Author Topic: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k  (Read 7649 times)

neophyte

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Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« on: November 15, 2014, 11:51:23 AM »
It seems there have been more "help me pick a job" threads than usual lately, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.

Background:  28, graduated a few years ago with a degree in biochemistry. I work in an academic research lab and earn about $32000 gross or $26500 net. Couple of middle author publications, nothing fancy. No debt and I've cut expenses as much as I am willing. I can save a decent percent, but I'm still living like a broke college student and I'm starting to get tired of it. I need to work on the income end of the equation. Other than the fact that I dislike the pay, I'm pretty indifferent about my current job. I have no particular desire to either stay in research or to leave it.

I don't want to go back to school.  I could get a master's cheaply through the university I work for. It would take a couple more years of low earning to do it, but I'm willing to consider it if I have to. I don't have a particular program in mind. I do not have enough interest to subject myself to a PhD.

So Mustachians, can you recommend careers with good earning potential that, ideally, would build off of my background and I could get into now or without too much more education? 

MKinVA

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2014, 11:58:58 AM »
Pharmaceuticals? Chemical companies? Makeup or soap companies? Maybe sales in these industries or management cause you know the subject matter? Teach high school?

zataks

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2014, 12:04:52 PM »
Location helps a lot.  32k/year in the SF Bay area is nothing but in the middle of the country it might be decent wages?

Have you considered any sort of trade certifications or working in the public sector?  All sorts of water and wastewater agencies need lab and water quality people.  You're a shoe in if you have relevant certifications (water/wastewater treatment, water distribution, waste collections, etc).  Typically these jobs fluctuate base on COL but in the SF Bay area, a Biologist II  (2 years exp. and a bachelors degree in a related field) for a water agency pays 84k-108k annually.  That's at a public job with excellent benefits and a pension. 

2ndTimer

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2014, 12:21:40 PM »
Consider industrial hygiene.  The Hub made the transition from chemist to industrial hygienist with a couple of online classes and sitting for the exam.  I wouldn't call it a huge growth field but it is dying slower than chemistry. 

Grid

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2014, 12:23:33 PM »
Um... you are me from about a year and a half ago.  Ok you may resent that statement but I've already drawn some parallels.  I promised myself after my undergrad in biology that I would not go back to school.  However after 2 and a half years working as a technician in an academic research lab and earning $33000 gross, I started getting tired of hearing about friends who were no more intelligent earning 2-3x my salary.  I said "Screw it!  Research isn't what I thought it was.  I'm picking the most lucrative,  most approachable Master's and going for it.".  That was Computer Science.  The most amazing thing about it?  School has been fun.  I wasn't prepared for such a happy academic experience. 

Biology was about memorization, and as a graduate I applied a small fraction of the facts I had learned (in addition to the good old scientific method) at my day job.  Not so for engineering and computer science.  You're learning skills, not facts.   I took prerequisites and found a student research position with a professor here.  Students are compensated around $24,000 yearly, which is not far from my previous salary (or yours), on top of the credits that I'm earning towards my degree doing research.

So, say you do something like this.  The worst case, once you graduate in a different field is what, $50k/year for an entry-level job, which is a ridiculously good return on investment?  You already live like a broke college kid, why not put those skills to use?  It was a no-brainer for me, but I'm not saying it's been easy.  Just something to think about.  I graduate in January.  I'm expecting a double in my previous salary at least.  It's been one of the best decisions I've made.

Edit: 

Total time investment: 1.7 years

Start prerequisites during biology job:  summer 2013
Continue prerequisites, start as full-time research student, begin graduate credits:  fall 2013
Begin Master's program:  Spring 2014
Deposit Thesis:  January 2015

Actual time investment would be an extra year without the benefits of research-as-course-credits.  Good luck neophyte!


