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Alternative careers for graduate scientists

Beyond science: alternative graduate careers for scientists

Whether you leave science completely, or choose to stay out of the lab, there are many graduate career options for scientists to consider.

It's one of graduate recruitment's badly-kept secrets that around 40% of graduate jobs are open to students with any degree. This means that, as a science graduate, you can work in career sectors as different to your first degree as engineering, IT or finance.

Graduate jobs out of the lab, but still in science sector

Don't be too hasty to leave your degree subject behind. After all, you've spend three or four years studying science - wouldn't it be nice to use some of that knowledge in your working life? Don't imagine that your options will be limited either; graduate careers in science offer almost as much variety as non-science ones, and whatever your tastes, you'll be bound to find something to suit.

For example, as a microbiologist or biochemist you can work as (deep breath);

  • a research scientist
  • a quality control technician
  • a dietician
  • a civil service administrator
  • a technical sales executive
  • a teacher
  • a forensic scientist
  • a conservation officer or a meteorologist

You can work in a classroom, a lab, an office, out-of-doors or on television. You can work anywhere in the UK or abroad, for a large multi-national film or for a local authority.

Know what you want

Think carefully about what you want from a graduate job. It involves what the job can offer you. Would you pine in an office or would it be your ideal environment? Do you feel most at home in a lab? Do you work well on your own or do you thrive in presenting in front of other people? Do you prefer the outdoors?

So how can you choose which is best for you? Remember that it's not just a case of your technical skills; your soft skills, tastes, personality and where you want to work should all be taken into account as well. So how can you measure your soft skills (such as communication, teamwork, etc)?

Becoming a patent attorney

If you want to combine your scientific knowledge with the legal side of things, you could become a patent attorney. You don't need any legal qualifications to follow this route. Read our 'spotlight on patent attorneys' series to find out more:

The skills you can use in other sectors

Look at what you've done on your course and how its particular components have helped you hone certain skills. For example, if you're a chemist, you will have developed great communication and analytical skills. A physicist will have excellent problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to research and evaluate collected data.

As a scientist it's more than likely that you will have undertaken a large research project that will have stretched your teamwork, managing and organisational skills. So when a graduate employer asks you about an example of solving a problem or persuading others, you can refer to your project.

Don't worry if you find it hard to decide. In science as, in all sectors, transferable skills are key. Shop around a bit, ensuring you pick up lots of diverse skills on the way. You may find yourself ending up somewhere completely different from where you first started.

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