To Law or Not to Law: Work Environment

Lawyer — From Bureau of Labor Statistics

Lawyers do most of their work in offices, law libraries, and courtrooms. They sometimes meet in clients’ homes or places of business and, when necessary, in hospitals or prisons. They may travel to attend meetings, gather evidence, and appear before courts, legislative bodies, and other authorities. They also may face particularly heavy pressure when a case is being tried. Preparation for court includes understanding the latest laws and judicial decisions.

Salaried lawyers usually have structured work schedules. Lawyers who are in private practice or those who work for large firms may work irregular hours, including weekends, while conducting research, conferring with clients, or preparing briefs during nonoffice hours. Lawyers often work long hours; of those who work full time, about 33 percent work 50 or more hours per week.

Chemist and Materials Scientist — From Bureau of Labor Statistics

“Work environment. Chemists and materials scientists usually work regular hours in offices and laboratories. R&D chemists and materials scientists spend much time in laboratories but also work in offices when they do theoretical research or plan, record, and report on their lab research. Although some laboratories are small, others are large enough to incorporate prototype chemical manufacturing facilities and advanced testing equipment. In addition to working in a laboratory, materials scientists also work with engineers and processing specialists in industrial manufacturing facilities. Chemists do some of their work in a chemical plant or outdoors—gathering water samples to test for pollutants, for example. Some chemists are exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain chemicals, but there is little risk if proper procedures are followed.

Chemists and materials scientists typically work regular hours. A 40-hour workweek is usual, but longer hours are not uncommon. Researchers may be required to work odd hours in laboratories or other locations, depending on the nature of their research. “

Professors — From Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work environment. Many postsecondary teachers find the environment intellectually stimulating and rewarding because they are surrounded by others who enjoy the subject. The ability to share their expertise with others also is appealing to many.

Most postsecondary teachers have flexible schedules. They must be present for classes, usually 12 to 16 hours per week, and for faculty and committee meetings. Most establish regular office hours for student consultations, usually 3 to 6 hours per week. Otherwise, teachers are free to decide when and where they will work and how much time to devote to course preparation, grading, study, research, graduate student supervision, and other activities.

Classes typically are scheduled to take place during weekdays, although some occur at night or on the weekend. For teachers at 2-year community colleges or institutions with large enrollments of older students who have full-time jobs or family responsibilities, night and weekend classes are common. Most colleges and universities require teachers to work 9 months of the year, which allows them time to teach additional courses, do research, travel, or pursue nonacademic interests during the summer and on school holidays.

About 29 percent of postsecondary teachers worked part time in 2008. Some part-timers, known as adjunct faculty, have primary jobs outside of academia—in government, private-industry, or nonprofit research organizations—and teach on the side. Others have multiple part-time teaching positions at different institutions. Most graduate teaching assistants work part time while pursuing their graduate studies. The number of hours that they work may vary with their assignments.

University faculty may experience a conflict between their responsibility to teach students and the pressure to do research and publish their findings. This may be a particular problem for young faculty seeking advancement in 4-year research universities. Also, recent cutbacks in support workers and the hiring of more part-time faculty have put a greater administrative burden on full-time faculty. In addition, requirements to teach online classes have added greatly to the workloads of postsecondary teachers. Many find that developing the courses to put online is very time consuming, especially when they have to familiarize themselves with the format and answer large amounts of e-mail.

Like college and university faculty, graduate TAs usually have flexibility in their work schedules, but they also must spend a considerable amount of time pursuing their own academic coursework and studies. Work may be stressful, particularly when assistants are given full responsibility for teaching a class. However, these types of positions allow graduate students the opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience, which is especially helpful for those who seek to become college faculty members after completing their degree.

“Odd hours”, ha, that’s grad students’ life. Well, be serious, nothing particularly decisive stands out.

Published by

Wendong Wang

A chemist who blogs

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