Monday, April 23, 2012

BLS data on Life Scientists

First off, a h/t to Chemjobber, who is great at navigating the Bureau of Labor Statistics to pull out depressing chemistry statistics so I that I can find a place to pull more optimistic biology numbers to share.

The BLS handbook is a great place to explore careers, and the online version makes it much easier to navigate.  Skills and work environment are matched to job growth and salary information, and linked to related jobs in a very helpful way.

So, remember last week when I found that number about huge growth for Medical Scientists?  Well, here is a little more comparative data, including projections for "Life Scientists," which is probably a more accurate description of who I am right now. 

Life scientists are not as fast growing, nor as well paid as medical scientists- but this also seems more realistic.  In the next 20 years, BLS predicts a 36% increase in medical scientist jobs (or 36,000 jobs), and a 20% increase in Life Science jobs.  (The expected national average is closer to 17% growth in jobs.)

Compare the predicted job growth for biochemists and biophysicists, the need is expected to grow by 31%, but this is actually only 7,700 jobs.  (They make more money though).

One facet you should be aware of (before your brain explodes) is that these documents suggest that there is no on the job training for any of these positions.  What I am getting at, is that none of these numbers account for grad students or post-docs, who I totally believe deserve to call themselves scientists.  I had previously thought that this median income data included us trainees, which implies that the top of that bell curve must be set to counterbalance an army of grant-funded RAs. If that's not the case, then the top of the curve is probably not so far away, because it only includes people who actually perform experiments and still wear a lab coat sometimes.  (BLS is very systematic about their categorizations.  My old PI would not likely count as a Life Scientist, he would instead be a Post-Secondary Teacher based on what he does daily.)

Not sure what this does for my job hunt, but BLS showed me that very few jobs for people with a Ph.D. have any on-the-job training, so be sure you've learned everything you need to know to enter industry before you walk away from academia.  (Ha, I jest).

Next time you encounter a student trying to decide what to do with their life, point that at the Occupational Outlook Handbook, so they can avoid the sad fate of chemists, who believed there was a great need, and are now unemployed.

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