Author Topic: Chemistry-related careers for my high school DD (UPDATE - any Ontario advice?)  (Read 6563 times)

Hirondelle

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Re: Chemistry-related careers (for my high school DD)
« Reply #50 on: October 03, 2018, 01:52:45 PM »
However, she says she has no interest in working in the US and she prefers to stay in our small city if at all possible.


I'd like to continue a little into this. When I was 18, I had the exact same idea. Go to the closest uni, maybe go elsewhere for an exchange or internship or so but always return back to the beloved hometown. Only 1.5 years later, I had no clue how I had ever considered that a good idea as I got tired of the small town/city that I grew up in, no matter its proximity to our capital or the fact that all my friends and family were there.
 
So guess what happened to the 18 year old who didn't want to leave? The 19/20 year old version of me wanted get out asap. So I moved to another city across the country (note: I'm from the Netherlands so across the country is like 2-3h by train), then across some oceans (USA, SE-Asia) and now I'm back "home" but still a solid 3h train ride away from my hometown and no intention to move any closer. No bad or traumatic events happened during this time, but my first 1-2 years of uni made me realize that there is so much more to discover out there! I still have all my family and hometown friends living there (people there don't move) so I visit regularly. But living there? Nop, not for me.

TLDR; certainly look into the job prospects for her currently preferred area, but also think about her reasons for staying and how these might change. Picking a career just based on job prospects in a limited area isn't always the best option and predicting the job market in 4 years may be about as hard as prediction your preferred place to call home :)

Note; I don't know much about the Canadian nor the American chemE job market, so I won't touch the topic of career/degree-choice.

Lanthiriel

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As others have said, I wouldn't pick a career based on a specific location at a specific point in time. Your daughter should pick a path that she's interested in that has plentiful job opportunities (which Chemical Engineering does), and the rest will follow. It may not look exactly like she planned. I have a Master's degree in Book Publishing and graduated with plans to move to New York. I work as the Marketing Manager for a civil engineering firm in Oregon. Such is life.

If she chooses an engineering path, it is all about INTERNSHIPS. Given that my experience is in civil, but the only place I've ever worked that hired fresh out of school candidates who hadn't completed an internship was at a residential site developer who only cared about how many ADA ramps you could design in a week. Good internships will also help her if opportunities in her field really are limited. There might be an over-saturated market for her exact degree, but someone is getting hired. Why not her if she keeps up her grades and interns at good companies or agencies?

Saskatchewstachian

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Elaine AMJ,

Feel free to DM me if you'd like but I am a few years ahead of your daughter and am a Canadian engineer (albeit in Sask not Ont) so may be able to offer some help or anecdotal evidence at the very least.

First, if your DD is interested in engineering specifically I would recommend applying. As some people have mentioned above many programs are common first year so she will have a full year to assess which type of engineering she'd like to go into.

Second, once into the program there are typically options for internships. I had a number of friends that passed up internships as they wanted to be done school quicker, or passed on engineering related summer jobs as they didn't want to work 10 on 4 off on a remote project and would rather waitress for the summer. These internships and summer experiences are vital to get that first "real" job out of school.

Lastly, even if you finish school with one degree does not mean you will be using it. I completed one degree but have been working in mining since convocation. Engineering allows you to get into project management, project controls, research, etc.

You also mentioned checking salaries, certain engineering societies put out annual salary surveys (I knows APEGS and APEGA do) that will detail the income distribution by program, gender, experience, industry and a number of other factors. I highly recommend checking these out. After a quick look it appears that the Ontario one is pay-to-access but other provinces are free.

As for jobs in Ontario my current Megacorp has one of the major engineering offices in Mississauga and Toronto doing significant work that is expected to ramp up over the next couple years. Again this is anecdotal evidence of the state of the industry but wanted to point out that it's not all doom and gloom for job prospects.

Case

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Yes, a master's degree in chemistry is a poor choice.  that's why all of the professor's students went into banking.  I usually advise people to stop at either the BS level or go onto the PhD - you will not find a satisfying career with an MS.  For those who have found solid careers with an MS, it's an exception rather than the norm.  And you've probably had to be flexible or another outside-the-box thinker to guide yourself down your preferred path.

