Review: What You Need for the First Job, Besides the Ph.D. in Chemistry by Mark A. Benvenuto, Ed.

This book is based on the ACS Symposium with the same title1, with additional chapters added in print. Thirteen chapters are grouped into three sections: jobs in the corporate, government, and academic sectors but much of the material presented applies to all three sectors. In addition, the helpful information and tips are of value not only to Ph.D. candidates in chemistry but also to Ph.D. candidates in general, as well as mentors, interviewers, management, organizational leadership, and even job seekers for subsequent jobs.

The four chapters on job acquisition in the corporate sphere have several key requirements in common with varying ranking and are aimed primarily on jobs in research. Communication, time management, knowledge and awareness are considered. The fourth chapter covers both career and life planning.

Many aspects of finding a job in the government sector are common to those in the corporate sector. The first of the two chapters further expands details of communication and personal relationships. Included are the need to put conclusions at the beginning of reports and proposals, the importance of the “elevator speech”, mutual development both personal and of others in collaboration, and acquiring breadth as well as depth in your personal subject matter. 

Eight chapters cover academic jobs. The first, “Tenure-Track Position at an Undergraduate Institution - Application Package and Beyond”, has the most extensive coverage of the entire job search process. Included are advertisements of positions available (Chemical and Engineering News and The Chronicle of Higher Education are cited), plus tips, do’s and don’ts in the application process (cover letter, CV, statement of teaching philosophy, research proposals (1-3 recommended), and references. Further details are given for procedures of the search committee, first contact, telephone interview, on-campus interview, tours, research presentations, meetings with faculty, students, the Department Chair, the Dean, and follow-ups. Extensive discussion is concerned with one’s teaching philosophy, about teaching in general, teaching chemistry, the roles of the instructor, the students, and the use of technology

Chapter nine covers academic leadership. The inversion of the usual hierarchical pyramids in academia, compared to the corporate world, is discussed with the faculty (or even students) at the top. “Virtuous” leadership, as opposed to Machiavellian, is stressed in all aspects of the educational process including the attributes of discernment, courage, temperance, morality, justice, and wisdom. Management of academic careers concludes the chapter. Chapter ten, “Missing Components of Training in the Chemical Sciences”, notes the lack of educational background in industrial chemistry, especially in polymeric materials, in chemistry curricula and presents some remedies.

In chapter eleven, “Don’t Know Much about Pedagogy”, the lack of training for teaching in graduate school programs is deplored, even in teaching assistant programs. Alternatives are discussed. In general, one should teach how to learn. Undergraduate research is essential to the educational process. All involved—faculty, students—are learners and assessment is also discussed. Chapter twelve, “What You Need to Start and Academic Career as a Chemical Educator”, is the most extensive in the book with 45 pages and 183 references. Coverage of chemical education demographics, diversity, rank and tenure, chemical education research (including publication) follows. The chapter concludes with detailed discussions of teaching (creativity, strategies, student ratings), service, and social networking.

The last chapter, “Lecturing at a Research I Institution: A Rewarding Position for Someone Who Loves to Teach” describes the author’s experiences in this role including the challenges and opportunities of teaching large classes, methodology, technology, the need for feedback, and the role of the lecturer as a student resource.

The reviewer found a few deficiencies. Even though the target audience is Ph.D. chemistry students, little or no mention is made of seeking employment in chemistry with other degrees. Also, the jobs are assumed to be in research or academic teaching but alternative careers utilizing chemistry are many2. In the past, finding availability of jobs in government has been more problematic than finding opportunities in industry or academia and the authors of the government chapters do not address that. However, these minor quibbles do not detract from the overall value of this book, not only to the stated target audience, but for all those already in chemical careers.


  1. What You Need for the First Job, Besides the Ph.D. in Chemistry, Symposium, 246th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana, Sept. 2013.
  2. Balbes, L. M. Nontraditional Careers for Chemists, Oxford, New York, 2007.
Publication information
Alt. Title: 

Review of What You Need for the First Job, Besides the Ph.D. in Chemistry

Pick Attribution: 

Mark A. Benvenuto, Ed.

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, July 22, 2014