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Go West, Young Scientist—or North, or South, or East


Everyone knows that if you want to be a movie star, your chances of being discovered are best in Hollywood. Aspiring stage actors and Wall Street tycoons would be wise to head to New York City. So, where's the best place to go if you have a Ph.D. in a scientific or technical field and want to work outside academe? 

According to a very informative set of interactive maps published at The Chronicle of Higher Education, the answer to that question depends on certain factors. The maps show how many nonacademic Ph.D. scientists in various disciplines work in each state. Chemists, for example, tend to hang out in New Jersey, while atmospheric and space scientists cluster in Colorado. The map also shows that geoscientists gravitate toward Texas, physicists congregate in California, and epidemiologists go to Washington (the state, not the nation's capital).

Why do so many scientists of the same type end up in the same place? Opportunity. The areas with the most nonacademic scientists of a particular type are also those with the largest number of jobs in the field. Someone who loses a job there has a decent chance of finding another one without having to move, to cite one advantage of that kind of concentration.

"I am truly surprised by how few students receive career counseling that urges them to consider not only their aptitudes and skills, but also what kind of whole life they want to live," Gina Stewart writes,  in the article that accompanies the maps. "Because let's face it: Some higher-education and career decisions come saddled with strict geographic restrictions."

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