What did you do when you graduated college

I am set to graduate in december of 2006 (for some reason all the major events that have affected me in life over the last 10 years have happened in december). I will have a B.S. in chemistry. What I am planning to do is try to find a job (obviously). I will probably either move back with family while I look for a job, or I will find a menial 25/hr week job here, continue to sell plasma and the money I make from those 2 ventures (roughly $800/month after taxes) should be almost enough to pay for rent/food/gasoline/misc/utilities/insurance.

Should I not be able to find a job I may either join some organization I want to join like the peace corps, or the military. Actually I want to join the peace corps or military anyway (I wish I had before I started college so I could’ve at least had some of the financial benefits and life experience, but if I had i’d be in Iraq right now), but fear if I join them that that means I will not find a job related to chemistry for 2, 3, 4+ years after I graduate from college since i’d have the year or so of not finding a job plus the year(s) spent in these organizations. Doing that may make it 10x harder to get a job once i’m back to civilian life.

So I figure maybe grad school is another option. I have thought of a MLIS degree, but since finding a job with that is hard i’d just end up back at step one where I was in december of 2006. I have also considered a quick 1 year technical school degree (medical technician, pharmacy technician, HVAC technician, etc) that pays about $10-14/hr. But then i’d feel like I wasted all those college years. And I don’t want to end up like some of my working poor friends who have two or three 1 and 2 year degrees and never use them. I suppose I could also try for a medical technologist BS addendum to my BS in chemistry over at IUPUI, there is alot of demand in that field.

As far as what I should do while i’m still in college to improve my chances of finding gainful employment, I think trying to get research assistant positions will help me find a job after I graduate. Also I want to do an internship in summer of 2006 to help me find a job. And getting a few letters of recommendation from professors I help with their research should help.

I can live poor and don’t mind it, and I hope this will open up new options to me than I would have if I were obsessed with being well off. I can work a chemical technicians job or a regular chemists job as well as various jobs that only require ‘some’ college IMO, I wouldn’t ‘need’ to hold off for a regular chemist job (there are only about 90-100k in the US) but i’d prefer once since its less mind numbing than a technicians job.

I guess what i’m asking for is ‘what did you do after college’ and ‘what options helped you/do you think will help you get where you want to go’?

I figure my goals with my career are

  1. Secure income (30k or higher is preferable, but not necessary and I don’t need to start at this income. I only support myself in the midwest so 30k is fine)
  2. A job I do not dislike too much
  3. Freedom to try something new (this is largely why i’m not going to try for grad school in chemistry. A M.S. is near worthless and a Ph.D. is a 5 year investment. I’d rather have the option of tons of M.S./M.A. programs not related to chemistry should I decide to change careers someday.

I have seriously considered buying a Class B mobile home and living on the streets. I think that would be a good life experience and it would be fun, albeit boring as hell. It would also cut living expenses down to $500 a month, but I don’t know if the saving of $200-400/month (which is how much extra it costs for rent & utilities in the midwest) is worth the intense lifestyle change that this would provide.

So what did you do.

I graduated with an Econ degree, worked as a full-time volunteer for a year (room, board and a small stipend provided while you work a full-time job) at a social service agency, went on staff for a year at the same agency, and then went back to grad school. Am now (15 years out of college) working a job I could have gotten with my BA. It’s been a windy road but I feel pretty settled and happy now.

What makes you happy? Why did you choose Chemistry? What sort of personality do you have? I would recommend getting some sort of “real” job in your field or related out of school rather than just working a menial job. This would show that you have some direction and are putting your education to work. Or chuck it all and go the Peace Corps route; it shows a dedication to an ideal rather than just working anywhere to make ends meet. This is assuming you have the luxury to do so; nothing wrong with working wherever you can if there are limitations on what is available.

I don’t know what makes me happy. I don’t think a vocation will provide happiness though, but it can drain happiness if the vocation is high stress, unreliable, hard to find or pays too little. Happiness comes from a mix of genetics, pharmacology and personal outlook, not from vocation IMO.

I chose chemistry because I like it, I like small things and I honestly find the subject of chemistry beautiful. I would’ve studied microbiology but I figured a chemistry degree would make it easier to get a job when I graduate.

