OK, what do you want? was....Re: Still "another" and possibly "better" job/career path....

Arthur Sowers arthures at magpage.com
Wed Feb 21 03:53:31 EST 2001

I responded to Brian's comments in a post earlier today...now I have an
additional set of comments...below...

On 20 Feb 2001, Arthur Sowers wrote:

> On 20 Feb 2001, Brian Moore wrote:
> > In article <96sjn4$po2$0 at>,
> > Arthur Sowers  <arthures at magpage.com> wrote:
> > >
> > ...
> > >
> > >here's the quote from near the end:
> > >
> > >"Moreover, firefighters are among the highest paid city worker whose jobs
> > >don't require a college education [that means not even undergraduate]. In
> > >Kansas City, a firefighter with 32-1/2 years on the job typically makes
> > >$50,000 or more and can retire with a pension that amounts to 80% of his
> > >full-time pay."
> > >
> > >and there is a sidebar which I quote:
> > >
> > >"It isn't easy fighting the fire department at budget time, says Kansas
> > >City auditor Mark Funkhouser. 'When this city does voter-satisfaction
> > >surveys, every department is trashed except the firefighters,' he
> > >says.'They are the most beloved public servants of all' "
> > >
> > 
> > 
> > A couple of comments:
> > 
> > --It is notoriously hard to get a paying job as a firefighter.  
>  A couple of commments...
> guys in high paying simple jobs often end up keeping them, thus low
> turnover. 
> > 
> > --Is $50 K after 30+ years really something to crow about?
> Ah, lets see, 4-5 years undergrad, plus 5+ years grad, plus 5-10
> postdocing, adds up to 15-20 years and lets review the income picture over
> those 15-20 years, too. There are lots of PhDs making less than 50 K
> after 30 years, and some end up worse off, too. I think there are few high
> school science teachers making 50K too. 
> > --Many, many communities don't pay their firefighters at all, so
> > it's not an option anyhow. 
> The point is, as I have stated many times, is to look for those jobs that
> pay better. They do exist.
> Art

SRC has a mixture of comments on career problems and comments
rather unrelated to career problems. SR Career problems fall into two
categories: i) how to get into a career, and ii) what to do when one
_can't_ get into one, or _can't_ keep a SR career going. 

I've placed my own musings, learnings, references to other sources (mostly
on my website) here for all to learn/benefit from in whatever way they
can. My musings, etc., are centered around _my_ situation and not anyone
elses but two things are apparent: i) in the geographical area I am in
(where my wife and I decided to settle for the rest of our lives) there
really is ZERO high tech, ZERO govt/national labs, ZERO science efforts
for over a hundred mile radius, or more (and the colleges are not research

I am 57 and most jobs around here are entry level, and looking (as most
are) for people in their 20s-30s, and not very well paying. I've ruled out
teaching for a number of reasons, some personal (including bomb threats,
and [as has been on the news recently], finding kids actually building
bombs and planning attacks on schools). 

Finding any kind of regular faculty job is out of the question because I'm
refusing to move (sell a house and buy a house) for anything with poor
security (any faculty job will either be temp and subject to the whims of
a chair/dean/director/etc or tenure track with roughly 50% chance for
denial). More importantly, the hundreds of applicants per job is a big
turn off. 

_My_ targeted future gainful employment is really as my own small business
(Arthur E. Sowers, Inc., is "since '95", has positive cash flow and
expanding, though slowly). I have also kept my eye on jobs and occupations
that _are_ out there which pay decent, have decent job security (at least
compared to postdocs and temp faculty), and (generally) alow you to stay
in your same geographical area. Some of you guys either don't think your
careers could end one day, or you are holding out for some "magic" job, in
some hidden valley, somewhere, where they readily hire PhDs into cushy
high paying jobs at desks in nice offices. In all my driving around,
reading the papers, talking with lots more people than ever post on src, I
have not found anything like magic answers for ex-scientists. I see guys
ending up as real estate agents, car salespersons, Radio Shack store
managers (they guy didn't last, either), and lots of other credible but
not so great jobs. Some guys can get into writing and scientific writing,
but I don't want to do that (for several reasons, including some inherent 
problems with free-lancing) and the job market for writers in my area is
infinitesimal. I don't want to do the high-tech start-up thing because its
so risky (I've done scientific consulting for three outfits in my
specialty and one company went out of business, and the other two are
sueing each other now, plus there are a number of other special problems
associated with high tech startups).  

I know one asian PhD (Biochemistry, Duke University) who got sick of the
bullshit and started a janitor service (had 12-14 guys working for him and
he was happy with this). I have discussed others on my website who got
PhDs, some went into academia, but most are doing things for a living now
that have no relation to their specialization.

I've heard of a few people working at the US Patent office; one article I
read says there is 30% turnover per year. I've gotten two patents in my
life and helped one of these startups I consulted for get a patent. I'm
not that thrilled with this stuff. Its not scientific. There is semantics,
overlap in descriptions, relevance, and "interference" and getting a
patent does not mean you are insulated (its possible to get a patent

I know, directly or indirectly, a handfull of people who became grant
review persons at NIH. Its also very competitive and there is turnover
there, too. You organize/conduct review panels and watch 1 to 1-1/2 foot
high stacks of grant proposals get reveiwed so that 80-90% get turned down
all the time. A lot of paper-pushing. 

There are other alternatives ( a few are science-related; others ... I
just dont see any relationship to the degree): many are discussed in two books 
I reviewed on my website.

I don't have any problems with young people who want to "try" for the
dream. The caveat is: what are you going to do when something bad
happens? The guys in engineering might be able to tangent into something
related, but the guys in science are not going to prance into
"industrial" labs easily without some years of prior and relevant
experience OR a damned good schmooze job in the interview OR with
relatives at the company OR some other trick. "When something bad
happens" really _is_ going to happen: about 50% of tenure track guys are
going to get denied, on average. Lots of guys not on tenure track _are_
going to be not renewed. Some guys denied may get another tenure track,
but there is still another 50% chance for denial. The land mines are
there. There was that article on astronomy careeers and that article in
The Scientist where 40% of biomed PhDs were either totally out of science
or still on postdocs ten years after their PhDs (ten years after the PhD
is about age 40 and one should be _in_ a career by then, socking away
money for retirement, having a life/family, etc. and NOT sitting around
in limbo). 

The rest of the job landscape is in the Yellow Pages and the Sunday
Newspaper classified ads. Most of these jobs are not particularly
thrilling to me, and most are not all that high paying, either. I, and few
of you all, are neither going to go to med school nor law school (for
another 4 years, plus anything after that) to get a 
"technically" attractive desk/office alternative career something like
Captain Kirk on the bridge of the starship Enterprise giving orders to
a crew and asking the ship's computer questions that it will always
answer correctly. I don't see too many people here ending up in pro-sports
(with megabuck salaries) or entertainment (eg. movie actors), either. 

I have seen very very very very few posts by anyone else which address
this problem. But, I'm seeing a lot of "but" and "yes, but" and "but
that's hard" and "well, I don't like that" and some argumentation that 
no matter how bad the career picture is in academia, its worse in
industry, etc.  Folks, I don't care if a given person just doesn't like
some of the real world, but if a given person just doesn't like the whole
rest of the real world, then we're not going anywhere.

  Arthur E. Sowers, PhD
  | Science career information website:   |
  | http://www.magpage.com/~arthures      |

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