I've heard (a bit flippantly) that if you show up for a chemistry job with a master's they will ask you why. It's assumed it is because you couldn't pass comps in a PhD program and were handed one as a consulation prize on your way out the door.

(Of course, if you had a clearly different undergrad like English or Political science, then the master's makes more sense.)

I had one labmate who left with a masters after a year, and I applauded her for realizing fast that this was not the life path she wanted.  She got out fast and got a masters out of it (which even if it doesn't give her much benefit, is better than no MS), learned life lessons, and now is very happy as a teacher.

I had another labmate who stuck around for 4 years before leaving.  Complicated situation; she claimed the prof was an asshole; he claimed she never asked to take her prelim exam a second time (guess she failed the first?).  She left bitter and with the same MS with much longer loss of life time.

Yes, it is typically assumed that if you get a masters, that it is because you couldn't hack it.  It's not very nice, but it is what PhDs usually assume.  If your future interviewers are not PhD's, they will probably care substantially less.

It is true though that the masters is used as a consolation prize. 

I would never recommend pursuing grad school with the intention of a masters, but not be embarrassed if you leave with one.

elaine amj

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Oh man...where do I start? Such amazing advice! So very very true that what she is sure about now at 17, may not be the case some years down the road. I too had always been happy in my hometown and planned to live in the big city forever. Instead, I live across the ocean in a small, quiet city and love it.

As for studies, she really likes chemistry (particularly the analytical part of it) but is rather blah about engineering.  Still, she thought Chem Engineering was a good compromise for more job possibilities.  But if there is terrible career potential for it where she would prefer to live, then it doesn't seem to make sense to study something she isn't frightfully passionate about anyway, kwim?

Still throwing a bunch of ideas around. Like many have pointed out, so many industries are cyclical and the more studies I read, the more I am understanding it. So trying to project 4-5 years out when she is expected to graduate.

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YttriumNitrate

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Re: Chemistry-related careers (for my high school DD)
« Reply #55 on: October 03, 2018, 10:59:42 PM »
She likes the sound of analytical chemistry but now is considering getting a Concurrent Bachelor of Science and Education (which takes 5 years). That way she has her Chem degree and can try for industry jobs (dunno if we are just dreaming here). If that fails, she can look into becoming a high school Chemistry teacher with a stable job and a sweet pension. Of course, getting in will be hard and we anticipate a couple of years on the supply lists. We have heard that with with science as a teachable, that she is more marketable. I have been studying the teacher labor market and by the time she graduates in 2024, there will likely be a reasonable demand for teachers again (instead of the current over-supply).
PhD in analytical chemistry here. I have a few friends who teach high school chemistry and overall it seems like it is quite easy for them to find a job anywhere they want. Of course, it takes a special kind of person to teach science to high school students.

If your daughter does want to do an advanced degree in analytical chemistry for an industry job, encourage her to make sure her research is somehow tied to an analytical technique commonly used in industry (LC, MS, etc.). In grad school, my research group did some interesting things, but they weren't tied to one of the more common analytical tools, and I think that really hurt our job prospects in industry.

elaine amj

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She likes the sound of analytical chemistry but now is considering getting a Concurrent Bachelor of Science and Education (which takes 5 years). That way she has her Chem degree and can try for industry jobs (dunno if we are just dreaming here). If that fails, she can look into becoming a high school Chemistry teacher with a stable job and a sweet pension. Of course, getting in will be hard and we anticipate a couple of years on the supply lists. We have heard that with with science as a teachable, that she is more marketable. I have been studying the teacher labor market and by the time she graduates in 2024, there will likely be a reasonable demand for teachers again (instead of the current over-supply).
PhD in analytical chemistry here. I have a few friends who teach high school chemistry and overall it seems like it is quite easy for them to find a job anywhere they want. Of course, it takes a special kind of person to teach science to high school students.

