Last month, C&EN news (the ACS weekly magazine) published an article in which they finally acknowledged the brutal truth about the job market for chemists in the US. This article echoes what I have said in this blog before; this depression or recession is fundamentally different from others that we have had in the past. Jobs that were once the mainstay of the US economy (such as manufacturing and even R&D) have been outsourced to countries with cheaper labor, such as China, never to return. The advent of globalization has bought a paradigm shift to industries all over the world in that they are no longer geographically constrained to find the optimal location for doing business.
While we are witnessing an interesting restructuring of the global job market, academia should also be cognizant of the needs of its graduates and equip them appropriately. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The gap between the needs of industry and the skillset of graduates is now more pronounced than ever, as evidenced by the high structural unemployment of the last decade. Oblivious to all of this, academia continues to increase its enrollment of students annually. Tuition costs are also increasing, which will lead to an “education bubble”, just like the real estate bubble in the early 2000’s.
The disconnect between academia and the industrial job market is especially pronounced in the chemical sector, and this has been documented in great detail by Chemjobber. He has striven to provide accurate data about the chemistry job market and help put the truth about jobs in the open. One has to realize that even if the job market is poor, it is in the best interest of professors to keep their students in the dark as PI’s will always need a fresh stream of
suckers students to do the gruntwork and keep the funding coming in.
The reason the aforementioned C&EN article is interesting is because ACS was, for a long time, in denial about how exceedingly bad the job market is. The fact that they have acknowledged the ugly truth and published this article is, therefore, surprising. One can only hope that this will cause them to take some steps in the right direction.