There was an interesting contact that came from
a grad student at a prestigious Japanese
university. The student wanted to know:
- Was there a chance for him(her) to find
a position in the US
- Is there a chance to pursue an academic
- What does a post-doctoral role entail and
how different is it from a Ph.D.
Basically, my take on the initial request is
‘what are the chances of foreign nationals
coming to the US and being offered positions.’
RESPONSE: There are strong possibilities
that are accompanied by significant barriers
and risks. The US chemical workforce in
chemistry and chemically related fields has
nearly 900,000 employees. It is large.
There are a significant fraction of workers who
were not born in the US but either attended
undergraduate, or graduate or post-graduate
programs. The trend remains in the 21st
century, but it is not general in all industries
and changes from time to time, based on a
number of outside factors.
RE: General Consideration: Personal Assessment
The first item we generally encourage people
entering the field is to perform a self assessment.
What brings him satisfaction? Is it:
challenges, stability, being an entrepreneur,
money, power, career growth,
being in a business and working with customers.
Working in industry is for people who enjoy
working in teams and are effective
There are styles of companies (culture) commonly
based on company size. Small companies
can be faster-paced, where a person has
many responsibilities and networking and
working with customers and suppliers is
nearly everyone’s role.
In many situations in industry, technical
professionals work on product development,
product and process problem-solving,
improving efficiencies, dealing with
regulations, limiting waste, improving yield
and figuring out better ways to do things.
In academia, motivators can be: the love
of learning and teaching, for those who seek
independence, who enjoy being the leading
expert in an area, those like the collegial
atmosphere of consensus building yet being
in charge of your personal area. These are
just a few. Some that apply for industrial
roles also apply for academic careers.
RE: General Consideration: Academia
In the US there are very generally 3 groupings
of college level education–
a)research intensive institutions,
b)principally undergraduate institutions, and
c)community colleges and institutes.
For many cases, a) and b) institutions tend
to employ several hundred new hires each year.
Most of them have participated in post-doctoral
Post-doctoral appointments are temporary
appointments where a person with a Ph. D.
works in the laboratory of a Principle Investigator
P. I.. The length of time varies considerably, but
is usually longer than one year. The roles of
post-docs vary but can involve exploring new
ideas, pursuing specific ideas or applications
or collaborating with several PIs as in industrial
Often c) institutions involve strictly chemical
instruction, many student contact hours and no
formal reserach activities.
My suggestion to this student were to consider
seeking a US post-doc after the self assessment.
Also, the choice of the P. I. is crucial in developing
the expertise to go into the field of choice or
Information on several other topics (resume,
interview strategies and networking)can be obtained
at the ACS website, and at certain blogs like this
and Alternate Careers LB in the Blogroll.