Monday, March 06, 2006

General degree holders

I don't get the point about this letter. Do you? Want to have a job that relates to your academic discipline? Do a professional degree course like Medicine, Nursing, Law, Architecture, Accountancy, Engineering etc instead.

Oh yeah, there are also the test-tube washer positions available in one of the stat boards.

Straits Times, March 7, 2006
What can you do with a chemistry degree in S'pore?

This issue "What can you do in Singapore with a degree in chemistry?" was a topic to which I was assigned as a team project in the National University of Singapore for a module entitled Science Foundation Module four years ago.

Not surprisingly, the survey my team conducted revealed that almost 80 per cent of chemistry graduates end up as teachers teaching chemistry.

Today, let me modify the title to "What can you do in the enterprises of Singapore with a degree in chemistry?" Again, not surprisingly, I am sure that about 80 per cent of chemistry graduates are unemployed.

Of all the job advertisements in The Straits Times that I have been looking at, those recruiting degree-holders in chemistry are really too few to talk about - about only 5 per cent of the jobs available.

What is worse is that these job advertisements are mostly from companies engaging in services such as semiconductors and polymers.

This the crux of the problem that I am highlighting. As undergraduates who majored in chemistry, we studied modules pertaining to general chemistry and not on specific topics, unless you are majoring in applied chemistry.

I urge these enterprises to state clearly in their recruitment advertisements whether they want degree-holders in applied chemistry or chemical engineering. Then maybe the educational authorities will look into this matter.

Eric Lim Chee Khiam

Edit (Mar 12): L'oiseau rebelle's thoughts on this issue, and Kreps' take.


L'oiseau rebelle said...

Oh noooooooo... I'm screwed! With my largely pure math academic program no employer is gonna hire me because how can algebraic topology be useful to a company??????? And I can't even wash test tubes as I haven't touched a test tube since secondary school! *sob*

Ultimately it depends on how you market your skills to employers, showing employers how relevant they are to the job you're applying for.

On a more positive note, a lot of job ads for actuarial and finance positions list "mathematics" as one of the preferred majors. I'm sure there are similar ways of marketing a chemistry degree effectively.

takchek said...

Actually prospective undergrads should do some homework on their own first before deciding on their major. To avoid getting screwed like this.

L'oiseau rebelle said...

One of the main reasons (other than the obvious one) for my doing a math major is that it is highly versatile and well respected in the US. Which means graduate school and entering the job market are both viable options.

In my opinion, no matter what major one chooses, one should take "practical" classes such as econ and finance (and such knowledge will never be useless, even if not employed in the finance/business industry), learn how to communicate effectively, and develop skills other than that of studying for exams.

Oh, and not pigeonhole yourself into thinking that only a certain type of job is suitable. Heh... if I sought out jobs that specifically required a pure math major you'll find me living on the streets by the end of the year.

applchem grad said...

cool.. i didnt realise there was this article written! gosh.. it was a smack on my face. I am an applied chemistry grad. from the looks of article, it must be pen by a chemistry grad, who is stuck, jobless. come on, ALL my friends are employed, concidentally ALL in chemistry field, with 5 doing post grads. what say u?

Sylvester said...

Got a degree? Got a job? For hoe long? Reach 40? Prepare yourself with a taxi licence