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How ACS can help chemists grow in their careers

by Katherine L. Lee, District I director
May 9, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 18


This is a photo of Katherine L. Lee.
Credit: Professional Event Images Inc.
Katherine L. Lee

Hello! As an active volunteer in the American Chemical Society and a member of the board of directors, I would like to share how ACS can help you grow in your career. ACS offers many career resources, and I want to address some misconceptions that people might have. A question that I often field is “What is the value of my ACS membership?” I’d like to highlight some career-related benefits that are exclusive for ACS members.

Myth 1: My ACS membership offers no benefits for my career.

False! Did you know that an exclusive benefit for ACS members is personal career consulting? Engage with an ACS career consultant to review your résumé, practice a mock interview, or obtain general career consulting. Sign up for virtual office hours, which are weekly small-group discussions with career consultants, or a one-on-one session with a career consultant via Zoom. Did you know that the ACS Salary Calculator is an exclusive ACS member benefit? Use it to get information on salaries based on data from the ACS annual employment survey. You can sort by years of experience, type of employer, area of specialty, and geography to obtain estimates of median salaries as well as broad salary ranges.

ACS offers many career resources, and I want to address some misconceptions that people might have.

Myth 2: ACS career resources are for chemists in academia only.

False! The ACS Career Pathways program, another exclusive ACS member benefit, includes customized content for four pathways: Industry, Higher Education, Government, and Working for Yourself. Are you interested in entrepreneurship? Take a workshop that will help you inventory your values or learn how to create a business plan. For job seekers, find out how to ace your interview.

Would you like to learn more about the various career options in the chemical sciences? Visit the College to Career website to learn about technical disciplines and applied areas of chemistry, as well as specific job types. Have you ever wondered, for example, what it is like to work in forensic science, regulatory affairs, chemical health and safety, or technical sales? You can get firsthand information from people who work in these fields by reading their profiles.

I work in industry, and I encourage everyone to sign up for ACS Industry Matters, a weekly newsletter for ACS members. The information here is useful for a broad range of people, not just chemists in industry. I wish that I had known when I was a graduate student which nontechnical skills are most highly valued among scientists by chief technical officers. Check out the Spotlight on Early Career Chemists, advice from ACS career consultants, and Boss Talk, which features interviews of leaders such as Charlotte Allerton of Pfizer and Florian Schattenmann of Cargill.

Myth 3: I can take advantage of ACS career resources only by attending an ACS national meeting.

False yet again! The ACS Webinars archive, available exclusively to ACS members, includes dozens of career-oriented webinars, including “The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn and Getting Paid for It,” “Creating a Stand Out Professional Development Plan,” and “How to Write Abstracts That Capture Your Audience.”

ACS Career Days are 1-day events in which ACS brings workshops and networking activities to local communities. These are free to the public, but ACS membership is required to meet with an ACS career consultant. Check online for upcoming ACS Career Days, pending the relaxation of social-distancing guidelines.

Did you know that the ACS Leadership Development System includes both in-person and online courses and that as an exclusive ACS member benefit, these courses are free, with a $50 refundable deposit required only for in-person courses? Take a self-paced online course to learn essential skills and bolster your personal capabilities, interpersonal skills, and leadership and influencing skills. Build your awareness of what you want and what may help you move your career by taking the online course “Matching Interests with Goals.”

Myth 4: Serving as a volunteer helps ACS, but it won’t help me.

I beg to differ! In fact, I believe that my volunteer experience as a local section leader, a technical division leader, a councilor, a member of the Committee on Economic and Professional Affairs (CEPA), and a member of the board of directors has been invaluable in my career in the pharmaceutical industry. Volunteering for ACS has taught me how to motivate fellow volunteers; manage budgets; communicate with large, diverse groups of people; and network. I have been mentored by many people in the Northeastern Section, the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry, CEPA, and the ACS Board of Directors; in turn, I have had the honor of serving as an informal mentor to several ACS volunteers.

Thank you for reading. Please see as a starting point for ACS career resources. Feel free to reach out to me at with questions and comments.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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