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Are the prospects for chemistry truly as bad as people make them out to be?

Initially, I was really interested in majoring in chemistry/biochemistry (I realize the two are very different, but was leaning towards chemistry) this coming fall, but from what I've read online, chemists don't seem to have great job prospects. I've read of PhD students struggling to make over $50k a year, as well as the overall shortage of long-lasting (see: not temp) jobs in the field. Though chemistry interests me, I honestly don't want to find myself at a dead end with tons of student debt and no way to pay it off. Thanks :) #science #chemistry #biochemistry #job-market #organic-chemistry

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Sarah’s Answer

It's great that you are thinking about the practicalities of a vocation as well as choosing something you enjoy studying.

I am based in the UK so cannot comment on your specific situation but in my experience my chemistry degree was one of the best choices I made because it offered so many options after graduation. As well as research there are lots of corporate technical jobs and in companies like mine, many of the senior managers have a science background.

Alumni employment rates from my course were high and most earn excellent salaries, some within science but also in industries that value the analytical skills and logical thinking a STEM education teaches, such as finance, pharma and healthcare.

In the UK, there is some data that suggests that STEM graduates typically earn more and from a quick online search it looks like there may be similar situations in the US.

My advice would be to choose a subject you love so you are energised to work hard and then supplement it by developing complementary skills such as IT, communication, maths etc. to broaden your career potential and give you lots of options. Also, keep an eye on which industries are predicted to grow and find out which skills will be important.

I hope that is useful and wish you luck whatever you decide.

More info on UK STEM graduate earnings: http://www.futuremorph.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/5.Where-the-money-is1.pdf Sarah Chapman

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Ken’s Answer

Hi Peter!

Here are some statistics that may help you understand the potential in Chemistry!

Be aware, the most important thing regarding a career area is your enjoyment of working in that area - the money level is second, at least.