   
« Last Edit: November 15, 2014, 12:56:32 PM by Grid »

Taran Wanderer

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2014, 01:46:40 PM »
The industrial hygienist approach is a good suggestion. Another industry job you might consider is quality assurance in food processing. Most medium to large size food manufacturing plants have their own laboratories to test various quantitative characteristics of the food they make. This could include sugar, fat or protein levels, pH, or microbiological tests.  You could start in the lab and look toward growth opportunities outside of the QC lab either technical (plant quality tech, vendor auditor), or in management to grow your comp.  You probably won't get rich on stock options, but there is some job security. Everybody has to eat.

data.Damnation

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2014, 03:14:23 PM »
Location helps a lot.  32k/year in the SF Bay area is nothing but in the middle of the country it might be decent wages?

Seriously, how poor and cheap do you think the midwest is? 32k/year is not a lot of money, even in the frumpy dumpy midwest.

Michread

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2014, 04:29:23 PM »
lab sales, service engineer for that lab equipment (they will train), science customer service, science marketing or work for the private sector lab NOT academic

FinallyAwake

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2014, 04:40:17 PM »
Would it be easy to tack on a few classes to your current degree to get a biochemical/chemical engineering degree?  Not sure if that's even doable, but the chemical engineers I know make $100k+ pretty quickly.

zataks

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2014, 04:49:47 PM »
Location helps a lot.  32k/year in the SF Bay area is nothing but in the middle of the country it might be decent wages?

Seriously, how poor and cheap do you think the midwest is? 32k/year is not a lot of money, even in the frumpy dumpy midwest.

Roughly 30% cheaper than the SF bay area.  And from living in inland states that are not coastal CA, $15 is a livable, common wage.  Isn't this the frugality forums?

mozar

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2014, 05:46:49 PM »
those engineers who work for the fast food industry. Like make chemicals that make the bbq sandwich smell like bbq/ smoke. food engineer or technologist. evil but cool.
http://gawker.com/food-engineers-now-making-your-burger-look-cool-casual-514003620

data.Damnation

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2014, 08:59:46 AM »
Roughly 30% cheaper than the SF bay area.  And from living in inland states that are not coastal CA, $15 is a livable, common wage.  Isn't this the frugality forums?

So using your numbers, 32k in the midwest is the same as 41k in SF (32k + 30% = 41k). Is 41k a decent amount of money for the bay area? I think we both know the answer to that.

OP, have you thought about getting a master's in chemical or biomedical engineering? Those are both hot fields right now and you can easily make 6 figures in either one if you're smart, especially with a master's degree.

sekritdino

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2014, 12:35:15 PM »
If you were willing to consider taking advantage of that cheap masters degree, get a masters in engineering or computer science. You could definitely make six figures in CS.

mulescent

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2014, 03:11:37 PM »
It seems there have been more "help me pick a job" threads than usual lately, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.

Background:  28, graduated a few years ago with a degree in biochemistry. I work in an academic research lab and earn about $32000 gross or $26500 net. Couple of middle author publications, nothing fancy. No debt and I've cut expenses as much as I am willing. I can save a decent percent, but I'm still living like a broke college student and I'm starting to get tired of it. I need to work on the income end of the equation. Other than the fact that I dislike the pay, I'm pretty indifferent about my current job. I have no particular desire to either stay in research or to leave it.

I don't want to go back to school.  I could get a master's cheaply through the university I work for. It would take a couple more years of low earning to do it, but I'm willing to consider it if I have to. I don't have a particular program in mind. I do not have enough interest to subject myself to a PhD.

So Mustachians, can you recommend careers with good earning potential that, ideally, would build off of my background and I could get into now or without too much more education?

Hi... I run an academic research lab, and here is what I have to say:

-Assess your skills, and learn more valuable ones.  Do you read a bunch?  Do you lead projects, come up with ideas and kick major ass in the lab?  Can you write protocols and results text for papers or grants?  Can you code and do basic math?  Good techs, who can do those things, are worth a lot more than ones who view the job as just running some protocol or doing what the PI or postdoc tells them.

-If you have skills and are contributing a lot, make the case to your PI for a series of raises.  Explain how you help get grants and why you are valuable.  Show the PI that you want to move forward, both in terms of what you can do and how you can help.  They may come back with something like "I don't have the budget for a highly-paid tech."  That's OK - explain that you want them to help you develop skills and move on.  If your PI is good, they'll want to support your advancement!

