Chemical & Engineering News

October 28, 1996

Copyright © 1996 by the American Chemical Society

For the first time in several years, it appears that the light at the end of the employment tunnel is not from an oncoming train. In this annual examination of career opportunities for chemists and chemical engineers, C&EN finds that the job market looks brighter compared with the past few years - at most degree levels and in both industry and academia. The consensus among many recruiters, chemistry department chairmen, and college placement directors is that there will be many more jobs for chemists graduating in 1997 than there were in 1996.

This does not, however, mean that the outlook for employment is rosy. The job market will continue to be tight for new Ph.D.s and postdoctoral fellows. Recruiting is up in these categories, but since the last three years have been among the worst in recent memory for employment, an improved job outlook may actually only translate into a mediocre market.&rjust; Downsizing at companies - which nationally has wiped out hundreds of thousands of jobs, disrupted the lives of employees, and changed the face of employment - has not spared chemists. In a recent survey, 46% of 78 companies in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries indicated that they will be downsizing in the next 18 months. On the other hand, the latest annual survey from the American Management Association shows that U.S. corporations overall added jobs at a quicker pace in the past year, which supports the notion that the economy remains strong.

In this year's Employment Outlook, C&EN also examines two areas much in the news: consulting as an alternative career and the status of foreign scientists in the U.S.

Compared with the hiring lows of the past few years, cautious optimism is the outlook for employment of both inexperienced and experienced chemists and chemical engineers.

A continuing tight job market is confirmed by preliminary data from the American Chemical Society's Starting Salary Survey 1996, which shows no upturn in median starting salaries for inexperienced chemistry graduates.

Downsizing has disrupted the lives of chemists, but it can often lead to new opportunities.

Consulting is no longer synonymous with "unemployed," as independent consulting has become an increasingly attractive option for highly motivated people.

The U.S. is graduate school to the world, but U.S. law makes the going tough for foreign graduate students to get permanent jobs in this country.

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

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Copyright © 1996 by the American Chemical Society.