vocational school, military, apprenticeships, etc are all perfectly valid choices to make. And it would be beneficial to our youth and our economy if people knew about all these things before they incurred life-crushing amounts of debt just to figure out that they really didn't want to be a mechanical engineer, they just wanted to be a mechanic.
 
2012-04-19 06:52:40 AM  

untaken_name: don't you know that things go in cycles? Once, a degree was rare, and was difficult to get, and was correspondingly valuable. Now, a degree is common, easy (tho expensive) to obtain, and worth less. Qualified, skilled laborers are now more rare than those with degrees, and are thus more valuable.


Do you actually believe that a PhD in chemistry is easy to obtain? Or common, for that matter? Less than 3% of Americans have a PhD. Hell, considering how much more expensive a degree is to get now than it used to be (due to rising university fees), you would expect it to be worth more than it used to be.

It's worth less for several reasons; firstly, we value science less than we used to. Secondly, in a recession research and education are always the first corners to be cut. Thirdly, science grads now have to compete in a global market; you can't outsource your plumbing job to India, but you can outsource your R+D department.
 
2012-04-19 06:55:21 AM  

incendi: untaken_name: Now, a degree is common, easy (tho expensive) to obtain, and worth less. Qualified, skilled laborers are now more rare than those with degrees, and are thus more valuable. Once college degrees become more scare, they will be more valuable again. This is just basic economics.

The problem is we keep telling kids from age 5 to 18 that college is the ONLY way they'll ever be happy and successful. We lead them, like lambs to the slaughter, into a trap of extraordinarily high debt and dubious employment prospects.

There should be a lot more discussion in schools about other options besides college. Vocational school, military, apprenticeships, etc are all perfectly valid choices to make. And it would be beneficial to our youth and our economy if people knew about all these things before they incurred life-crushing amounts of debt just to figure out that they really didn't want to be a mechanical engineer, they just wanted to be a mechanic.


That was well-said, and not just because I agree 100% with everything you said.
 
2012-04-19 07:01:09 AM  

Gunther: untaken_name: don't you know that things go in cycles? Once, a degree was rare, and was difficult to get, and was correspondingly valuable. Now, a degree is common, easy (tho expensive) to obtain, and worth less. Qualified, skilled laborers are now more rare than those with degrees, and are thus more valuable.

Do you actually believe that a PhD in chemistry is easy to obtain? Or common, for that matter? Less than 3% of Americans have a PhD. Hell, considering how much more expensive a degree is to get now than it used to be (due to rising university fees), you would expect it to be worth more than it used to be.

It's worth less for several reasons; firstly, we value science less than we used to. Secondly, in a recession research and education are always the first corners to be cut. Thirdly, science grads now have to compete in a global market; you can't outsource your plumbing job to India, but you can outsource your R+D department.


BS. Over 90% of all scientists who have ever lived are alive today1. We don't value science? Also, answer me this: Is a PhD in chemistry easier or harder to obtain than it was 100 years ago? More common or less common? Because that is about the time when the current "you must go to college" bandwagon got its start.

/1: discussion of De Solla's claim
 
2012-04-19 07:05:41 AM  
Anecdotes fail in the face of data.

Having a BS/BA... MS/MA... PhD... each has a lower level of unemployment than the level before it.
 
2012-04-19 07:07:02 AM  
I wonder there are actualy so much smart people willing to study to do a difficult job that is usefull for humanity, when they could make a lot more money screwing their fellow humans with banking, trading, management or whatever.
Gives a bit of faith in humanity again!
 
2012-04-19 07:12:31 AM  
I am the "Internship Guy" at my university's STEM college, and we have an on campus R&D internship program for STEM majors, so I'm getting a big laugh out of this thread (and the poorly constructed arguments in the article)

/We have a 100% placement rate for our interns so far, even the ones deemed "unhirable" because of their horrid social skills
 
2012-04-19 07:14:52 AM  
The only sector of the economy worth working in any more is finance.

The bankers stole almost all the money and are working on getting the last little bit they haven't stolen.
 