If your daughter does want to do an advanced degree in analytical chemistry for an industry job, encourage her to make sure her research is somehow tied to an analytical technique commonly used in industry (LC, MS, etc.). In grad school, my research group did some interesting things, but they weren't tied to one of the more common analytical tools, and I think that really hurt our job prospects in industry.

Oh good to know - thanks!

At present, she is just thinking as far as her bachelor's and is not really considering advancing to graduate studies. But certainly important to keep in mind in case she falls in love with research.

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letired

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on the non-linear nature of all modern careers:

my mom has a phd in chemistry, and worked in the r&d division of a consumer products company after her postdoc before moving into regulatory/compliance type jobs, which is where she has been ever since, albeit on different categories of products, including drug development/FDA stuff. Her chemistry background is important, as is her communication ability, and ability to understand complex and convoluted processes.

I have a masters in ecology and thought I was going to do research. Instead, I learned programming and am a software developer, which turns out to also involve a lot of attention to detail, a sprinkling of math, and the ability to reason well and solve problems. Less call to identify a fly vs a bee at 10 paces though :)

I hate the advice to 'do what you love', but if you pick something that you enjoy reasonably well and which is reasonably difficult, it'll all work out. You/your DD might also take a look at the book So Good They Can't Ignore You, which I found very helpful when I was trying to navigate my career options.

Novik

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I hate the advice to 'do what you love', but if you pick something that you enjoy reasonably well and which is reasonably difficult, it'll all work out.

You're so right! The useful part of "do what you love" is "don't plan to end up doing something you hate", or "if there's something you like that has a realistic chance of success, go for it".

In high school I really liked computer programming, but I dreamed of being a writer. Ultimately, I figured I liked both but one of them would pay me a lot more reliably! One degree in computer engineering later, I enjoy my job well enough, am on track to FIRE, and still write on the side.


As for studies, she really likes chemistry (particularly the analytical part of it) but is rather blah about engineering.  Still, she thought Chem Engineering was a good compromise for more job possibilities.  But if there is terrible career potential for it where she would prefer to live, then it doesn't seem to make sense to study something she isn't frightfully passionate about anyway, kwim?

In your daughter's shoes, with her smarts, advantages and varied interests, I wouldn't pick a path of study if she's not interested in the careers & locations that come of it. Engineering is a tough degree, and if she's just in if for the chemistry, it'll probably be tougher.

Case

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Oh man...where do I start? Such amazing advice! So very very true that what she is sure about now at 17, may not be the case some years down the road. I too had always been happy in my hometown and planned to live in the big city forever. Instead, I live across the ocean in a small, quiet city and love it.

As for studies, she really likes chemistry (particularly the analytical part of it) but is rather blah about engineering.  Still, she thought Chem Engineering was a good compromise for more job possibilities.  But if there is terrible career potential for it where she would prefer to live, then it doesn't seem to make sense to study something she isn't frightfully passionate about anyway, kwim?

Still throwing a bunch of ideas around. Like many have pointed out, so many industries are cyclical and the more studies I read, the more I am understanding it. So trying to project 4-5 years out when she is expected to graduate.

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To be honest, you might just let her go off to college, live life a bit, take some courses, and see how she feels in a year or two.  All of this might be adding unnecessary stress to her life.  Your youth is supposed to be fun!  It's important to set up a good life trajectory, but I would guess most people here didn't know exactly what they were going to be until they were a ways into college.

The best you can do is feed her information along the way so that she has a rough idea where certain career paths and education paths will take her in terms of salary, geographic locations, lifestyles, etc... but remind her that there is a lot of variation out there and exceptions are not uncommon.

mm1970

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As for studies, she really likes chemistry (particularly the analytical part of it) but is rather blah about engineering.

My chemical engineering curriculum required a lot of chemistry.

7 classes - Chem 1 &2, Chem Lad, Organic chemistry 1 & 2, physical chemistry 1 &2.

Novik

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Quote
As for studies, she really likes chemistry (particularly the analytical part of it) but is rather blah about engineering.

My chemical engineering curriculum required a lot of chemistry.

7 classes - Chem 1 &2, Chem Lad, Organic chemistry 1 & 2, physical chemistry 1 &2.

