American drug companies have slashed 300,000 jobs over the past 12 years, according to the Washington Post, one of multiple factors contributing to a downward spiral of employment for the country's laboratory science professions.

The job losses can be attributed to widespread job outsourcing, a lack of investment in research and development and lagging profits. Scientists pursuing an academic career path are also suffering: a 2009 survey by the National Science Foundation says only 14 percent of graduates with a PhD in biology and life sciences find academic work within five years.

Chemists face similar challenges finding a job out of school: a survey by the American Chemical Society says only 38 percent of them found a job in their field last year, part of the highest unemployment rate for chemists in 40 years, at 4.6 percent.

These stark figures are coming out in the wake of the Obama administration's call for a higher emphasis on science education, including hosting a science fair at the White House, as well as optimistic predictions for the scientific job market, according to Jim Austin, editor of ScienceCareers.

“It seems awfully hard for people to find a job," Austin said. "Anyone who goes into science expecting employers to clamor for their services will be deeply disappointed.”

[image via Shutterstock]