-I would strongly advise against going for a masters in Biochemistry or a related field.  Masters degrees aren't useful in academia and are only conditionally useful in the private sector.

-Consider a move to the private sector.  This will net you an ~50% raise right off the bat with the opportunity for advancement into management and other areas.  If you want to break the ~60k ceiling with a BA, you'll pretty much have to go into the private sector.

-You say you are indifferent to your current job.  Why?  Are you too challenged?  Bored?  Is the management bad?  Analyzing why you aren't happy will tell you whether you should work on moving forward in science or move into another field.  If you decide that you want out of science, then a masters degree in Comp Sci or something else could be a good idea.  However, you have a STEM degree and are nearly 30.  I'd say you're better off learning skills on your own.

Good luck, and let us know what you think!

littlebird

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2014, 05:18:30 PM »
My story is somewhat similar to yours. I have a BS in biology, discovered late in the game that required grad school to make any money so joined a molecular and cellular bio PhD program. After four years I realized I didn't like bench research, there were almost no jobs in the ivory tower and the odds of getting an industry job weren't much higher so I mastered out.
 So then I had an MS and networked my way into an admin job at the research center where I did my grad research. So boring and demeaning. If you think you're low on the totem poll now, try going into admin. Anyway, long story short, I'm now doing this program: http://eecs.oregonstate.edu/online-cs-students . I can't really wholeheartedly recommend it because the quality of the teaching leaves a little to be desired and this has been one of the toughest things I've ever done, but I'm doing it and I'm learning CS.
 I'm taking 15 months to do it (they say as little as a year full time but that would be hell), so in about three more months I fully expect to get a high-paying job in the software industry. The difference in my expected salary will recoup my tuition investment in one year, in two years I'll be ahead by a lot even if you take into account my year of lost salary. Just something you might consider as an option. 

mm1970

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #15 on: November 16, 2014, 05:43:44 PM »
Location helps a lot.  32k/year in the SF Bay area is nothing but in the middle of the country it might be decent wages?

Seriously, how poor and cheap do you think the midwest is? 32k/year is not a lot of money, even in the frumpy dumpy midwest.
My dad's house sold for $65k a few years ago. 

$32k would go far there.

zataks

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #16 on: November 16, 2014, 09:21:04 PM »
Location helps a lot.  32k/year in the SF Bay area is nothing but in the middle of the country it might be decent wages?

Seriously, how poor and cheap do you think the midwest is? 32k/year is not a lot of money, even in the frumpy dumpy midwest.
My dad's house sold for $65k a few years ago. 

$32k would go far there.
Pretty much what I was getting at. And a quick Google search has Bankrate.com showing 32k in the Dayton, OH metro as roughly equivalent to 56k in the SF bay. So I was off in % difference. But not the livable wage part.

Left

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #17 on: November 16, 2014, 09:30:08 PM »
My story is somewhat similar to yours. I have a BS in biology, discovered late in the game that required grad school to make any money so joined a molecular and cellular bio PhD program. After four years I realized I didn't like bench research, there were almost no jobs in the ivory tower and the odds of getting an industry job weren't much higher so I mastered out.
 So then I had an MS and networked my way into an admin job at the research center where I did my grad research. So boring and demeaning. If you think you're low on the totem poll now, try going into admin. Anyway, long story short, I'm now doing this program: http://eecs.oregonstate.edu/online-cs-students . I can't really wholeheartedly recommend it because the quality of the teaching leaves a little to be desired and this has been one of the toughest things I've ever done, but I'm doing it and I'm learning CS.
 I'm taking 15 months to do it (they say as little as a year full time but that would be hell), so in about three more months I fully expect to get a high-paying job in the software industry. The difference in my expected salary will recoup my tuition investment in one year, in two years I'll be ahead by a lot even if you take into account my year of lost salary. Just something you might consider as an option. 
This looks interesting to me as well, I have bio/chem degrees as well, (technically, I'm a medical technologist but I have bio/chem degrees). Just wondering, aside from working for some company like Cerner or the major healthcare instrumentation companies, how would a CS help in healthcare? I don't exactly want to switch out of healthcare but picking up CS skills might be useful? I'm associating CS with computer programming though (correct me if I'm wrong, I probably am but I don't know what CS does except program). I could probably work my way into a health insurance company maybe, they seem to want people running health risks but that isn't really a CS but an actuary.