2012-04-19 07:15:52 AM  

untaken_name: Gunther: untaken_name: don't you know that things go in cycles? Once, a degree was rare, and was difficult to get, and was correspondingly valuable. Now, a degree is common, easy (tho expensive) to obtain, and worth less. Qualified, skilled laborers are now more rare than those with degrees, and are thus more valuable.

Do you actually believe that a PhD in chemistry is easy to obtain? Or common, for that matter? Less than 3% of Americans have a PhD. Hell, considering how much more expensive a degree is to get now than it used to be (due to rising university fees), you would expect it to be worth more than it used to be.

It's worth less for several reasons; firstly, we value science less than we used to. Secondly, in a recession research and education are always the first corners to be cut. Thirdly, science grads now have to compete in a global market; you can't outsource your plumbing job to India, but you can outsource your R+D department.

BS. Over 90% of all scientists who have ever lived are alive today1. We don't value science? Also, answer me this: Is a PhD in chemistry easier or harder to obtain than it was 100 years ago? More common or less common? Because that is about the time when the current "you must go to college" bandwagon got its start.

/1: discussion of De Solla's claim


Aren't a largish percentage of all humans who ever lived alive today?
 
2012-04-19 07:17:40 AM  

untaken_name: BS. Over 90% of all scientists who have ever lived are alive today


That's a far less informative statistic than you think. Something like 10% of all the people who have ever lived are alive today, and many of those who are dead lived in an age before science. Probably 99.9% of all computer programmers who have ever lived are alive today, that doesn't mean there's a glut of them.

untaken_name: Also, answer me this: Is a PhD in chemistry easier or harder to obtain than it was 100 years ago?


Easier than that arbitrarily-picked date, but, due to the rising tuition costs, harder than in more recent decades.

untaken_name: More common or less common?


Worldwide, far more common. I'm actually not sure whether science PhDs are more common now than in the past in the US; I can't find any statistics on past attainment rates. Currently in the US it's about 3%.

But anyway, we're getting off-track. I took issue with your post because you claimed a PhD was worth less now than a position as a qualified, skilled laborer because it was easier to get. I have seen no evidence that this is true, and plenty that it isn't:

upload.wikimedia.org
 
2012-04-19 07:31:14 AM  

WaitWhatWhy: Aren't a largish percentage of all humans who ever lived alive today?


Yes, but it's difficult to say that we don't value something when 90% of people who've ever done that thing are currently alive, and only 10% of the gen pop who have ever lived are currently alive.
 
2012-04-19 07:32:57 AM  
The only two available majors in college should be "Job Creation" and "Industry Titanship," that way I wouldn't need to feel superior to those sorry saps who went to college to get laid and have a good time.
 
2012-04-19 07:36:48 AM  

Gunther: I'm actually not sure whether science PhDs are more common now than in the past in the US; I can't find any statistics on past attainment rates. Currently in the US it's about 3%.


Oops; that's all PhDs, not just science PhDs.
 
2012-04-19 07:36:50 AM  

Gunther: That's a far less informative statistic than you think. Something like 10% of all the people who have ever lived are alive today, and many of those who are dead lived in an age before science. Probably 99.9% of all computer programmers who have ever lived are alive today, that doesn't mean there's a glut of them.


Erm, there *is*. Have you seen the crap that gets turned out these days? "Java developers" and the like are more common than fleas on a dog's back.

Gunther: Easier than that arbitrarily-picked date, but, due to the rising tuition costs, harder than in more recent decades.


Except that student loans are easier to obtain just now than they were in recent decades, and colleges are accepting more applicants, so I think there's some balancing going on.

Gunther: But anyway, we're getting off-track. I took issue with your post because you claimed a PhD was worth less now than a position as a qualified, skilled laborer because it was easier to get. I have seen no evidence that this is true, and plenty that it isn't:


No, you misunderstood me. I'm saying that a PhD NOW is worth less than a PhD was 50 or 100 years ago, and that a position as a skilled (emphasis on skilled) laborer such as an electrician or plumber is worth MORE now than it was 50 or 100 years ago. Also that labor skills are easier to acquire than a PhD, although a PhD is easier to acquire than it used to be.
 
