McMicken College of Arts & SciencesMcMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

McMicken College of Arts & Sciences

Department of Chemistry

Department of Chemistry

Career Opportunities

Job Resource Center

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Career Opportunities for Undergraduate Students

Historically, about 1/3 of our chemistry majors have gone on to graduate school in chemistry, while 1/3 have entered professional schools (e.g. medical, dental, law) and 1/3 have entered the workforce with the baccalaureate degree. For 2005-2006, 33 percent of the graduates attended graduate school, 11 percent medical school and 56 percent entered the workforce.

Nearly all of our majors who seek to attend doctoral programs in chemistry are admitted to such programs, with full financial support (full tuition scholarship and a graduate assistant stipend). For example, 100 percent of the graduates during 2005-2006 who sought admission to graduate school were successful in doing so. In recent years, students have been admitted to many of the top schools in the country, including Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Texas, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. More importantly, these students have generally done very well in these doctoral programs, received their PhDs and are active professionals in the field.

A major in chemistry is also an effective route to gain admission to medical school. The success rate of our majors in getting into medical schools is quite high, including three majors graduating in June 2004, two who graduated in June 2005, and two who graduated in 2006, collectively representing 75 percent of those who applied to medical school. For the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine (where many of our graduates attend), in 2004-2005 less than 12 percent of applicants (343 out of 2,971) were offered admission. This provides a solid measure of the quality of the education these students have received. Finally, those graduates who seek employment in the chemical industry with a baccalaureate degree are generally quite successful in the job market.

Career Opportunities for Graduate Students

Whether your career goals lean toward industry, teaching or government, a PhD in chemistry provides the framework for a lifetime of achievement and leadership in those and other challenging arenas.

Of industrial positions for PhD chemists, nearly half are in pharmaceuticals or biotechnology. The University of Cincinnati PhD program in chemistry prepares students for jobs in all of these sectors. We find that our students take jobs in these sectors in approximately the same ratio as the national average.

Postdoctoral research in chemistry broadens the expertise of the students, allowing them to bring existing skills to a new technical problem and/or to develop depth in a somewhat new area of chemistry. More than 50 percent of new PhD chemists do postdoctoral research before beginning their first permanent positions [52 percent in 2004: Chemical & Engineering News, April 18, 2005, p. 52].

A PhD chemist in industry generally begins his or her career in a research and development (R&D) laboratory. A scientist in industry is called on to provide leadership in research, technology, and projects, resulting in new and/or improved products, processes, or technical methodologies. In all cases, the PhD chemist must demonstrate technical competence (depth and breadth in the field, ability to define and solve problems), the ability to communicate orally and in writing, and the ability to work in (often interdisciplinary) teams. The ability to lead and motivate is crucial, since almost all PhD scientists in industry will supervise one or more laboratory workers early in their career.

Most companies have a "dual-ladder system" in their R&D organization. This means that a scientist can gain recognition and promotion either as a technical expert ("individual contributor") or as a manager in R&D. The former usually demands a deep understanding of science, the ability to define short- and long-term goals of projects, the ability to define and solve problems, and the ability to run the day-to-day operations of an individual laboratory. Management jobs incorporate many of the above components, but put a premium on communication and leadership skills. Our PhD graduates are well qualified to succeed in either path.

PhD-level jobs with the federal government (e.g., FDA) require skills similar to those in industry, although the focus is more on technical methodologies than on new products or processes. Due in part to the geographical proximity to UC of several government labs, we send more of our graduates to these positions than the national average.

Teaching positions in chemistry at PhD-granting universities require time to be split about 60/30/10 among research, teaching, and service. At four-year colleges, this split is about 31/52/17 [A. T. Schwartz, et al., And Gladly Teach: A Resource Book for Chemists Considering Academic Careers, 2nd Ed., American Chemical Society, 2006, p. 10]. Of course, teaching at four-year colleges requires directing the research of undergraduates, while at PhD-granting universities most research is carried out with graduate and postdoctoral students.

More than 50 percent of new PhD chemists do postdoctoral research before beginning their first permanent positions [52 percent in 2004: Chemical & Engineering News, April 18, 2005, p. 52]. The purpose of postdoctoral research in chemistry is to broaden the expertise of a student - to allow them to bring existing skills to a new technical problem and/or to develop depth in a somewhat new area of chemistry. Among students receiving a PhD from the Department of Chemistry, approximately 50 percent take postdoctoral positions prior to beginning a permanent position.

A one-credit course entitled "Life After Graduate School" is offered to third- and fourth-year graduate students in the department. This unique course is co-taught by Adjunct Prof. Joel Shulman and Prof. Anna Gudmundsdottir. The course covers what chemists do in the "real world" as a way to help students decide on the right job for them; the skills needed to find the job of your choice; and the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a job. It emphasizes working in industry, where more than 60 percent of PhDs in chemistry find employment, but also covers jobs in academe and the government. An important part of the "Life After Graduate School" course is a mock interview and resume review held with each of the students. Course evaluations and a survey conducted among former students now in the workplace cite these two activities as very useful in preparing the students for the job search.

Our graduates are employed at Procter & Gamble (6), SC Johnson, GE Global Research, Albemarle, Baxter Health Care, Battelle, FDA Forensic Toxicology, EPA, NIOSH, Arlon Co, Lexmark, Hexion, Albany Molecular Research, Ilex Oncology, IRIX Pharmaceutical, Abbott and Eli Lilly. Others are engaged in postdoctoral research at Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Ohio State, Minnesota, Utah, Southern Mississippi, Pittsburgh, FDA, EPA, Children's Hospital Cincinnati, Rosskamp Institute, Genomic Research Institute, NIH, NCI, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NRL and NRC Canada (2). Three of our graduates are instructors or lecturers at Ohio University, Western Kentucky University and Northern Kentucky University. Our PhD graduates are also beginning the academic marathon at Wilmington College, Washington & Jefferson, Shawnee State, Gonzaga, Morehead State, Belmont, University of Texas at Tyler, Austin Peay University, Thomas More College, Benedictine University and Berry College.

Career Opportunities