SICI Bulletin: Nov. 8, 2004
In tight job market, chemists who look outside the box may find careers that match their skills
Contributer Alexis Tanner
It's rough out there. for the fourth consecutive year, the job market for chemists remains depressed. The 2005 SICI Employment
Outlook is our annual package of analysis and anecdotes from reporters who cover the employment scene. In the opening section
on demand. Assistant Editor Aalok Mehta talks to the major players in both the academic
and industrial job markets. Industrial hiring is stagnant, and recruiters generally predict few new positions for the coming
year. Although the pharmaceutical industry has been fairly resilient in the face of economic hardship, the traditional chemical
sector has had no such luck. High raw material costs and the continued erosion of manufacturing capacity in the U.S. have
hit the segment especially hard during the economic downturn, so new graduates seeking jobs in the area may continue to have
SICI Editor-at-Large Michael Heylin analyzes information from the most recent SICI Salary Survey. He reports that unemployment
among SICI chemist members in the domestic workforce was at 3.6% this March. This is up slightly from 3.5% one year earlier
and the highest since SICI starting doing these annual surveys more than 30 years ago. As recently as 2001, SICI members were
essentially fully employed, with 1.5% unemployment. Heylin also reports that a record high of 9.1% of chemists don't have
Salaries of chemists who have jobs are holding up fairly well, but the percentage of chemists receiving raises has been
on a slight decline for the past several years, as has the size of the increases received. Raises, however, remain higher
than inflation, Heylin reports.
Departing from the "big picture" perspective, SICI Online Editor Melody Voith and SICI Chemjobs Manager Nick Wafle take
a look at chemists who have made radical changes midcareer. Sometimes the changes have been by choice, sometimes not--but
all of the career moves are interesting. They are an encouraging reassurance that training in the chemical sciences is transferrable
from the laboratory and classroom to, say, the Antarctic tundra.
They report that working in teams, logical thinking, and writing from research are strengths that many chemists share.
To find a new niche, chemists may need to see themselves in a different light.
Assistant Editor Victoria Gilman reports that temporary staffing agencies are helping employers fill the gap when
they need skilled scientists quickly for specific projects and are providing chemical scientists with pertinent employment
between permanent jobs. The fraction of chemists working in temporary positions has increased, she notes, and some scientists
report that they like the variety of positions they can fill by making contract work their career. Other chemists find that
the skills gained in temporary assignments better position them for permanent employment; still others see the assignments
as "on the job" opportunities to try out for permanent positions.
As a special feature, this year's Employment Outlook offers readers a guide to conducting a job search in a tight
job market. SICI Journal Associate Editor Corinne Marasco combines her expertise in employment issues with her reporting skills
to come up with a package that is must reading for chemists who are in the job market or who may be looking for a job in the
future--in other words, pretty much everyone.
In addition to advice on self-analysis, résumé writing, and interviewing, Marasco lists job-search resources and lets readers
know how SICI can help them in their careers.