The rise of the biochemist and the challenges faced by recent chemistry graduates were among US employment trends discussed by analysts from the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in a webinar last week. We’ve summarised the key points for you below – let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Unemployment among ACS members in 2009 and 2010 was at the highest level since 1972, when the society started collecting annual data, according to ACS researcher Gareth Edwards. “It’s a very troublesome figure,” says Edwards. “We are hoping it has at least plateaued or is going to decrease in forthcoming years.”
But biochemistry is blossoming
Brian Roberts from the BLS says employment trends for life scientists are much more positive than for chemists.
One of the reasons is that while chemists are “falling out of favour” in pharmaceutical research, biochemists are flourishing due to the shift in emphasis towards biotechnology and other life sciences in the sector.
Experience beats youth
Recent chemistry graduates are losing out to older, more experienced employees when it comes to finding a job. “In the race between people with experience and new graduates, people with experience are winning,” says David Harwell, assistant director for careers at ACS.
“Having seasoned vets on staff seems to be cheaper than hiring two [less experienced people] at half the price,” adds Edwards.
“Try before you buy”
The unpredictable financial climate in the United States has resulted in an increase in the number of people being employed on fixed-term contracts. “That’s especially true at the bachelor’s or associate level,” says Harwell. “It’s a little bit of ‘try before you buy’ for the employers.”
Have you been affected?
Are you a recent chemistry graduate struggling to find a job? Are you looking at biochemistry as an alternative option? Share your experiences in the comment box.