Chemistry-related careers?

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Chemistry-related careers?

Postby MeowCow » Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:21 pm UTC

Okay so I'm 16 right now, and I'm going to be applying to sixth forms and colleges pretty soon. I know that I want to have a scientific career, 'cause I find it interesting but I really don't want it to be in biology. Chemistry would be preferred. What sort of career options do I have? My mother has become obsessed with medicinal career options, and I really need to convince her that there is more out there than being a friggin' doctor :L (No offense to doctors out there. I just dislike the idea of looking down people's noses for the whole of my life)

Please help!

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Re: Chemistry-related careers?

Postby opsomath » Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Hi MC,

I'm a chemistry grad student getting my PhD in December and looking for jobs as we speak. When I figure out the answer to your question for sure, I'll definitely let you know. :)

In all honesty, if you want to have a really "scientific" career, you will almost certainly have to go to grad school too. It's kind of how it works these days; there are exceptions, but they are relatively rare. That being said, I am in polymer and materials science, and there are quite a few jobs out there for being in the middle of a recession. Some of that is very cool work, too; they are doing things like trying to figure out how to incorporate carbon nanotubes into plastics for making super-strong materials, or how to make light-emitting materials out of electrically conducting plastics. GE and Dow Chemical are a couple of the companies with research in this area.

One of the classic careers for a chemist is in pharmaceuticals, but that industry is tightening up these days. A lot of people think that all the "low-hanging fruit" has been found already and that times will be harder in pharma from here on out, meaning fewer jobs and less interesting work.

There's also chemical engineering (my wife and mother are both chemical engineers) which has the advantage of being as close to a guaranteed job as you can get. (When you're about ten years older - my age right now - you'll probably care a whole lot about that last bit.) Those jobs tend to be at a "factory" level; designing reactors and making sure pipes don't explode, that kind of thing. Not as glamorous as a "research" type job, but a whole lot more practical than most research (and you can still get into research with an engineering degree, many do).

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Re: Chemistry-related careers?

Postby MildlyUpsetGrizzlyBear » Sat Sep 25, 2010 5:49 pm UTC

hahah. "glamorous" research jobs.
oh, you chemists..

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Re: Chemistry-related careers?

Postby Clever-Username » Mon Sep 27, 2010 4:26 pm UTC

I sincerely hope you don't actually believe that all doctors do is look down people's noses for their entire life. I do realize you're making a vast generalization of general practicioners, but there are also people called surgeons and anesthesiologists and cardiologists and a VAST range of other specialities. Just saying...

As for chemistry careers... if you dont want to end up in a lab doing the same process over and over again for some researcher then you'll probably want to get your PhD and pursue unique research.

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Re: Chemistry-related careers?

Postby JudeMorrigan » Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:58 pm UTC

I have a B.S. in chemistry, so let me relate my experiences to you.

Between my junior and senior year in college, I joined the Navy's nuclear propulsion officer program. That did not end well on my part due to some unfortunate health issues, but it's a potentially interesting field that you could get into straight out of being an undergrad.

It took my a few months to get a job out of the Navy. It was one of those things where I heard nothing for months then had several interviews in short order. I talked to Cargill, the Florida DEP and a local environmental testing company. IIRC (this was a while ago), the Cargill position was for QC out in the Dakotas. That may or may not be something that would appeal to you. I wound up taking the enviromental testing gig. (I didnt actually get the call to interview with the DEP until the week after I took the other job.)

As far as enviromental testing goes (I did GCMS on water and soil (and fish) samples), it wasn't a great field a decade ago. The pay was poor, the hours sucked, and one of the labs I worked at had a terrible work culture. The biggest problem here is that in order to make a career in the field, I would have pretty much had to have wound up in project management or consulting, which doesn't sound like the sort of thing that you're looking for. (Those're more business jobs than science jobs, really.)

My current position in science-based, but more math, physics and CS than it is chemistry. There are times I rather regret that, but it pays the mortgage. This one was more a matter of who I knew rather than what I know though. (Hilariously enough, the "who I knew" was someone I knew via the Crossroads of Norrath message board. I can't tell you the pleasure I took in calling up my mom and asking her if she remembered how I was wasting my life away playing video games. "See? I was just networking!")

Now, with just a B.S., I'm not sure I had a whole lot more in the way of opportunites other than teaching high school. Chemistry is a field where you're MUCH better off with a PhD. That'd opens up a slew of research opportunities, and they wouldn't necessarily be biochem if that's not your thing. For example, if I ever got off my lazy butt and got a grad degree, I'd do so with the intention of being able to better model solid rocket motor phenomenology.

As opsomath noted, chemical engineering is another option. It's NOT the same thing as chemistry, but it's a very good field to be in job-wise.

My single biggest piece of advice for you though is to go to college willing to explore your options. Your university will probably make you take a certain amount of "breadth" classes. Take advantage of them. Even if you're like I was and had enough AP credits where they'll be after you to declare a major pretty much right out of the gate, it'll be the best time in your life for figuring out what you *really* want to do.

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