Our of curiosity, 7 classes out of ballpark how many? Full or half year? 7 for me would be maybe 25% of an engineering degree. (of course, I'd guess there are chemistry focused capstone or 'engineering design' classes in at least 3rd and 4th year so that would raise the %). Just wondering what your experience was.

mm1970

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Quote
As for studies, she really likes chemistry (particularly the analytical part of it) but is rather blah about engineering.

My chemical engineering curriculum required a lot of chemistry.

7 classes - Chem 1 &2, Chem Lad, Organic chemistry 1 & 2, physical chemistry 1 &2.

Our of curiosity, 7 classes out of ballpark how many? Full or half year? 7 for me would be maybe 25% of an engineering degree. (of course, I'd guess there are chemistry focused capstone or 'engineering design' classes in at least 3rd and 4th year so that would raise the %). Just wondering what your experience was.
7 semester long classes.

Out of a total of ... 4 or 5 classes a semester.  So 32-40 total classes were required (not including English/ history, etc. - these are just science/math/engineering)

So it's about 20-25% probably.

My electives were in polymers, so my #'s were a little higher even.

elaine amj

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So much to chew on! I also started talking today to a friend from high school who now works in food sciences in the US and loves it.

We're also seeing my niece tomorrow for Thanksgiving -  she is a high school science teacher so should be able to offer some valuable insights into that career path.

Our local university is hosting an open house in early November so we will add that to the schedule. Will also try to schedule a campus tour after school or something.

We'll continue chewing on all the amazing info and see where it all goes. She's maintained a low 90s average through high school, volunteers weekly in a kids club, is on the robotics team and the track team, and has done various other extracurriculars like a French exchange program, band, sign language club, etc so I think she should have a reasonably strong application to most schools, especially since she'd prefer to avoid the big city and has little interest in big names unless she chooses a career path where it could make a big difference. 

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Freedomin5

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I know you said DD wants to stay at home and work in your small hometown FOREVER, but I’d gently encourage her to consider branching out. Sometimes, depending on a multitude of factors, there may just not be that many opportunities in her particular field in the year of her graduation. If she only limits herself to your (pretty small) hometown, she may be closing a lot of doors. At least consider branching out to other Ontario towns, or even the north eastern part of the US — somewhere within a reasonable driving distance from home. Obviously, once she has a couple years work experience, she can keep her eyes peeled for opportunities in your hometown and always return home.

It’s just I remember when I graduated, it was like, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

elaine amj

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Such a good point. On the good side, she spent two months in Quebec this summer and even managed to enjoy herself away from home :)

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Goldielocks

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Elaine amj... you mentioned that your DD likes the analytical part of chemistry, but not the solving problems part of engineering.

I would definitely look at what skills / traits she has that she likes and doesn't like, more than the specific subject, which is an "interest" area.  Just because it is chemistry does not mean she would like the actual job.

With analytical skills, software or data analysis could be of strong interest (e.g. big data analysis? Would she like spreadsheets? SAP analyst?) type work may appeal to her as much as chemistry does.  It is so hard to know as many of these jobs that are widespread and pay well are not introduced as skills in high school.   

I would do a skills / trait survey of what things she wants to do -->examples> figuring out chemical analysis = yes.  Hands on running and handling lab equipment accurately and pipetting full time = no.  Solving complex engineering problems with best fit solutions = no.   Balancing equations and making the numbers work = yes (? most likely).  Trouble shooting code and fixing the problem = yes?  Writing a simple solution for controlling the chemical vat = ?  Implementing new software product and training others at a chemical plant?  Selling software to a chemical (waste water?) plant showing how they will save money on their process reactions?   Figuring out the right chemicals to pre treat a condensor coil at a new refrigeration plant as part of technical sales?

Maybe take a look at industries that hire chemical PhDs and what other analytical types they hire.  For example, specialty waste water treatment plants, natural resource industries, food, pharma, cosmetics, all require chemistry and non-chemist analysts that understand the fundamentals of their core business (while acting as accountants, analysts, software engineers programming the systems).