Author Topic: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice  (Read 3844 times)

bliss88

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age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« on: December 09, 2015, 09:28:48 PM »
Greetings Folks. I'd appreciate advice regarding career direction. I want to be earning more $ and working fewer hours. Not sure if I should stay in my field or start over in a new field.

Age: 38
# of years in my industry: 15
education: BS/MS biochemistry
Current job/"career": biochemist/protein purification/protein science working for biotech/biopharma
I have been contracting for the last year earning $35/hr. Prior to this, I was earning $83K/yr at a big, well-known biotech but had a lengthy commute so decided to take the paycut and have more free hours of my day and more time/less pressure to think through my next steps.

Residence: SF Bay Area, renting, $900/mo (includes all util)
Savings: $176K (roth IRA + 401k, 50/50 each) + $19K treasury bond + $50K cash

I am now seeing that I made a mistake to contract b/c my net savings per month ends up being ~$1000/mo since I don't have paid time off, health insurance, etc.

I'm super-motivated to get back into maximizing earnings/savings, seeing that I have yet to own my house, but I also want to maximize my earnings per hour of work!  When I was earning low $80Ks, I was earning $45/hr pre-tax (factoring in the 6% 401K match + $4800 in health benefits). That is, if I were working 40-hr weeks. Often it was more. But I did get 20 days paid vacation + 8 holidays + Dec 24-Jan1 off. The major downside was that job required me to commute 2hrs/day if I drove, or 3hrs/day if I took public transit. If I lived closer to work, I'd be spending ~$300/mo more in rent but the kicker was that if I wanted to buy a residence within 10mi of work, I'd spend $600K minimum vs if I work/live where I do now, I can find a 2-bdrm/1ba house for mid-$400K.

So my question is, what job could I quickly transition to (eg within a year) where I can earn >$60/ hour AND be able to work near where I want to live (affordable East Bay neighborhoods) with some degree of flexibility or independence in hours?  I do know the clinical lab scientist route will have me starting at low $80Ks/yr working in California after completing a full-time 1-yr program+licensing with SFSU's program. But that kind of work still ties me to a full-time job.

I'm good with #s, analysis. I've been eying the computer programming bootcamps... with a long-term goal of getting good enough to work project-based (I think those folks make $100/hr?). But I've also seen on indeed Salesforce administrators earning $75/hr! Just wondering what options are out there? 

I would probably enjoy doing some other type of job more (eg working with students in education) but that will be something I can do when I'm retired!

Suggestions are welcome!


Shwaa

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2015, 10:13:47 PM »
2 things jump out at me...

$900/mo rent....good work!  How did you swing that?  I thought my rent of $1150 was cheap for the Bay Area....

You seem to be underpaid for a biochemist position.  SRA's at my company start at about 75- 80k I believe.  Biotech company as well.  Even your old salary of 83k seems low for a Scientist position in the Bay Area,  but $35/hr seems extremely low, especially with no benefits.  If you stay in that line of work I'd start looking elsewhere...

I don't have advice on career options for you unfortunately,  but just wanted to say good luck!  You are in better shape @38 years old financially then I was, by far. (40 years old now)

sol

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2015, 10:56:17 PM »
You want someone to tell you how to make $60k+ with one year of training?  Well, I respect your aspirations.

Real estate broker, maybe?  Seems tons of middle aged women are making reasonable money with virtually no education or relevant experience, just by virtue of being relatively charming.  Are you charming?

mulescent

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2015, 11:26:41 PM »
Would you consider moving outside of SF?  Your talents might be much more valuable (at least in a salary/cost of living sense) if you were to find a biotech/pharma job outside of a HCOL area. 

Also, it's clear that a salaried position at 80k+/yr and a move to eliminate the commute is superior to your current situation.  Why bother buying a house?  With housing costs of $1200/mo, it seems like you should be able to save 50+% of your income pretty easily.  That'll lead you to ER relatively quickly.

john c

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2015, 02:28:31 AM »
I agree that $300 more per month to rent close to work is the way to go.  $300/month for 12 months is $3600/year after tax.  You would have been better off than taking the pay cut. 

I can't offer any specifics to you about changing careers, other than I did it over the past 7 years or so.  The problem is that if you change careers, you will be at the bottom of the new career field, making commensurate money.  My guess is that the $75/hour salesforce administrators that are in demand have 5-10 years of experience.

I changed careers while working my previous, related, career.  I transitioned over 7 or so years, and now I work for myself.  It was not a short term project, but I'm much happier.

