Graduate Careers Advice

Graduate Science And Technology Careers

James Thornhill

So you've realised that your science classes really aren't as boring as you thought they'd be, and you're really interested finding out more about the way things are put together. How would you like to be involved in the new discoveries that define the next decades? A career in science and technology can do that. 

A lot of this involves research, playing around with formulas and different materials to find out why they act the way they do, and testing new theories to improve on previous ones. They also work in hospitals to analyse samples and diagnose diseases. You know the people you see using cool equipment in crime labs on TV? They're forensic scientists, and use their research and analytical skills to help solve tough cases. 

You can also become an engineer, specialising in a particular area that you're interested in like software, electronics or aeronautics. You'll be researching and developing new ways to build things, such as machines, computer programmes and even spaceships!

You can also use your passion for science and technology by becoming a teacher. You'll need a science degree to do this, but you can go through teacher training while you're completing your degree.

You'll need to like to study to have a career in science and technology, training courses and qualifications will help you get a higher job role. There are lots of graduate training scheme opportunities to help you on your career, and you can find out more about these at careers fairs. A lot of research is done by working with scientists in other countries, so speaking another language may be an advantage in finding a job.

The industry actively supports women, working in with bodies like Women into Science, Engineering and Construction (WISE) and The UKRC (for women in science, engineering, technology and the built environment) offering careers advice and mentoring. 

It’s also hugely lucrative, employing 5.8 million people in the UK, 60% of whom are graduates and postgraduates ((The Science Council, 2011).

Employers in the science industry vary widely, with most falling under the following areas: the chemical industry (AstraZeneca, BASF, Dow Chemical, Unilever), electronics and communications (BT, IBM, BAE Systems, Siemens, Rolls-Royce), food and drink (Kraft Foods, Mars, the Kerry Group), pharmaceuticals (GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Roche, Avercia), biotechnology (Vectura, Syngenta, Monsanto), and defence (BAE Systems, Serco, Dstl).

Several government departments and agencies are main recruiters in the science industry including the Food Standards Agency, the Met Office, the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The science industry incorporates a large range of job roles across many disciplines, including:

  • Clinical research
  • Research and development
  • Medical chemistry
  • Product and process development
  • Vivo sciences
  • Data management
  • IT support

Some of the specific job roles that you may encounter in the science industry are:

  • Clinical research associate
  • Toxicologist
  • Biomedical scientist
  • Research scientist
  • Meteorologist
  • Animal technologist
  • Analytical chemist
  • Biologist
  • Chemist

How Much Can I Earn as a Scientist?

Because of the specialist nature of many science positions and the demand for the skills they require science graduate starting salaries can be very competitive.

Starting salaries can range massively depending on the company and the type of job, but typical starting salaries fall between £14,000 and £20,000. Those entering at PhD level are likely to start on higher salaries and those with extra experience start on salaries between £24,000 and £35,000.

What Qualifications do I Need to be a Scientist?

After a Bachelors degree

For many high level scientific roles it is required that you under take postgraduate study, usually to PhD level, to enter into a career.

The grades required will vary from employer to employer and across the different disciplines, but because of the specialist nature of many science jobs high grades may be essential for recruiters to consider you.

What Skills Do I Need to be a Scientist?

Because of the technical nature of many science jobs recruiters will have the need for specific skills that relate to a particular position. The exact skills an employer will be looking for will depend on the nature of the job.

There is a large skills shortage in the bioscience sector and so have a high demand for skilled graduates and postgraduates. They prioritise the following skills in:

  • Clinical research
  • Medical and analytical chemistry
  • Engineering and maths and statistics
  • Vivo sciences: pathology, toxicology, pharmacology and physiology

In general there are a range of soft skills that employers in the science sector will be looking for including:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Critical thinking
  • Organisation
  • Planning
  • Presentation skills

Graduates from many degree disciplines will have the necessary soft skills for working in science. Degrees offer a good set of skills in logical thought, presentation, analysis and communication all of which are important for a career in the science sector.

What Experience Do I Need to Get a Job in Science and Technology?

If you are taking a science or technology-based degree it is highly likely that your course will include a placement year, in which you will have the opportunity to work within a company and be paid for your role. This should give you the skills needed to apply for jobs in laboratories after graduation.

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