Graduate jobs in science and research

How to get a job in science

As a scientist, you could find yourself working in industry, research, healthcare or education. To land one of these jobs, you'll need:

  • at least a bachelors degree and often a postgraduate degree: an undergraduate degree is the minimum requirement for most jobs in science and for some roles, such as university lecturer or research scientist, a postgraduate degree is needed. Some employers will accept a masters degree but others will want you to have a PhD. You can read our article on science postgraduate study to find out more.
  • a strong academic record: lots of science employers value high academic achievements so it's common for you to need at least a 2.1 degree. Some employers may accept a 2.2 if you have a postgraduate degree as well.

If you want to work as a scientist within the NHS, you'll need to complete its three-year long scientist training programme (STP) after your degree, which involves studying for a part-time masters degree in your chosen specialism. Training in Scotland will also involve either a three-year STP or an equivalent programme.

When you're applying to jobs, highlight any research or laboratory experience you have.

What degree disciplines do employers want?

To get a technical job with a science employer you'll need a degree in a scientific subject. Some jobs are also open to graduates with a relevant engineering degree such as materials science or chemical engineering.

While some jobs will be open to several science disciplines, others will require a more specialist degree. This will depend on the area of science the employer operates in and the position available. For example, a research and development job with a consumer goods manufacturer might be open to those with a degree in a chemical, biological, physical, food or materials science whereas, to become a biomedical scientist, you'll typically need a biomedical science or healthcare science degree that is accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science.

Take a look at our article on what jobs you can do with your science degree for more details.

If you haven't got a scientific degree but want to work in the science industry, there are lots of non-technical roles on offer including:

  • Human resources
  • Supply chain
  • Procurement
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Sales
The majority of these are open to graduates of all degree disciplines although sometimes employers will specify a preference for those with a business-related degree or masters degree.

Graduate jobs vs schemes

Several larger science employers, including well-known pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies, run graduate schemes that offer a range of technical and non-technical roles for you to choose from. Applications will open at a specific time of the year (usually September) and there will be a set deadline so check employers' application schedules carefully. The application process for a large employer is typically an online application, numerical, personality and verbal reasoning tests, an interview (general and technical) and an assessment centre.

Smaller employers tend to only advertise specific positions as and when opportunities arise. Rather than applying to a general scheme, such as research and development, you'll be applying for a specific role, such as laboratory technician. Applications can open at any time of the year and the recruitment process is usually simpler; you'll most likely submit a CV and covering letter and attend a face-to-face interview.

Top skills to get a job in science

  • An enquiring mind. Curiosity is essential for any scientist. Do you want to discover the unknown? And do you have the courage to challenge existing theories?
  • The ability to work in a team and independently. Your job will probably involve a mixture of working with other scientists and working on your own.
  • Good IT skills. Working with cutting edge technology may be a major part of your job. You will need to be comfortable using advanced equipment.
  • The ability to stay calm under pressure. If there is an emergency or something goes wrong, you will need to keep your cool and think of a solution quickly.
  • Problem solving and analytical skills. Scientists need to be able to think on their feet to provide solutions and alternatives.
  • Perseverance and patience. You need to be a determined person who does not give up easily. For example, if you're working in development, the process of testing, patenting and manufacturing is extremely long – it usually takes about ten years from start to finish.
  • Good written and spoken communication skills. Scientists don't spend all of their time alone in a laboratory. You will need to be able to communicate with colleagues, write scientific reports and explain your work to people who are not experts in science.

What is life like as a scientist?

A career in science certainly offers you the chance to make your mark on society. You might spend your time in a high-tech laboratory, in an office writing up your findings, in meeting rooms presenting your findings, at a factory, in a classroom or even outdoors if you need to conduct some fieldwork. Travel within the UK and sometimes overseas can be necessary to attend meetings and conferences or go on research trips.

You will be encouraged to always build on your skills and knowledge, especially in the first few years of your career. It's likely that you'll gain membership of a professional body, which will open up routes to chartered status, an internationally recognised mark of excellence.