For chemists seeking academic jobs, finding a position has always been a challenge, with more candidates than positions available. To make matters worse, the COVID-19 pandemic caused hiring freezes and shifted the interview process to the virtual space. A cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, explores how the academic job market changed over the last two years and how candidates are adapting to the new landscape.
For colleges and universities looking to hire professors, the process takes months of recruiting and interviewing, as well as many campus visits, to determine the right fit, writes Senior Correspondent Bethany Halford. Chemists wrapping up postdoctoral programs often endure multiple hiring cycles before landing an academic position, though some opt to enter the chemical industry or other related fields instead. The pandemic delayed the hiring cycle by several months, and experts have noted that the 2020-21 cycle posted 40% fewer jobs than in previous years. And because taking an academic position often means relocating and setting up a lab, this delay has created extra challenges for new hires in an already arduous process.
With fewer opportunities available, many hopeful academic chemists had to rethink their job searches. Some took a gamble and accepted positions without visiting the campus first, whereas others expanded their criteria for positions or decided to defer any decisions until the market stabilized. The pandemic also prompted chemists to find jobs outside academia, where opportunities in the industrial, editorial and government realms were more numerous and could be done remotely. Although institutions found the virtual hiring process challenging, it also presented opportunities to better screen candidates and involve fewer people in meetings. Despite the difficult circumstances of 2020 and beyond, job-seeking chemists are optimistic that the hiring market will rebound as a new normal is established.
The article, “Career, interrupted”, is freely available here.
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