2012-04-19 07:38:23 AM  

sigdiamond2000: The only two available majors in college should be "Job Creation" and "Industry Titanship," that way I wouldn't need to feel superior to those sorry saps who went to college to get laid and have a good time.


If you're going to spend 4 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get laid and have a good time, may I suggest that Las Vegas is a better place to spend them than college?
 
2012-04-19 07:48:07 AM  
When did this "hundreds of thousands of dollars" thing become de rigeur when discussing the cost of college?

You know, it is possible to spend quite a bit less than "hundreds of thousands of dollars" on college.
 
2012-04-19 07:49:34 AM  
I'm defending in August with a PhD. Not even scared...
Of course having a couple fellowships and a bunch of highly cited papers and knowing what the fark I'm doing when it comes to instrumentation/analysis and everything else in the lab helps.

/Who's hiring?
 
2012-04-19 07:49:53 AM  
Woohoo!!!!

So, funny thing has been happening lately, I have hired a few people with liberal arts degrees instead of business degrees and you know what, they are a thousand times better than people with business degrees. Ill just give 2 examples i have found so far as this is a work in progress

1) They are much better at critical thinking and coming up with vastly unique ideas than people with business degrees
2) The whole you want fries with that in 5 languages means you can speak to people in 5 different languages. Extremely important in a global economy

Love me some liberal arts!!!!!!

PS. people with liberal arts degrees aren't as big of assholes as people with business degrees, and that also means something to me as well
 
2012-04-19 07:50:35 AM  
A degree in any given field does not guarantee success in that field. A person has to be emotionally, psychologically, and temperamentally able to work well with others and accept those conditions for the long term. Otherwise, POP, it's burn-out time.
 
2012-04-19 07:55:31 AM  

Gunther: more expensive a degree is to get now than it used to be


actually, getting a degree in the sciences is cheaper. you used to have to pay for it somehow, now they pay you...
 
2012-04-19 07:56:35 AM  

untaken_name: Gunther: That's a far less informative statistic than you think. Something like 10% of all the people who have ever lived are alive today, and many of those who are dead lived in an age before science. Probably 99.9% of all computer programmers who have ever lived are alive today, that doesn't mean there's a glut of them.

Erm, there *is*. Have you seen the crap that gets turned out these days? "Java developers" and the like are more common than fleas on a dog's back.


Did you get a PhD in missing the point?

Let me explain that to you slowly and simply; if 10% of everyone who has ever lived in the 200,000 year lifespan of the human race is alive right now, and science as a thing has only existed for a few hundred years, it would be astonishing if there wasn't an incredibly high percentage of all scientists who have ever lived alive right now. It's just basic statistics. By the same token, probably 90% of plumbers, auto-mechanics and engineers who have ever lived are alive right now, because historically speaking, those are really new careers and there's fark-tons more people alive right now than in the past.

Do you get it now?

untaken_name: Except that student loans are easier to obtain just now than they were in recent decades


And the actual cost of college is far higher.

untaken_name: and colleges are accepting more applicants


Are they? what is the actual percentage of applicants accepted right now, and what was the percentage in the past?

untaken_name: I'm saying that a PhD NOW is worth less than a PhD was 50 or 100 years ago, and that a position as a skilled (emphasis on skilled) laborer such as an electrician or plumber is worth MORE now than it was 50 or 100 years ago


And I'm saying you've shown no evidence of this - dig me up the average wage of an engineer and someone with a PhD in 1912, and then we'll talk.

You are really fond of making these authoritative-sounding statements, and really bad at backing them up with sources.
 
2012-04-19 07:59:09 AM  
"After all, I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and are not currently employed in a job that is at all traditional for a Ph.D. in chemistry."

Good.
 
