About graduate careers in science and research
Science graduates are often drawn towards the scientific research and development sector so they can use their skills and knowledge in a hands-on role to address real-life problems. Most students and graduates are aware of the research and development that takes place in university departments and in industry, but there are also opportunities in government departments and agencies, in charitable-funded institutes and in hospitals. Science graduates will usually specialise in a specific area; they may be undertaking fundamental health research, developing IT technologies, refining manufacturing processes, or innovating solutions. There is a broad range of possibilities.
The NHS and private medicine and healthcare companies rely on scientists to help make medical breakthroughs as well as work on pharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostics. Energy companies also depend on scientists to advise, implement and plan renewable energy sources such as wind farms, solar conversions and biofuels. Scientists can also decommission old nuclear sites across the UK as part of the government’s plan.
- Check out our article 'What can I do with my science degree in...?' to explore your options further.
Employers find strong technical, analytical, organisational, communication and time-management skills desirable. Great attention to detail is also crucial. Organisations such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever offer internships, which are usually aimed at penultimate-year students. There are also science-based internship opportunities with the British Council. Work shadowing or work experience allows students to gain an insight into their area of interest and ask professionals for advice.
- Head to our article on how to get a graduate job in science, research and development for lots more advice.
Opportunities for graduates
Typical starting roles include a laboratory technician or a quality assurance officer with the chance to progress on to working as a laboratory manager or project manager. Although graduates do not necessarily need a doctorate to work in scientific research and development, directing the development of a research idea usually requires postgraduate study. A PhD is often essential if you want to stay in academia as a researcher, as it shows your academic credibility. Choose a relevant research topic for the industry you wish to work in if you undertake postgraduate study. There may be an opportunity to become a chartered scientist, which recognises the highest levels of professionalism in science.
- Have a read of our guide to scientific postgraduate study to help you decide which route is the best one for you and your career ambitions.
Science-focused employment often involves regular hours and a structured working environment, but researchers may sometimes have to work in the evenings or weekends. Some roles in industry may require shift work.
There are many graduate schemes available. Employers include GSK, AstraZeneca and Pfizer. The NHS offers a scientist training programme through which graduates undertake postgraduate work-based training, leading to a specifically commissioned masters degree in areas including microbiology, genetic sciences and informatics.
- Take a look at these employer hubs to find out more about employers in science and research and get employer-specific application and interview advice.
Students interested in scientific research and development…
- were unsurprisingly most likely to study natural sciences (57%) or medicine/dentistry (31%)
- tended to agree with the statement ‘my course provides me with the skills necessary for the labour market’, at 56% versus 13% who actively disagreed
- were more likely to have work experience related to their course than not (63%)
- were more likely to use Facebook than Twitter for careers related purposes (19% and 16% respectively), but were most likely to use LinkedIn (79%)