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Are jobs in science really decreasing, and if so, is it still a good idea to go into them if you're dedicated enough?

I've heard conflicting statements about this. Some people have told me that pure science fields (not engineering, just research etc) are getting harder to find jobs in. Is this true? #science #biology #jobs #research #chemistry #job-market

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Greg’s Answer

It is true that a number of formerly large corporate research laboratories (Bell Labs, IBM Research, Philips Research, DEC WRL and SRC, Xerox PARC, HP Labs, etc.) have, over the past few decades, either shrunk or moved to shorter-term applied research or both. Federal and state funding (NSF, NIH, DOE, NASA, ...) still exists but is subject to political whim; it's not so bleak as you might have heard, but there's definitely a lot of competition for funding, and writing grant proposals is likely to consume a fair amount of your time if you go that route.

But there's no end to available research topics, even restricted to biochem (as your tags suggest). Climate change is driving a lot of it, and while the current administration and Congress are fairly hostile to that kind of research, there are plenty of institutions and people who recognize its importance and continue to work on it. Disease is a perennial hot topic, and some research there is funded by large pharmaceutical companies; low-cost genetic analysis, new microscopy techniques, and nanomaterials have revitalized many areas, including cancer research, AIDS/HIV, flu vaccines, Zika/Ebola/Dengue/etc.

But I'd also urge you to keep your mind open as your career progresses; don't fear non-research areas if the opportunity arises, particularly if it's in the nature of a short-term internship or part-time position. These things are important ways to expand the breadth of your capabilities (=> better employability), and you never know when you might discover something you like as much as or better than research.

(I fully expected to be a research astrophysicist but found I actually got tired of it as a full-time, multi-year endeavor. Corporate research, with its applied focus and shorter timelines, turned out to be a lot of fun, too, and that experience opened the door to high-end software engineering, which I also love. Fundamentally I like working on difficult problems and building things, which is possible in all of the above. Following astrophysics from the sidelines is almost as inspiring as doing it myself, so I get my "fix" even though my job doesn't include anything remotely like physics.)

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Srishti’s Answer

Hey Ella!

Hmmm that's a really good question. It has been my experience that the need for science-literate folks is growing! What do I mean by science-literate? Basically a lot of employers are looking for folks who can apply subject matter expertise (in science) to solve problems. So what does this mean for you? Let's break it down...

Science encompasses a lot of different subjects: Chemistry, Math, Biology, Geology... and the list goes on. In high school it's really important to learn a little bit about everything so you can start to understand the world around you! For example: why is it that bones break? If you ask a Physicist (a scientist who studies physics) they will tell you that the reason is because of a concept called "stress and strain". If you ask a physiologist (a scientist who studies how the muscles in the body work) , they'll add on to the physicist's description by talking about what bone cells are made of and what ligaments, tendons, and muscle systems have to fail to cause a bone to break.

The point is that each field of science brings a unique perspective to understanding the problem at hand. If you're interested in a particular field of science, I would definitely encourage you to keep learning about that field as much as you can!

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Vernon’s Answer

Oh sure. Do what you love doing. While you're getting your degrees in science, be sure to learn at least one language other than English. The reason for that is that during the current political climate in the United States, science jobs will be scarce, and not really worthwhile. Alternate energy companies will be stymied by funding cuts, and public projects requiring significant science are being ended.

My advice is to get all the education you can, but start researching other countries (Like New Zealand) who are all in for all sciences. The United States politicians have decided to let America slide to a second or third tier country when it comes to science innovation.