I'd suggest getting into a med tech program if you have a stem degree already, I like the job, it isn't high paying though but the stress isn't too bad and I'm not stuck in front of a computer either. I make 50k/year as reference. But you'd have to figure out if you want to go this route as well, seems like a lot of people in field say there are better things to study. Namely, they think nursing/pharmacy is better because of higher pay :S I don't associate higher pay being a better job though since it may not fit me. IE, I can make lots being a drug dealer but don't want the stress of being one, etc.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2014, 09:35:45 PM by eyem »

littlebird

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #18 on: November 16, 2014, 10:10:28 PM »
The OSU program I posted about is training to be a computer programmer. After getting the degree if you want to stay in biology/healthcare, healthcare software is growing fast or there is bioinformatics. I probably won't go that route but it's an option.

LouisPritchard

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2014, 11:11:53 PM »
If it's money you want and are wiling to move look at the oil field. With a biochemistry degree I'd hit up the service and chemical companies. I know Baker Hughes has a very large chemical division. You'd basically go around and take samples of oil/water and figure out what chemicals to use to solve what ever problems they have. Might be corrosion inhibitors or maybe biocide to kill off certain bacteria or oxygen scavenger to stop H2S. As far as locations go, on the West Coast look around LA, some offshore and plants near Santa Barbra and Bakersfield CA. West Texas, Midland/Odesssa is a small boom. Western OK north of Dallas, TX. There's North Dakota fields where you can get 6 figures easy if you can find a place to live and like the cold. Then the Gulf of Mexico, look for companies in Houston, TX and Lafayette, LA as the hubs there.

squatman

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2014, 07:37:29 AM »
How about consulting? If you can finagle an interview, most of the rest is how good you are at cases. I'm not talking about the huge management consulting shops - I don't think you can get in there - but there are plenty of boutique places looking for people with work experience and a scientific background. Play up your communication skills (e.g., talks at conferences), your analytical skills, project management, and friendly personality! Any data work in your past? If you can run a SQL query or two you'd be valuable at a bunch of more data-focused places.

You'd probably start in a position with 24 year-olds, but your salary would easily double.

Pigeon

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2014, 10:52:42 AM »
I would probably try to get a masters from your employer for free, but not a masters in bio.  You're never going to earn decent money working in a research lab without a PhD, and even those jobs are hard to come by.

If sales doesn't appeal to you, there are other options.  You'd make a lot more in a field like biostatistics or epidemiology.  The Department of Public Heath where I live is always looking to hire people with a masters in one of those fields, and the starting salaries are about twice what you're making. 

There are also professional degrees in allied health fields that would require more of an effort on your part in terms of going back to school for a few years, but have a pretty good payoff, like physical therapy, OT, etc.

Google the Occupational Outlook Handbook.  It's a great place to research careers, as it gives educational requirements, expected job growth, working conditions and salary information.


rmendpara

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Re: Not all STEMs are created equal - Help me earn more than $30k
« Reply #22 on: November 17, 2014, 07:20:51 PM »
There are plenty of ways to earn more than 30k.

Get a teaching certificate... most teachers make more than 30k in a medium cost of living area.

To answer your question, it really depends on what you're willing to do. I assume that you don't really like the field, so I wouldn't recommend getting a Master's in a science discipline.

Generally speaking, for the majority of people, engineers/computer sciences make great starting salaries across the board... in addition to a few business fields like finance and accounting. Of course, this would likely require you to go back to school for 2-3 years to get all the major level credits in either field, but you are likely to start at a much higher base, and have significantly better opportunities.

Can you elaborate a bit more on your skills/tendencies/abilities/academic abilities? I know biochem was not an easy major at my university, but I don't know if that's the same everywhere. What do other people do in the sciences who don't go into research or the graduate/professional tracks?