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lost after graduation

I got my BSc in chemistry in June. I had an ok-ish GPA that's just above the minimum requirement for grad school, 8 months of undergrad research, and 3 years of experience in kitchen-related part-time work. I wasn't able to find job-related to my study area, such as entry-level research, quality control, lab technician...etc. I didn't really think about grad school until I found there are more people with postgraduate degrees applying for the same job as I did (typically 40% of all applicants have Master's and there're another 10 to 20% with Ph.D.) .

the original plan I had before was to find a lab-based job to gain more experience and apply for grade school afterward if I need it. I know this is a tough time with COVID19 and I only sent out roughly 30 applications in total. but should I seriously think about a master's degree which I did not prepared during previous school year? or should I just keep trying and apply any job that I might have a chance?

Thanks!
#college #graduate-school #jobs


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Robert’s Answer

Hi Wayne,

given your area of study a Master's degree would help you not only in your career search but also with advancement opportunities.
Depending on your financial situation, you may want to trey and secure a position that offer tuition reimbursement so you can work toward your masters degree at night and paid for partially or fully by your company. This is exactly the route I took. I went to grad school at night and obtained an MS in Information Systems Management almost fully paid for by my employer. It is difficult juggling work and school but if you are serious you will succeed.

Great tip Robert! Ashlee R.

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Ashlee’s Answer

Hi Wayne! I'm Ashlee, and I'm a university advisor who has been involved in Bio/Chem/Health Professions pathways, so while I am not an industry expert, I do know about your field. First, and if you want to remain in a Chemistry related field, I greatly wish you had more opportunities to participate in undergrad research, publications, and job shadowing internships, since this is crucial to your field. So my first question is: do you know of any opportunities to continue to participate in research at your previous uni or under a specific professor? If this is an available option, I would recommend reaching out for one of those opportunities, so that you can gain additional experience as well as list it on your CV/Resume. In addition, when I performed a basic search regarding jobs in your area (Quality Control/QC/Quality Assurance/QA/Research+Calgary), a few options (per job) did populate. All the QC/QA and researcher options seem to be temporary job placements though. I understand these jobs may not be as appealing as full time jobs, however it would provide you with the opportunities to gain more employable skills, experience, and compete less with MS/PhD candidates. Furthermore, from my understanding in advising chemistry, most employers require further degrees like MS and PhDs, which is why you are seeing several candidates with these credentials. Therefore, if you want continue to work in these areas, then a second degree is more than likely needed. So I would recommend that you contact your uni program advisor or a favorite professor to discuss further options regarding getting another degree. If you decide to pursue an MA/MS/PhD program, then I would also recommend working in your field, doing further research, gaining publications, and participating in internships/externships in order to showcase your skills and abilities within a laboratory setting.

Now, if you are interested in exploring fields outside of science, then a second degree may not be necessary. However, it would depend on what you're interested in pursing. Furthermore, I always tell my students degrees are rarely enough in the long term. There are always additional certifications to be explored and added to our 'career tool kits' in order to gain positions. For example, if you want to teach Chemistry, then you would also need a teacher certification. Furthermore, first aid certs, safety certs, and industry certs are always evolving, so you may also want to explore certifications in fields that interest you. Also, if you're wanting to take a "gap year" and work at any job that seems appealing to you, then that is definitely acceptable as well. This could help you decide if you want to take on another degree or change paths altogether. What do you think?

Lastly, according to most job sites, it takes an average of 6 months to get a job, and it is recommended that you apply to 5 jobs per week. So if you're really just wanting to get a job, then keep on applying. I know it can feel like a lot, but you can do it! I also know every thing is hectic with COVID-19 and that you're encountering a job market like any other, but remember we're all in this together and don't lose hope, everything will work out for you :). Also, congratulations so much on completing your degree -- that is amazing! I know your program is incredibly rigorous, so it's awesome that you stuck with it (during COVID no less) and got your diploma! I know this is long, but know I believe you're going to be successful and that you've got this!

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Catherine’s Answer

I was in your position as I was finishing my undergrad degree and I decided to pursue my masters. A big reason why was because it was convenient to do so at the time since I took masters courses as my senior level electives and was able to finish my program by the following year. I was also able to put off job searching which was at least a short term relief.

What I didn't know then is that a masters program can be more beneficial when you have a narrower vision of what you want to do professionally. For example, out of the 10 courses that I took for my master's, I've mostly relied on the knowledge of 3 courses since I decided to pursue industry versus research. If I had known then what I knew now, I may have pursued a masters in engineering management or some kind of technology in business program to further align with what my career goals were.

In regards to your job search, I have also applied for jobs and interviewed during the pandemic and can confirm that most companies shifted from offering full time jobs to contract jobs. With about 6 years of experience on top of my masters degree, it still took me about 3 months to get a job offer, which was for a contract position for an urgent project. However, a contract job can be just as rewarding as a permanent job in that you have an opportunity to show the employer how you operate in not just the day to day tasks, but also how you work in a team setting and how receptive you are to instruction. Making a nice impression as a contractor could lead you to future full time roles with the company.

So my advice to you would be to not enroll in a masters just to prolong having to find a job - finding a job could still be hard once you graduate. Instead, if you want to pursue a masters choose a program with a curriculum that will support your candidacy for the jobs you want. Make sure the courses reflect the skills you want bring into your career, which should help align your experience with the job descriptions. If you want to continue your job search, be open minded in that your first job may not reflect where you want to go right away, but it can at least start getting you closer to your end goal.

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Caren’s Answer

Is your heart set on working in a lab? If not, and you're not yet ready for graduate school, then check out job postings and apply for whatever looks interesting to you, even if it's not in your field of study. If you don't know where to start, talking to your college's career resources center to see if you still have or can get access to job-finding resources and postings is a place to start. There are so many different types of industries that are related to chemistry - pharmaceutical companies, petroleum and energy, air products, plastics, environmental agencies and companies, fragrances and flavors, cosmetics, the list goes on. Don't think too narrowly about your prospects. Chemistry is not an easy major, and to get through it with grades good enough to get into graduate school is no small accomplishment. What did you learn that can be applied holistically to any job? Are you organized and logical? Good at statistics, presenting complex information simply, and communicating in writing and orally? Adept at breaking down multi-step processes and problems into smaller steps, and analyzing them to reach solutions and conclusions? All of these are useful, valuable skills in any job, including those not involving or related to chemistry. Are you a people person? Have you considered pharmaceutical or chemical sales? You could look at jobs in consulting, data analysis (any field), manufacturing, project/program management, education, government... the list goes on, limited only by your interest and imagination. Good luck!

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Jason’s Answer

Perhaps employers would consider your applications more if you were actively enrolled in a graduate program. Something to think about.

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Jason’s Answer

Perhaps employers would consider your applications more if you were actively enrolled in a graduate program. Something to think about.

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