When I was mentally ill several years ago I was 99% sure I would spend my life homeless or living with my parents, so as a result i’m a little more nervous about not finding a job than most people. So I guess in a way i’m more of a pushover who will take a job he hates that pays peanuts rather than follow his dream since I have that cloud hanging over my head. But once I find out and prove to myself that I am capable of financially surviving i’m sure i’ll push for something better.

I took the book-store-cafe-staff-morphing-into-“Mr. IT Guy” road. Bumpy and slow going at first, but once you hit 5th gear, look out!


B.A. Poli Sci in 2000

First I worked for the Democratic Party from July-November on a congressional campaign in the Midwest. It was a fun and exciting experience.

After that I tried to move to DC and get some sort of government job but it proved to be difficult and it seemed as though they barely paid a living wage given the costs. Also my parents were getting histrionic about me not taking my life “seriously,” so I moved back to the upper east and in with them. They support me financially to some extent so I feel they get a pretty big say so to speak b/c there’s no way I wanted to hack it on my own until I got a nice professional job.

Two weeks before what seemed like the universal application of hiring freezes, I got a job in e-commerce in a B2B trade company (Jan. '01). I was in Marketing and I lived the Office Space world for the next 10 months. My job was to write summaries of fast-moving semiconductors and electronic components for our online sales/marketing database. All I will say is that I’m glad my boss gave me the opportunity even though I HATED the job b/c my 10 month tenure alone paid for all of my first year grad school tuition + some retirement savings.

After a few months I realised that working + the real world sucked when you start on the real bottom. And my dad was twisting my arm on when I was going to go get a “real,” degree so I started thinking about grad school. Basically my way of doing this was to write down everything I seemed qualified, tear up the pieces of paper and pull my future career out of a hat (well, bowl). I picked law (parents were ecstatic, they probably would have requested a re-pick were it less profitable) so I sat down and took the LSAT.

Around October I could feel which way the wind was blowing on the company I worked for so I took my boss aside and said if there were anymore layoffs (I had survived 2) that it would be better to submit me in the group rather than peop with kids/spouses b/c I was planning on going back to school by next year anyway. He took me at my word and I got laid-off with a nice 16 week severance package.

Since I got a lump-sum payment I started collecting unemployment, writing my applications and looking for another job. That took exactly 16 weeks, which was convenient. I did some temping now and then.

Almost exactly 16 weeks after I got laid off I got a job teaching LSAT/SATs for a testing company and a real day job in sales/marketing (writing presentations) for an IT outsourcing company. I also started privately tutouring for tests.

Did that until the beginning of July at which point I quit everything and took a 1 month vacation of doing nothing until lawschool started.

The whole process took from May 2000-August 2002

I take it that you have never had either a truly miserable job, or a truly great one. I’ve had both, and it has made a ton of difference in my happiness.

When I was a senior, back in 1973, I both applied to grad schools and interviewed. I chose to go to grad school, which was absolutely right for me. I decided that I wanted to do research, and wanted to learn a lot more about computers than I did in school. I had stuff I wanted to learn about, and to do research on, which led to a very satisfying graduate school career. But it is just as valid to want to do “real” things for a while.

At the least, you should explore all routes - apply to grad schools and see what kind of jobs you can get. Then you’ll have real options, and knowing there is a possibility of a job should be very reassuring.

Ultimately I agree with you but having a job that fits your sense of yourself and what makes you happy (comfortable, at home) helps out. I guess I mean are you happier alone, in a more social work climate, etc., tasks that repeat every week or month or a new project regularly with less definition…

I would detest something like sales, but if you feel comfortable with that kind of thing, there maybe corporate work for someone who knows chemistry and could sell pharmaceuticals, or something.

I like the routine of closing the books every month but also found that I liked finishing one project and starting a new one without having to revisit the last one again.

That’s kind of what I mean by what makes you happy/thrive. You may not know until after you have more work experience under your belt.

I moved with most of my college rock band to Prague, Czech Republic for two years, where I played music and worked in a bar, in a tattoo shop, and doing sound at raves. Then I came back to America and went to law school, to the shock of most.

Moved to Los Angeles. Spent shitloads of money.

Came home. Worked retail ever since.

Good luck to you on that $30,000 goal.

