U.S. pushes for more scientists, but the jobs aren’t there

Discussion in 'Economics' started by hoffmanw, Aug 8, 2012.

  1. hoffmanw


    U.S. pushes for more scientists, but the jobs aren’t there

    By Brian Vastag, Published: July 7 The Washington Post

    Michelle Amaral wanted to be a brain scientist to help cure diseases. She planned a traditional academic science career: PhD, university professorship and, eventually, her own lab.

    But three years after earning a doctorate in neuroscience, she gave up trying to find a permanent job in her field.

    Dropping her dream, she took an administrative position at her university, experiencing firsthand an economic reality that, at first look, is counterintuitive: There are too many laboratory scientists for too few jobs.

    That reality runs counter to messages sent by President Obama and the National Science Foundation and other influential groups, who in recent years have called for U.S. universities to churn out more scientists.

    Obama has made science education a priority, launching a White House science fair to get young people interested in the field.

    But it’s questionable whether those youths will be able to find work when they get a PhD. Although jobs in some high-tech areas, especially computer and petroleum engineering, seem to be booming, the market is much tighter for lab-bound scientists — those seeking new discoveries in biology, chemistry and medicine.

    “There have been many predictions of [science] labor shortages and . . . robust job growth,” said Jim Austin, editor of the online magazine ScienceCareers. “And yet, it seems awfully hard for people to find a job. Anyone who goes into science expecting employers to clamor for their services will be deeply disappointed.”

    One big driver of that trend: Traditional academic jobs are scarcer than ever. Once a primary career path, only 14 percent of those with a PhD in biology and the life sciences now land a coveted academic position within five years, according to a 2009 NSF survey. That figure has been steadily declining since the 1970s, said Paula Stephan, an economist at Georgia State University who studies the scientific workforce. The reason: The supply of scientists has grown far faster than the number of academic positions.

    Research jobs slashed

    The pharmaceutical industry once was a haven for biologists and chemists who did not go into academia. Well-paying, stable research jobs were plentiful in the Northeast, the San Francisco Bay area and other hubs. But a decade of slash-and-burn mergers; stagnating profit; exporting of jobs to India, China and Europe; and declining investment in research and development have dramatically shrunk the U.S. drug industry, with research positions taking heavy hits.

    Since 2000, U.S. drug firms have slashed 300,000 jobs, according to an analysis by consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. In the latest closure, Roche last month announced it is shuttering its storied Nutley, N.J., campus — where Valium was invented — and shedding another 1,000 research jobs.

    “It’s been a bloodbath, it’s been awful,” said Kim Haas, who spent 20 years designing pharmaceuticals for drug giants Wyeth and Sanofi-Aventis and is in her early 50s. Haas lost her six-figure job at Sanofi-Aventis in New Jersey last year. She now works one or two days a week on contract at a Philadelphia university. She dips into savings to make ends meet......

  2. I think one of the problems they have now is that they don't know what direction the economy is going in and jobs will be in demand. So it is hard to commit to a degree in something that may or may not get you a job.
  3. piezoe


    Distortions in the economy are the reasons, distortions that will be with us for a long time and might never self-correct, even after everyone has either an MBA, or a degree in marketing, finance, engineering, or computer science/programming, and there are then too few jobs for these folks too. Already there are no jobs for Ph.D. economists.

    Science's golden era, the 1960's, is gone. A victim of the MBA mentality, and the bottomless money sink of the medical cartel and defense industries, and forever expanding corporate welfare and government security and enforcement apparatus. (Think, NSA, CIA, TSA, DEA, and DHS.)

    Other countries will pick up the slack and fill in the void vacated by the U.S. And too, there will always be a few jobs for scientists in the private sector, working on product oriented, not basic, research. Real research in Government laboratories and the better endowed universities will carry on regardless.