2000, according to a January 18 2012, Chicago Tribune article citing data from the National Science Board (NSB 2012, Shropshire 2012). The global “middle class,” defined as people with incomes between $6,000 and $30,000, rose from 1 billion to more than 1.5 billion since the mid-1980s and could climb to 4 billion people by 2040, according to an analysis by Goldman Sachs (Wilson and Dragusanu, 2008). When the executives of multinational corporations look at these data, said Platz, “they see where future demand is, and they redeploy their workforce accordingly.”

•   Young people who are graduating from college with an undergraduate chemistry degree face stark choices. They can go to graduate school in chemistry, in which case, if they aspire to be a professor at a research university, they will enter the workplace between ages 28 and 32, have an unknown likelihood of getting a job, command a salary of between $75,000 and $92,000 (though with little debt from graduate school), have little control over where they work, and face intense work demands. Or they can go to graduate school in dentistry or pharmacy, begin working at age 25, earn between $150,000 and $300,000 a year (though they may emerge from graduate school with $150,000 to $200,000 in debt), have control over where they work, and work four or five eight-hour days.

•   In 2011, student debt exceeded $1 trillion dollars and Americans now owe more student loans than credit cards (Cauchon 2011).

•   Future employment in industry of chemistry PhDs will increasingly be in small companies and start-up companies, and preparing people for these careers cannot be done by lengthening the time they spend in graduate school or as postdoctoral fellows.

•   Today, 45 percent of children younger than age 5 are minorities (Center for Public Education 2011). Yet less than 8 percent of ACS chemists are Hispanic, black, American Indian, or some other race or ethnicity (ACS 2010, 2012a) (Figure 2-2).

•   The costs of public undergraduate education per student are rising faster than the revenue that can be generated per student. Short-term fixes have been to teach more students with fewer faculty and staff and admit more overseas students, who pay out-of-state tuition.

•   As students with liberal arts degrees continue to find it difficult to secure jobs, and as more international students enter U.S. colleges, enrollments in chemistry will likely continue to increase. This will generate wait lists for courses unless the laboratory experience can be radically changed. Alternately, university administrators could see chemistry as a “cash cow” to generate money for other parts of the institution.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement