Science career misconceptions
If the media has taught us anything, it’s that all scientists are crazy. They permanently wear lab coats, have outrageously dishevelled hair and are rather partial to holding a test tube or two. Their jobs only involve doing bizarre and pointless experiments, like cloning sheep, creating monsters with human emotions, or creating crunchy and chocolatey breakfast cereals.
Yeah, okay, you probably didn’t think that all careers in science are actually like that. However, you might have heard that all scientific careers involve working in silence in laboratories, whilst you inject things into petri dishes, peer through microscopes and check the acidity of various liquids.
Sure, lab work is common in scientific jobs, but these careers are definitely not routine, boring and pointless. In fact, these careers are some of the most varied, important and challenging jobs in the world. This sector covers so many fascinating career disciplines, so before you make the decision to get into science, you should firstly discover what it’s really all about.
Science career realities
It’s all about innovation, discovery and research. It’s all about trying things, doing experiments and making exhilarating scientific breakthroughs. It’s all about doing things that nobody else has ever done before. It’s all about improving people’s lives, improving commercial enterprises and developing our knowledge and understanding of people, nature, the world and the universe.
Careers in science are genuinely some of the most exciting, interesting and significant out there.
The phrase “the sky’s the limit” doesn’t even apply to careers in science. Much like the universe, careers in scientific research and development are literally limitless; new things can always be discovered and things can always be improved.
Jobs in this sector stretch across so many different fascinating areas. If you thought that the differences between chemistry, physics, biology and maths were complex enough, then you’re in for a shock. Thousands of specialisms exist, from astrophysics and marine biology to zoological sciences and pharmacology.
To follow a scientific career path you are most likely going to have to be highly intelligent, logical, ambitious and (most importantly) passionate about your chosen subject.
Science career options
Research is an integral part of every scientific career. This involves applying the right principles and exploiting one’s curiosity. A purely research-based scientific career can be explored within an academic institution. However, research makes practical applications possible, so research- and development-focused careers in applied science are much more popular.
Product and process development is another popular area. Typically working within the manufacturing and production industry, these scientists work alongside research and development teams, and use their expertise to develop efficient processes for the manufacturing of quality products, ranging from foodstuffs to cosmetics.
Major scientific companies also tend to employ a wealth of people with a strong academic background into more managerial and strategic positions. Whilst these people don’t get involved with the hands-on scientific activity, they still use their detailed technical knowledge to make well-informed and important decisions on everything to do with scientific projects, e.g. budgets and timescales.
Another growing area in this sector is sales. Scientific salesmen use their knowledge to sell bespoke products to other companies, and selling products such as adhesives, medical supplies, and chemicals.
So while you might be disappointed to hear that it’s unlikely you’ll be shouting “It’s aliiive!” in an old Gothic castle as storms thunder outside, the feeling certainly won’t last long when you see the massive array and availability of exciting career opportunities within the scientific sector.
Derek J - Masonry Team Leader
Derek J is the Masonry Team Leader at The Co-operative Funeralcare factory in Glasgow. He got an apprenticeship as a monumental mason when he was sixteen - "Went to see the factory on the Friday and I was on a train to Bath on the Sunday to go to college for a job that I'd never actually done a day's work in. So that was quite scary."
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