Hello ... looking for a career.

Off-topic conversations and chit-chat.

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Hello everyone. I'm a Canadian living in Alberta. I'm about five months away from graduating from my chemistry program. Taking an interest in chromatography. Its a very interesting instrument. A lot of chemistry involved in chromatography. Plus it has numerous applications.

I'm curious, in the context of a future career, how does chromatography look? My program head offered me a job out of school with a company that does analytical work. I'd be traveling around the world with a chrom instrument, setting it up, doing some analysis and troubleshooting, and heading home. I realize there is no specific career designation as a chromatographer, but there must be some value in becoming an expert ?? It appears as though there is still much to learn about chromatography.

Thank you for any answers ... and certainly this forum.

Separations siences in general is a good field to be in and the job market is pretty good.

The job that you are describing sounds like a field engineer and you need some training before you become one, otherwise it might be a stressful job for you and your company's clients. You must also realize that there is too much travelling, which might be OK for a couple of years but it might becoming very tiring and not ideal from the point that you will decide to have a family.

Although as a field engineer, you might not need to have too much knowledge of method development and chromatography in general (if your job is just HPLC set up and trouble shooting) you will need to be quite experienced in chromatography if you want to become anything else such as application scientist or method development analytical chemist etc....

Personally, I would suggest that you do an application master degree in separation science before you go on with a career in chromatography...

Depends what you want to be when you grow up. :wink:

I'll disagree with Kostas on the value of a master's degree: if you want to keep doing science, and you don't mind doing science that interests someone else, then you really don't need an advanced degree. A master's degree is essentially worthless in the marketplace, as evidenced by the fact that the average salary with an MS degree is only slightly above that of a BS with comparable experience and is far below that of a PhD.

If you want to keep doing science that interests you, then the PhD is the entry ticket. It is possible to succeed without it, but it's an uphill climb.

If you're not sure you want to be a scientist when you grow up, then the job you describe is a good entry into the business side of things. The growth path then is likely to be in sales and/or management rather than science. A PhD isn't necessary in this case (an MBA may be more useful).

I've think that research (on the one hand) and applications/support work (on the other hand) require different personality types. In research, the premium is on thoroughness (the old joke about learning more and more about less and less until finally you know everything there is to know about nothing). In applications, the premium is on quickness .

I long ago concluded that I don't have the patience to be a good researcher (I have the attention span of a three-year-old), and I've seen too many good researchers wash out of applications work because they couldn't handle the need to come up with quick answers and then get on to the next problem. You have to look at yourself and try to judge where you fit on this deep/quick continuum.
-- Tom Jupille
LC Resources / Separation Science Associates
tjupille@lcresources.com
+ 1 (925) 297-5374

I suggested the Master's as

1) Will introduce him in to HPLC and make his life easier later
2) Will give him the opportunity to see if he likes research or not

From his message though it looked like that post-graduate studies was not an option...

Kostas, I'll go along with point 2, but I'd still disagree somewhat with point 1. I think you can learn more practical chromatography from the "school of hard knocks" than you can from a master's degree program -- if you work at it (and I speak from experience!). I was fortunate to have a mentor at work (John Perry) who forced me to really learn chromatography (I still have a well-worn copy of Giddings' Dynamics of Chromatography that he gave me and quizzed me on relentlessly :) ).
-- Tom Jupille
LC Resources / Separation Science Associates
tjupille@lcresources.com
+ 1 (925) 297-5374

Tom,

I agree somewhat with you. Yes you can learn practical chromatography from the "school of hard knocks" although it is not fair for the people that hire you and have some expectations from you. The fact that you said that "you were fortunate enough" prove a little bit my point as you were lucky to have a good mentor at work, willing to invest his energy on your development (obviously he saw a great potential on you :wink: ).

I also talk by experience when I say about a Master degree, although my degree was from France where we had courses every Monday and the rest of the week was dedicated to research. Also, in my case, I choose really the hard path, but this is another story that I am willing to share when we'll meet in the near future (i.e. conference or similar...).

Finally, in countries other than USA, having a MSc counts more...

Dear Technologist,

Tom and Kostas both make valid points. Really you need to decide what turns you on? Do you want to do pure science/research or do you want to put the greenbacks in your pocket? Or is it something in between? My guess is you are young at least by our standards and looking back if someone offered me the chance to travel the world and of making more money than I'd had at college I'd have snapped their fingers off. What you describe is a great job for a young guy or girl who has plenty of get up and go and their fair share of brain cells. Most dont last more than a couple of years before other things interest them, like seeing friends family etc but by that time you will have learned ten times more than you will have in any university PhD program. You will be eminently employable but depending on what you decide to do next those missing initials (Dr) may make a big difference to either landing a job or getting a job and watching someone with those initials walk into a job alongside you on more money but less ability. Life sucks, then you die so enjoy it while you can. :wink: Good luck with whatever you decide.

I'm in the U.S., and finished my Master's degree a little over 5 years ago. I think it's about the best thing I could've done for my career. I say "about" because I'm willing to admit that a PhD might've been better. But I don't know if I would have had the patience to finish a PhD. Also, I think some of the tasks PhD's often must perform, such as writing proposals or worrying about budgets, aren't things I would enjoy doing.

A PhD in Europe can be last only 3 years, most of the time you do not have to worry about taking any kind of classes (i.e. spend most of your time doing research), you do not have to spend time for writing proposals, although the budget is not great...

Experience in wriitng proposals though can be beneficial, but not for the industry I have to admitt.

Someone could debate if they should consider European and American PhD programs equivelant, the fact is that they do...

Finally, I always get complains (and had the opportunity to notice it) from people that they do not have a PhD and doing research, that their opinions, most of the time are not taken seriously (if they even ask for their opinion) and that it is much more difficult to advance in the same organization (in general they have to switch jobs much more often if they want to have a promotion and better salary). On the other hand, a PhD can be a frustrated experience for some people (either because they do not really qualify or because they did not choose the right mentor/project). The discrimination between PhD's and not PhD's is much more evident in other parts of the world than in the USA...

PhD can open new doors of oportunities, but it is not for everyone... (MG, you would have been a great PhD candidate :wink: ).
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