Issue Date: June 2, 2008
Satisfying And Meaningful Careers
"Launching Corporate Careers" is a very informative article (C&EN, April 14, page 55). Once a person receives a degree, it is the start of their career. It may be an associate's degree, B.S., M.S., or even a Ph.D. The chemical enterprise is very competitive, and several industries use all employees to their capability not just their education level. An individual's career path is unlimited regardless of their education level.
After receiving an associate's degree in chemical technology in 1991, I was hired as a laboratory technician working with chemical engineers on assorted separation processes. Over time, routine assignments were expanded to more difficult tasks normally associated with higher degreed individuals. I achieved extensive experience in designing, constructing, and operating lab, bench, and pilot-scale units for separation processes, organic synthesis, organometallic chemistry, and experimental scale-up. Problem solving and creating innovative solutions seem to be part of my daily key responsibilities.
There are satisfying careers at all education levels. As stated in the article, you need to think outside the box and take advantage of opportunities presented to you.
Congratulations to C&EN and Susan J. Ainsworth for an excellent article. It is well written and presents an encouraging picture of the opportunities for graduating B.S.- and M.S.-level chemists. Those same growth opportunities are also available to chemical professionals who graduate from two-year science programs.
Since earning my associate of applied science degree in the mid-1960s, I have seen the available opportunities change drastically. Today's chemical professional with an associate's degree is the chemist of 25 years ago. While my start in industry as a technician working in radiochemical synthesis and radiation chemistry was different from most, opportunities over the years have led to my position as scientist and to my receiving an honorary doctor of science degree from Ferris State University. I have said for many years that I have been lucky, defining luck as "where opportunity meets preparation."
As the article states, thinking outside the box and preparing for and tapping into opportunities are key to success. Honing one's "higher order skills" such as oral and written communication, critical thinking, teamwork, and initiative are also part of the preparation.
My point is that these same skills and opportunities are available to those who, like me, chose not to pursue a B.S. or M.S. degree. There are still satisfying and meaningful careers available to individuals with associate degrees.
John H. Engleman
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