1 .A controversial topic which begs the question as to whether higher education should develop more B.S. graduates in graduates if there are not enough jobs for them to take.
2. Does your answer differ if we are talking about educating too many graduate students? ie M.S. and/or Ph.D.
3. If chemistry graduates are not necessarily the goal, shouldn't we agree that in a highly technical society, it is incumbent that we provide an adequate scientific knowledge base for as many folks as possible?
4. Who should train these students? Junior college faculty, graduate students, College teaching faculty, or University Research professors?
Economics wins, EVERY time. An intelligent person will find value in chemical training, whether it becomes their profession or not. If someone wants training to get a job, they should go to a trade school. If you have a passion for a profession, the job market is secondary - there are still not too many 'good jobs' for artists that I know. They still consider themselves "artists" first, and burger-flippers second.
If anything is needed in the sciences, it may be a more interdisciplinary study. Chemistry is still the foundation of SO many other professions! But, what we teach today is NOT what the professionals will be doing tomorrow. We can still only provide the basic historical knowledge, and most importantly, the ability to think creatively and scientifically. If "jobs" require more chemists, then the graduates may trend to that title. But it the jobs are in other "disciplines" - or ones that we haven't imagined yet - a person with a solid understanding of chemical principles and the scientific method of investigation will be able to move into those roles as well.
I agree with Steven Cooke. A degree in chemistry gives the students not only chemistry knowledge, but also the ability to solve problems, to research topics, to think clearly, to be familiar with lab procedures, computers and instrumentation, and, usually, to work in teams. Graduates may not all find a job doing chemistry or teaching chemistry, but there are many related positions for which these kinds of knowledge are essential. For example environmental science, some fields related to medicine and medical testing, some fields of engineering, art conservation, testing and quality control and others. No chemistry degree can provide the kind of specific training needed for all particular jobs, but it does provide the skill set which makes it possible to acquire specific job skills.
So my answer is no--the chemistry degree is difficult enough that in most universities and colleges we are not producing too many graduates.
Late breaking news - High Tech Leaders are critical of the new Trump Administration's actions to limit immigration into the U.S.
Many leaders of the nation's top corporations are disturbed about efforts to curb immigration to the U.S. because they believe that there exists a shortage of high tech professionals in this country to meet the demands for top talent. The H1B Visa which allows a certain amount of young professionals to work in the U.S. is being discussed for lowering the numbers and this concerns these industry leaders. In particular, Silicon Valley CEO's cite that many of the new technology startups are indeed started by foreigners that immigrate to this country for the ability to be entrepreneurs with their talent and drive.
LOTS of peripheral issues there! Are we short of workers, or importing cheaper workers? The global economy will send people where the balance of services and compensation is mutually best. Any time government intervenes - whether with visas or tariffs - it is not usually sustainable, nor does it usually work out well in the end.
Can we make a deal for a swap? For every "valued" technologist we let immigrate, can we deport a welfare recipient? Does our Society really realize a benefit from the companies, or just the shareholders and executives? I think that a lot more needs to be looked into in terms of the supply, demand, benefits and recipients before we simply change some numbers, up or down.
Good point. Are we actually short of high tech workers in the US or not? Or is it just that people are not always where the jobs are? It would be good to see some numbers on this. The ACS does an annual survey of employment among chemists, and the results are published in C&E News, I can't remember when the last one was published, but it would be interesting to see it.
I don't think that the ACS Guide addresses the question of open positions. The data are usually employed/unemployed by degree, sector and gender. The same for the salary data. In my industrial experience and global economics observations the FIRST thing employers do is look for the lowest-cost employees. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but it can be counter-productive if not balanced with the actual skills needed and the profitability objectives. Again, it's that PROFIT that makes everyone greedy - why share a portion of YOUR potential income with someone just to get the job done? Shareholders may share some of that blame too.
Then there is also the question of whether our "tech grads" WANT to work in some of those positions. Again, maybe they are being too demanding, OR maybe those jobs really don't compensate fairly for the skill brought to the task. On the issue of Visas I really think that it s primarily a low-cost route instead of a lack of intelligent and motivated citizens.
I earlier mentioned that Silicon Valley CEOs are concerned that limiting H1b visas will hurt their ability to attract the best and brightest in the world for hughly innovative jobs.
On the other side we are learning that the H1b system is also being abused by companies who wish to lower their salary costs by employing foreign workers. They justify this by outsourcing some of their current departments to contract companies who fill these jobs with mostly H1b workers! To add insult to injury, they require affected American workers to teach these replacements to do these jobs.
This has become common for firms to outsource their IT departments. Don't be surprised when You find that a chemical laboratory that does more routine testing and analysis work gets outsourced as well. Many US hospitals outsource X-Ray interpretation to Indian MDs overnight to save costs.
It has been widely recognized that first year Chemistry is the most difficult/challenging undergraduate college course in the U.S. As Steven and Lynn wrote, the study of Chemistry teaches problem-solving skills and provides a fundamental understanding of our world around us. Those who partake of Chemistry as a study quickly realize its value. My question is: do employers recognize the intrinsic value of a Chemistry degree?
Steven wrote that artists often choose to define themselves by their passion, not by their paychecks. That is a societally expected tradeoff for the traditional arts. But those who seriously undertake the study and practice of Chemistry often must do so at a University, which is a costly affair in the U.S. Saddled with student loan debt, newly minted B. S. Chemists scramble for scarce jobs and frequently look to grad school as a way to follow their passion. More education is admirable from an intellectual standpoint, but how do all these PhD Chemists pay their rent and raise their own families, let alone pay their student loan debt?
Back to James' first question: Should higher education develop more B.S. graduates?
Rather than production of BS Chemists as a goal, maybe we should focus on better Chemical education of all college students, and by extension, high school students? Wouldn't that best serve our society and its future? And why not start with younger students, even infants? That would require a rework of our basic teaching methods
Your thoughts please: let's discuss!
Economic cycles come and go, technology moves on, value perception depends on the observers experience and perspective. I recently posted an Albert Einstein quote to remind people of what education is supposed to be about: “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from text-books.” Chemistry is really neither exceptional in that regard nor irrelevant.
I personally wouldn't want to comment on whether "chemistry" at any level is "better" than any other discipline - it all depends on what you want to accomplish. I DO think that Kelly hit the key at the end of her comments. GET INVOLVED THIS MONTH in National Chemistry Week, even if only to add the FREE graphics to your webpage or Facebook Profile, MENTION the fact of the week to any and everyone, and IF you can, get into those grade-school demos and lectures to help out! I continue to do that, and it is the BEST way to engender an interest and appreciation for the sciences in the general public. Your Local Section is probably already working on something that you can help with.
P.S. MANY age-appropriate materials are ALREADY freely available through the ACS site, including back-issues of all the great NCW and Chemists Celebrate Earthday magazine/workbook publications. Let's show the public how chemistry and the ACS produce the STEAM (STEM + Arts) to improve our world!