Chemical & Engineering News,
October 23, 1995

Copyright © 1995 by the American Chemical Society.

Career Opportunities for Chemical Professionals

The job market for chemists and chemical engineers remains tight, but there are signs that the job market for 1996 may be better compared with the past few years. Layoffs are still occurring, mostly among large pharmaceutical firms that have recently merged and are shedding positions that they see as duplicative. But big layoffs by traditional employers of chemists have largely ended. In the academic world, the long-expected hiring to replace retiring professors finally seems to have begun, although the competition for every opening is fierce. The advice of the past few years still holds: Chemists and chemical engineers are urged to be flexible, resourceful, and open to a wide range of employment options. Still, these are exciting times to be a chemical professional. Generation X is infusing the industrial workplace with new enthusiasm and ideas, chemically trained men and women are going down nontraditional career pathways, and academics are looking at new ways to assess academic performance while defending the institution of tenure.


Recruiters, chemistry professors, college placement directors, and others predict strong demand for chemical engineers; a healthy, albeit diffuse, market for holders of bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry; and an improving market, both in industry and academia, for Ph.D.s.

Starting salaries:

The American Chemical Society's recent starting salary survey confirms that the job market for chemists remains a challenging one, with full-time jobs hard to come by. It also illustrates the initial advantage chemical engineers have over chemists in the job market.

Generation X:

They're young, open to new ways of doing things, have little patience for bureaucracy, and are willing to speak out against it. They're passionate about their work - and their personal time as well. Generation Xers are moving into the chemical workplace in large numbers and beginning to change corporate attitudes.

Nontraditional careers:

For many years, individual chemists have found careers outside the traditional path of academia or industrial research. Now, even more chemists are expanding their job searches into alternative careers, and more educational institutions and associations are steering chemists down these paths.


Funding problems in higher education are reviving attacks on academic tenure, which protects faculty members who have been granted this status from summary dismissal. Universities and colleges are coping in a variety of ways, including finding new models for balancing the need to assess performance, offering job security, and maintaining academic freedom.

Career planning resources:

ACS and others offer services, information, and guidance for newly graduated and experienced chemists who are seeking jobs or changing careers.

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