Graduated on a Friday.
Came home for a party with relatives and friends on Saturday.
Left for my first trip to Europe on Sunday and travelled on the cheap for 4 months(on some savings and the graduation money I got on that Saturday).
Was a great time!

I’m graduating with my BS in chemistry (Chem majors of the world unite!!!) in May 2005. I’m going to grad school, crosses fingers, hopes to get in, in Cali. If all else fails, my friend/ once and future roommate / guy my parents hate and I will get in my car, drvie to Cali and I’ll find a job. Those are my plans, I hope they work out.

Oh, with a BS in chemistry, 30 K shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve been told to expect 40 to 50K in the Northeast or Midwest.

Yeah. I read an ACS survey saying 58k was the median for BS chemists with experience back in 2002 (68 and 85 were the medians for MS and PhD chemists). It could be closer to 61k in 2004. With luck it’ll rise to 70-80k when I am experienced around 2012. Starting is around 28-35 so hitting 30k shouldn’t be a problem for me.

One of my big fears is not being able to find a job in chemistry when I graduate though, I don’t want to end up one of those people who doesn’t use his degree since I actually enjoy chemistry.

Are you still trying to get into MIT like your brother or are you going somewhere else? My Inorganic professor went to MIT and just graduated in 2001.

I graduated in 1986 with BA in Music.

I stayed in my college town (Boulder, CO) and played in a succession of bands while working crap jobs and living in a shack in the mountains. Friends lived next door so it wasn’t so bad. I bought a mountain bike, trained, and took a month off and rode all around souteastern Utah. I worked another job for a year, then took another month off and did a 21 day raft trip through the Grand Canyon. I worked for a few months after that then got laid off.

I went back to school for a semester, learned that being a music teacher wasn’t for me but at the same time worked in a psychology lab running a device that tracked eye movements and learned basic PC & mainframe stuff.

In '89 I came to NYC, used my meager computer experience and a lot of enthusiasm to land a job in the clinical trials office at a cancer research hospital, did that for six years, then went into the pharmaceutical industry.

I graduated in December 1984 with a BEc degree and started full-time work a couple of weeks later. I’ve basically been working full-time ever since. Rather dull, really.

I graduated in March 2000 with a BA in Anthropology. A woman I’d babysat for in high school and who adored me was the manager of the department of medical anthropology at a nearby university and asked if I’d like to be her administrative assistant. At the time, I was still planning to go to grad school in anthropology, so I thought this would be great. It’s not like I’d be working in the field or anything, but I’d get to be around anthropologists, all of whom would write me wonderful letters of recommendation. I started immediately after I graduated, but the job didn’t work out for various reasons and within a couple months I ended up working at a bookstore, living with my parents. Yeah, I felt like a super success. Truth be told, I really liked working in a bookstore though, and I did that for about a year and a half, til I decided that this was not okay in the long run. I applied for bunches of jobs in the paper, everything I thought I’d be qualified for, and ended up as a junior loan processor. Little did I know that three years later, I’d still be a loan processor.


Seriously, my job is okay and it’s a fine field and I like my coworkers and I pay my rent and blah blah, but the more time I spend in a cubicle farm, the more I realize I want to do something else with my life. In another window I am currently putting the final touches on my Peace Corps application (I applied and was accepted previously, but it didn’t happen for various reasons).

The whole “getting out of college” thing is hard. I mean, with a degree in Anthropology, what was I going to do? There weren’t a lot of job openings that I could find for cultural theorists or ethnologists. I don’t regret my education or anything, but like someone said on the SDMB recently, a university isn’t a vocational school. It doesn’t teach you how to make a living, it teaches you how to think and be an educated person. It’s only after a few years of struggling at making a living that I think I’ve figured out what I really want to do.

Good luck.

I basically speant a year living with my parents, working crappy jobs, partying on the Jersey Shore and in a ski house with some college pals, drinking with my high school and college friends and basically putting off the real world as long as possible.

After the first time I graduated university I went canoeing.

After the second time I graduated university I went canoeing.

After the third time I graduated university I went canoeing.

As far as paying for it all goes, during the first degree (English) I worked in a funeral home. Quiet evening and weekend work, and a great way to make connections in the community.

During the second degree (English) I did a lot of contract technical writing in the computer and nuclear fields.

