Overall, the latest version of the American Chemical Societys annual survey of the starting salaries and employment situation for new chemistry graduates finds that things did not get any worse since the previous survey. There are even inklings of some modest and spotty gains after three tough years for the chemical profession. A lot of ground needs to be made up, however.
The survey gathered data as of the week of Oct. 4, 2004, from chemists who graduated between July 2003 and June 2004.
It reveals a median salary for inexperienced bachelors degree graduates with full-time permanent jobs of $32,500. This median was up from the $32,000 posted by 200203 graduates a year earlier. The corresponding year-to-year gain for inexperienced Ph.D. graduates was to $65,000 from $63,300. For graduates with masters degrees, there was a slight dip to $43,600 from $44,500.
In constant-dollar terms, however, median salaries for inexperienced new chemistry graduates remained depressed. When adjusted for inflation, the median salaries for 200304 graduates at all three degree levels were about 10% below the salaries received by chemists who had graduated three or four years earlier. The longest and strongest economic expansion in U.S. history started to plateau about then, in 2000, and finally petered out in early 2001, to be followed by a fairly mild recession that lasted for about nine months.
An inexperienced graduate is one with less than 12 months of technical work experience prior to graduation.
As to employment, 38% of 200304 Ph.D. graduates found full-time permanent employment, up from 37% one year earlier. The gain for bachelors graduates was also a nominal 1%from 24% to 25%. For the smaller and more volatile masters class, the gain was bigger, from 41% to 48%.
In 2000, the last really healthy employment year for chemists, a considerably higher 45% of Ph.D. graduates, 35% of bachelors, and 56% of masters reported that they had full-time permanent jobs upon graduation.
This years survey was conducted by research associate Janel Kasper-Wolfe of ACSs Office of Member Information under the general guidance of the ACS Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs (CEPA). This committee also has ACSs annual survey of the salaries and employment situation of its members in the domestic workforce under its wing (Aug. 16, 2004, page 26
This report for C&EN is based on responses to questionnaires sent to 11,477 new graduates in chemistry or chemical engineering. Of these, 588 addresses were incorrect, leaving an effective mailing of 10,889. To date, almost 3,900 responses have been received, for a respectable response rate of 35%. Almost 3,400 of the responses were from chemists, representing a sample of about 25% of all chemistry graduates for the year. The other 500 responses were from chemical engineers.
Most of the chemists polled were graduates from schools with undergraduate chemistry programs approved by ACSs Committee on Professional Training. The smaller sample of chemical engineers consisted of graduates of departments accredited by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology.
The official report on this years survey will be published this summer by the Office of Member Information. It will include the input from responses triggered by a final mailing urging nonrespondents to respond. Additional responses are unlikely to produce significant changes in the results.