Fortunately, HESA also surveys graduates to find out what they’re doing 6 months after they leave university, and Prospects – the commercial arm of HECSU (Higher Education Careers Service Unit) – collates these statistics into a digestible annual report. From the chemistry alumni of 2009, a representative 2270 responses were received. The full report, published 3 months ago and containing analysis across all degree subjects, can be found here.
It comes as no surprise that around 30% of chemistry graduates continue studying in the UK for a higher degree. For those hoping to pursue a career in scientific research, a PhD will clearly command both a higher salary and entry level – which would likely take significantly longer than 3-4 years to achieve as a graduate. Current stipends are a tax-free ~£14k per year (equivalent to ~£21k in real money), with project sponsorship and undergraduate teaching potentially adding another £5k plus beer money. However, if the appeal for doing a PhD is to ride out a tough job market for a few years, seriously consider what options may be available at the end of it, and the risk of becoming overqualified.
Continuing the study theme, 1 in 200 chemistry graduates choose to undergo further study or training overseas. With prestigious colleges and a common language, the US is a popular destination. Postgraduate degrees tend to be longer, at 4-6 years, with typical stipends of $25k plus fellowships from industrial sponsors.
A sizeable 1 in 20 new chemists go on to study in the UK for a teaching qualification. An array of routes exist to gain qualified teacher status depending on your personal circumstances – including full or part time study and within a school or a higher education establishment. More information can be found at the Training and Development Agency website. As there continues to be a shortage of chemistry teachers (supported by the number of jobs advertised), a tax-free bursary of £9k is still being offered to chemists, subject to eligibility. Newly qualified teachers can expect to earn £21.6k (or £27k in Inner London).
As a proportion of the 62% of graduates that escape the confines of education, two-thirds enter UK employment, almost a tenth choose to both work and study, and 1 in 7 are believed to be unemployed. The graduate chemist unemployment rate of 8.7% is close to the graduate average (8.9%), and fares well against peers in physics (11.7%), biology (10.0%) and environmental sciences (8.3%). Further afield, graduates particularly suffering are those studying IT & computing (16.3%), engineering subjects (11-13%) and maths (10.3%); but those bringing down the average are law (6.2%), sports science (6.9%) and foundation degrees (2.7%).
Next time: For the one thousand chemistry graduates that responded to the survey saying they’d entered employment, what type of work did they do? Clue: scientific research was top, but maybe not by as much as you think.