2012-04-19 08:02:34 AM  

untaken_name: although a PhD is easier to acquire than it used to be


It used to be perfectly normal to see someone get a PhD in chemistry or physics at 24. Now? It happens in physics still but rarely. In chemistry? Well, if you start college at 16 you might do it. Also back when once you got your PhD you could go get yourself a nice professorship and that was that. These days, not so much. There are post docs to do, and stuff like some professorships being tenure track and not. Funny thing is, one of the greatest experimental physicists and chemists of all time had a fifth grade education and still ended up a professor. This was granted 200 years ago but even back then, it was expected professors had doctorates, however if you were really talented and smart, well then that worked too. Of course even now you'll come across people whose degrees go BA or BS and then PhD, no MA or MS in between, there are schools and programs where if you're smart enough they'll let you skip the middle degree and go right for a PhD.
 
2012-04-19 08:05:53 AM  

Millennium: If you are not developing a marketable skill, then your education is not an investment: it is an expense. This is not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it necessarily an indictment of any particular field of study, as almost any field of study can yield marketable skills if you take the right approach to it.


Well said.

incendi: The problem is we keep telling kids from age 5 to 18 that college is the ONLY way they'll ever be happy and successful.


Where exactly do you hear students being told this?
 
2012-04-19 08:09:39 AM  
Nature has an excellent series of article on this Link

www.nature.com

There's been a glut of science Ph.D. holders for a while now, esp in biomeidcla fields. I landed a solid job after grad school with a chem Ph.D., but about half of the guys in my lab didn't, and wound up in non-research jobs, or else they're stuck in post-doc limbo.

Our society has this weird misconception that there somehow aren't ever enough scientists, and that if the universities keep cranking them out without regard to the market demand, we'll be better off. No other job is viewed this way, afaict. No one ever says "we need more accountants" or "we need more plumbers".

The profs need grad students to teach and work in their labs, so there's no incentive for universities to slow down the number of Ph.D.s they produce. Industry loves being able to hire post-docs on the cheap. And with the misconception in society that Ph.D.s are always in demand, there's no brake to slow down Ph.D. production.
 
2012-04-19 08:18:38 AM  

incendi: There should be a lot more discussion in schools about other options besides college. Vocational school, military, apprenticeships, etc are all perfectly valid choices to make. And it would be beneficial to our youth and our economy if people knew about all these things before they incurred life-crushing amounts of debt just to figure out that they really didn't want to be a mechanical engineer, they just wanted to be a mechanic.


I graduated high school in '03, and we were encouraged to go to any kind of post-secondary education, whether it be a state school, a private university, a junior college, or trade school.

My school may have been sorely lacking in guidance for those of us who wanted to go to school out of state, but they did pretty well with the kids who were almost certainly weren't going to go to a four-year institution.
 
2012-04-19 08:20:23 AM  

Mad Tea Party: Nature has an excellent series of article on this Link


Just by looking at that graph, I can see they're playing with the statistics - is it really fair to only look at proportion of those with "full time academic jobs within 1-3 years of graduating"? Especially when people with PhDs earn more and have lower rates of unemployment.

Now, I'm not saying EVERYONE should go get a PhD, but I can't really get too worked up about a supposed lack of jobs for PhD holders when having a PhD is of such obvious benefit in the job market.
 
2012-04-19 08:27:01 AM  

rumpelstiltskin: "After all, I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and are not currently employed in a job that is at all traditional for a Ph.D. in chemistry."

Good.


glad someone else caught that. i was disappointed in the writing - especially considering the author had a PHD
 
2012-04-19 08:37:57 AM  

untaken_name: If you're going to spend 4 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get laid and have a good time, may I suggest that Las Vegas is a better place to spend them than college?


When I graduate in 4 weeks, I'll have 13,000 in debt and about 7,000 I paid out of pocket. That's a far cry from "hundreds of thousands of dollars." Additionally, I will accrue no more debt in my Ph.D program because with my teaching assistantship, I get a full tuition waiver and a 30k per year stipend.

Additionally, I don't know if I'd classify a bachelor's in physics a "good time." It's a lot of hard work and frustration, but also fairly rewarding.
 
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