Following the second degree I taught at university (both English and kayaking) , continued with my tech writing business, and ran a canoe club.

During the third degee (law) I took it easy by closing my tech writing business and only working as a canoe and kayak instructor in the summer and as a computer lab geek in the winter.

Since then I have happily earned my living suing assholes. After work and on the weekends, I canoe and kayak in the summer, and ski in the winter.

Overall, I played the numbers. The more degrees, the better the employment opportunities and the higher the income. The trick was to translate the liberal arts skills into something marketable, and get out and hustle. Keeping a balance, including recreation, also helped tremendously, for it left me feeling fresh for work and school.

There’s a lot to be said for catching the tiger by the tail and hanging on for the ride.

Let’s see, I graduated in 1997 with a BA in Anthropology. I moved across the country and did some “whatever” jobs at first. I temped, and worked in a toy store part time to make ends meet. Then I got a full time job with a digital imaging company (I have no graphics background, but I am fairly experienced with macintosh which was a requirement for this job). I did that about 9 months. Just when I thought I’d go crazy from my micro-managing boss, I got a call on a resume I had sent to a local major employer (Borders Group). I took a “foot-in-door” position as a customer service rep for their online division. After 9 months I started applying for other jobs within the company. I was accepted as a Public Relations Assistant to a manager who also worked in the online division and knew me. Then, my manager stopped doing PR per se, and began to be in charge of editorial content for the site. I followed along and found myself a junior copywriter. One way or another, my job changed and expanded until 7 years had passed, I held the important-sounding title of Content Editor, and I was writing online newsletters in Science Fiction, Romance and Nonfiction for the Borders and Waldenbooks chains.

Then, I got fed up, quit my job, moved across the country again, and took a job as morning manager on a horse farm. (I had a moderate amount of experience for this actually). That’s what I’m doing now. I feed the horses in the morning and teach lessons a couple of evenings a week. In the meantime I’m catching up on the 19 boxes of books I collected over 7 years with Borders.

Buuuut I’m not done yet. the horse thing is basically a working vacation. In the Spring I’m moving to London to take a job in Market Research. It seems I’m coming back round to using my BA. Interesting.

Wesley you should look into the field of Archaeological Conservation. the goal of Conservation is to physically preserve artifacts that are removed from archaeological sites, so they don’t degrade any further. A strong background in Chemistry is a huge benefit and you can get a job with a Masters. The most notable program is at American University, they are affiliated with the Smithsonian and offer all kinds of cool hands-on internships and such.

Back in college I worked in a conservation lab on campus. It was really cool, and I seriously considered going for a masters a couple of years ago. Ultimately, though, I’m just too sick of school to go back.

And back to your OP, the Peace Corps has a wide variety of different projects. You might even find one that furthers your interest in the sciences. It’s possible.

After community college, I went straight into university, started teaching there when I was getting my M.A., and continued tutoring and teaching there until budget cuts, at which point I took my services to community colleges.

I also do placement tests, freelance editing, and faculty association work.

I never really left!

If you want a few years to figure out exactly what you want to do, Chemistry grad school may actually not be a bad idea. It (Ph.D., since a chem masters won’t do you much good) pays ~2X as much as you mentioned above (but this is not a 25hr/week job) and usually provides some sort of medical insurance either for free or at a reasonable price. If you think you may want to get a Ph.D., I say go for it while you’re still used to being in school. Most schools will usually give you a masters if you change your mind and quit after two years. Sometimes they’ll even help hook you up with a job.

The job options aren’t as stifling as you may think. I recommend talking to some chem faculty about some of the non-traditional fields their students have gone into after finshing their graduate education.

To answer your main question, I graduated last year (BA in chem) and started grad school this year. I really like chemistry but I also really don’t like the jobs that I could have gotten w/just an undergrad degree. Granted I think I was a bit more decided on what I wanted to do back when I was at your stage in the game.

Good luck, and please do keep in mind that grad school isn’t necessarily an all-or-nothing 5-years-down-the-toilet ordeal. A lot of people change their mind and do just fine.
Oh before I forget…

YES YES YES YES! No matter what you end up doing, the experience will look good! Plus it’s pretty much required if you want to do the grad school thing. If you want to get a lab tech job after graduating, potential employers will see that you already know your way around a lab and they’ll only like you better for it.