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Too Many Chemistry Grads

May 24, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 21

I have been skeptical of industry and government calls for more science education and more science graduates. Here is my punt on the issue, in which I make a number of heroic assumptions.

My focus is on chemistry graduates. Using Department of Education numbers for 2007–08, the total number of chemistry graduates receiving B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. degrees was 16,200. Now for the guesswork: About 850,000 people are employed in the chemical industry. If one-third of these employees are chemistry graduates, and they work for 40 years, there is a need for about 7,000 graduates per year.

So where do the new graduates go? I could not find data on the need for chemistry graduates in the medical, pharmaceutical, and electronics businesses. But with downsizing in these areas and outsourcing to countries such as India, demand could be low and unlikely to bridge the gap between the number of people looking for a job and available jobs needing chemists.

Tens of thousands of well-trained and experienced people have been laid off and will be available for research and production jobs should there be any new employment. I therefore believe C&EN and others may be misleading our youngsters. Please prove me wrong.

Malcolm L. Watts
Kennett Square, Pa.


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