Salaries for chemists rise, but jobs outlook little improved

New chemistry graduating class considerably more diverse than chemical workforce.

While chemical scientists and engineers who have not changed jobs continue to post gains in salary of close to 5 percent per year, unemployment figures for the past year only dropped modestly, according to the November 6 Employment Outlook section in Chemical & Engineering News. C&EN is the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society.

The percentage of chemists in the domestic workforce who are ACS members and didn't have fulltime jobs as of March 2006 was 8.7 percent, C&EN says. This was down from 9.2 percent from a year earlier, but well above the most recent low of 5.4 percent in 2001.

The median salary for chemists in the same job rose to $86,900 this year, from $83,000 in 2005; the pay for those with bachelor's degrees went from $64,000 in 2005 to $67,200 this year; for master's degrees, from $75,000 to $79,000; and for Ph.D.'s, from $92,000 to $96,000. The median is the point at which half of the salaries are above that point and half are below it.

A sign of changing demographics in the chemistry field, female graduates received a greater percentage of the B.S. chemistry degrees in 2005 than males -- 52.3 percent compared to 47.7 percent. This is a significant change from the breakdown for all working chemists, where 65.2 percent are male and 34.8 percent are female. Hispanics and Blacks each made up 6 percent of the B.S. chemistry graduates in 2005. This, too, is growth compared with 3.6 percent and 2.8 percent respectively in the pool of all working chemists.

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C&EN based its conclusions on the ACS 2006 salary and employment survey, an employment survey of ACS domestic members and ACS' survey of 2005 chemistry graduates.

To read the full C&EN Employment Outlook Section, go to: http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/84/8445cover.html

The American Chemical Society -- the world's largest scientific society -- is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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