QueenAlice

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2015, 06:09:18 AM »
# of years in my industry: 15
education: BS/MS biochemistry
Current job/"career": biochemist/protein purification/protein science working for biotech/biopharma
I have been contracting for the last year earning $35/hr. Prior to this, I was earning $83K/yr at a big, well-known biotech but had a lengthy commute so decided to take the paycut and have more free hours of my day and more time/less pressure to think through my next steps.

$35/hour is WAY too low for your experience level. The simplest formula* I've seen to estimate hourly rate is to take the salary your experience warrants and divide by 1000 to get to your hourly rate. You should be charging at least $83/hour. This simplified formula helps to include taxes/benefits and all the overhead you take on as a contractor. I've used this formula for all my contracts and have never had a client scoff at my rate.

*I know we like to get into crazy math detail on this forum, but this is a really quick and simple method that I've had great success with personally
« Last Edit: December 10, 2015, 06:12:30 AM by QueenAlice »

brokescientist

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2015, 06:49:33 AM »
You are certainly underpaid.   I was making 60k a year with 3 years experience with full benefits in Maryland as a Developmental Scientist I.

I make the same amount now as a Manufacturing Associate II with 3 years with full benefits.

-Matt

somepissedoffman

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2015, 09:01:01 AM »
There are some interesting market forces that make some technical jobs worth way more than others.  I've noticed bio (particularly if you're doing bench work and not running the show) tends to be on the low end.

So, you may be on to something with the coding bootcamp.  My company actually has quite a few programmers who had a different technical background (ME,EE) + coding bootcamp.  That route probably won't get you into google, but in the Bay Area should be six figures pretty easy at a startup.  Pretty good investment for a few months of classes.

Not sure how much programming you've done, but if zero you could start with a Coursera class to see if you like it or hate it before committing.

good luck!

Samala

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2015, 03:00:23 PM »
I disagree that you were particularly underpaid at $83k. I look at a lot of grant documentation and see a lot of salaries in the biomedical field, including contracts with pharma and biotechs.  Without the PhD a lot of people, even with that experience level, max out in the $80-90k band.  Especially true if a position is in the nonprofit or academic side.  For a biotech maybe it's a little low, but not particularly so, not from what I've seen.

I have a friend (with biochem PhD) working with one of the many clinical research organizations and seems to not only enjoy flexible work life but also higher pay. I'd think you'd be able to find some in SFBay and for sure in San Diego / La Jolla area.  What about a sales oriented position with pharma or another larger lab services supplier?  Suppose that would depend on your feelings about doing sales in any capacity or the travel requirement.

Any interest in cheminformatics?  Seems like we can never find enough people who are good with data analysis and programming and biochemistry to help with scouring large datasets.  Those positions definitely skew higher in salary and seem to be higher demand.  Unsure of the training needed, seems like those we have are self taught in some respects.

ulrichw

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2015, 04:08:05 PM »
I'm in the computer software field, and don't recommend that you jump into a bootcamp to try to earn that $100/hr. Yes, there are definitely contractors out there who get $100/hr (in fact quite considerably above that level), but those positions don't just fall in your lap.

Stick to the area you have expertise. Your main issue seems to be the rate you negotiated.

The rule of thumb a poster above referenced seems a little high to me, but given that full time work is usually 2000 hours a year, your gross income went down quite significantly to $70K, and as a contractor, you're saving your employer a ton of money (Social security taxes, health coverage, etc.).

You should always be paid more per hour as a contractor than you would as an employee. $83/hr may be a little steep, but I would think you should be charging at least $50/hr for it to make sense to contract.

Telecaster

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2015, 04:23:39 PM »
There are some interesting market forces that make some technical jobs worth way more than others.  I've noticed bio (particularly if you're doing bench work and not running the show) tends to be on the low end.


Unless you get a phD,  chem/biochem is a crap degree.  First, the classes are hard.  Then you have lab classes all afternoon, so it is more time consuming than other degrees, which makes it harder either work or just enjoy a bit because you have to go study after the labs are over. 

And when all that is done it doesn't pay every well.  It has been a while since I was in college (cough, wheeze), but I was shocked at the dirt low salaries chemists made.   I wisely existed the field at the first opportunity.   

Murr

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2015, 06:32:21 PM »
Look to transition to a field based role, think sales, application specialist, tech support, etc. I have a BS in biology and left the lab after 2 years. Got lucky and landed and entry level sales job and have been doing it now for 12 years, live it. Much better pay and flexibility in where I can live and my schedule.

Murr

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2015, 06:35:30 PM »
To add to your comment on SFDC administrators, you are spot on. Folks with that kind of training and experience make a killing. Some of the most valuable folks in my company are SFDC gurus.

Kaplin261

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Re: age 38, scientist, in SF Bay area, wanting career advice
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2015, 07:10:10 PM »
You need to manage those other scientists, my wife does and makes a salary of $120k.