Tuesday, 6 December 2011

What Do Chemistry Graduates Do? 2011: Part 2

Overall, the destination of chemistry graduates that had entered employment 6 months after graduation is little changed on Prospects' 2009 figures

70% entered professional employment, and the second most popular employment sector was scientific research, at 17.9%. As can be expected, this is vastly greater than the all-subject average (0.8%), and slightly higher than last year (17.1%) - but it remains low compared to the 23-24% level sustained in 2006-2008.

The employment trends of chemistry graduates generally reflect those of the whole year group.

The proportion entering the business and financial sector has increased, and is higher than the average (9.7% compared to 7.5%). This correlates with a perceived recovery in the financial sector, and perhaps a move by more chemists into the traditionally popular career choice of accountancy. This sector also includes an 82% explosion in the number of graduates becoming personnel and recruitment consultants/advisors, which the Prospects report confirms is “the occupation with the largest gain in numbers on last year’s figures.” The science job boards appear to back up this statement, with recruitment consultant roles abundant on their pages.

The number of chemistry graduates entering the commercial, industrial and public sector decreased, and are lower than the average (7% compared to 8.8%). This drop was anticipated given the government cuts to the armed forces and civil service, but remains higher than may perhaps be expected.

The marketing, sales and advertising sector has attracted a higher number of chemistry graduates for the fourth successive year (4.2%), although this is lower than the average (5.1%). This may include roles such as procurement and sales (eg, consumables, chemicals, services) that may be relevant to scientists.

Two other trends for professional employment are a jump in the proportion of chemists entering the engineering sector (from 2.3 to 4.4%), and a continued decline in those going into education (down to 3.1%). Some recruiters in the engineering sector would include the oil and gas companies, speciality chemical companies, the food processing industry and contract manufacturing organisations.

For those entering non-professional occupations, clerical and secretarial employment dropped from a 4-year average of 6.4% to 4.5% - another area impacted by civil service cuts.

A poignant figure in this section of the report is the proportion of chemists entering retail, catering, waiting and bar jobs. In 2009, this leapt from 8.1 to 13.4%; and in 2010 it continued to grow, to 15.5%. At greater than one in seven chemistry graduates, this is higher than the all-subject average (13.8%).

It was suggested last year that this sector may be an indicator of hidden unemployment. To qualify this, the representative occupations listed by the Prospects report are: chefs, cooks, waiters, waitresses, bar staff, sales assistants and check-out operators. Unless a large number of chemists have been inspired by Heston Blumenthal and the growth in lab-based culinary technology, it’s unlikely that such a large number would suddenly choose to enter the sector in 2009 and 2010. That is not to say that these are not proper or useful jobs – but that it is more likely an indicator of the slow job market that many graduates are working in this area 6 months after graduating.

Next: A closer look at the unemployment figures and graduate starting salaries

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