Factors to consider when thinking about a career in this area:
This section does not concentrate on your choice of degree, but instead concentrates on ways of using science in the workplace – also look at What can I do with my degree? and for further ideas on the types of roles available in science take a look at this Science Council article – 10 types of scientist – science jobs are not all the same
Biosciences – in a lab-setting
Working in the life science sector encompasses a broad range of jobs, including working in research and development, healthcare science and biotechnology. This page provides just some ideas of career routes – the links at the bottom of the page offer further details of these and other related occupations.
Although it is possible to enter this sector with a good first degree, for example, at research assistant level, anyone considering a long-term career in research and wishing to progress to senior positions should seriously think about a PhD – as, except for a few exceptions, you may find progression extremely difficult. A PhD is, however, fairly essential if you are considering working in academia as a researcher.
Research and development opportunities exist in both the public and private sector:
If you have an interest in using your laboratory skills in a hospital setting, the NHS has a wide range of opportunities including the Scientist Training Programme. It is advisable to obtain some work experience or visit to a hospital laboratory if you are considering this as an option.
There are also opportunities to a work as a clinical researcher taking part in clinical trials, in commercial laboratories and independent healthcare providers.
If you think you may want to remain within science after graduation, it is a sensible idea to gain as much practical experience as possible before you graduate. In this way, when you start applying for graduate jobs you will be ahead of the competition.
Ideally by the time you come to write your CV, you should be able to have two sections of experience – Relevant Scientific Experience and Other Work Experience.
Finding practical work experience is possible, but not always easy. Some professional bodies and universities offer summer studentships, mainly to second years to fund them to work in a university laboratory during the summer break. You may need to send speculative letters to employers (such as local NHS departments, local science-based organisations, local academic institutions) outlining who you are and what experience you are after. It is not unusual in science for students to be employed to help with projects on a casual basis. Some of the links listed at the bottom of the page will have work experience opportunities advertised while others will offer good sources of information for speculative applications.
Biosciences – in a non-lab setting
In addition to the research scientist roles there are many other ways of using your science knowledge without working in a laboratory, for example, science policy and administration, intellectual property and science communication. Alternative job titles might include Museum Education Officer, Health and Safety Advisor, Scientific Consultant and Computational Biologist. Areas to consider include:
In addition to your scientific skills it is important to remember you have other transferable skills which you will need to draw upon when considering alternative careers eg organisation, communication, IT, problem solving are all highly valued skills by employers so think about how you can demonstrate these skills, using your outside interests, membership of societies and voluntary work.
Finding work experience is possible, but not always easy. You may need to send letters off speculatively to employers outlining who you are and what experience you are after. It is not unusual in science for students to be employed to help with projects on a casual basis.
If you are uncertain of the sector you want to work in, get any practical experience you can – you can always make it relevant on an application form.
Some of the websites listed below have work experience opportunities advertised; others will provide a good source of information for speculative applications.
A chemistry career opens the door to a wide range of career options both in and out of the lab. The Royal Society of Chemistry has an overview of what Chemistry graduates have gone on to do nationally.Many chemists want to continue in laboratory-based careers and for them the choice post-graduation is whether to enter employment on completion of their first degree or to continue onto an MSc or PhD. Over 40% of chemists nationally undertake postgraduate study, so students considering entering large blue chip companies in Research and Development will need to consider carefully whether their career progression will be limited without a PhD.
The physical sciences are fairly well funded for postgraduate study through the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) but a minimum of a 2:1 will be needed to secure funding. Most big and small chemical companies will employ first degree graduates but jobs titles will vary. Don’t dismiss the term ‘technician’ out of hand – look at the job description. Many technician posts are graduate level jobs and can allow you to get an entry level job in a company. As a chemist in a laboratory setting you could be fighting disease by discovering how medicines protect the environment, inventing new products and materials including cosmetics, paints, food and drink plastics and much more. (Source: RSC)
For those people wanting to use their degree but not in a laboratory setting, there is a variety of other careers – patent work, technical sales and marketing, teaching (some laboratory work but not the main focus of the job). Opportunities also exist in scientific journalism and publishing, production management in the chemical industry, health and safety and quality assurance.
The School of Chemistry has a well-established Placement Training Year for both MChem and BSc students – find out from them how to apply for this sandwich year.
Some students prefer to find shorter chunks of work experience throughout the summer vacation. This can be more difficult in the chemistry field because the health and safety training that employers need to give students is onerous and costly for a 3 month period of work.
Large companies usually advertise vacancies, often very early on in the academic year (Sept/Oct). Smaller chemical/pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to advertise. A good approach for either permanent jobs or work experience is therefore to contact employers speculatively either via email or LinkedIn.
Many Physics graduates want to continue in related careers and for them the choice post-graduation is whether to enter employment on completion of their first degree or to continue onto an MSc or PhD. A 2013 survey by HESCU found that 35.2% nationally undertake postgraduate study, so students considering entering large blue chip companies in Research and Development will need to consider carefully whether their career progression will be limited without a PhD.
Physics graduates are employed in a variety of industries and only a small minority use their knowledge and skills as a large part of their work. The 2013 survey by HESA indicated that 6 months after graduation 37.7% of new graduates were employed full time.
The physical sciences are fairly well funded for postgraduate study through the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) but a minimum of a 2:1 will be needed to secure funding. Most big and small companies will employ first degree graduates but jobs titles will vary. Don’t dismiss the term ‘technician’ out of hand – look at the job description. Many technician posts are graduate level jobs and can allow you to get an entry level job in a company. Sectors can include, nuclear, security and defence, aerospace, energy, environmental, oil and gas and space exploration.
As not all companies will advertise their vacancies, a good approach for permanent jobs, placements or work experience is therefore to write speculatively with a CV and covering letter so use the related links below to spend time researching the areas and companies you are interested in and start a LinkedIn profile (see also Using
Work experience could be a placement year or summer placements. This has now become vital as more and more employers start to look at experience. It can be undertaken in large and small companies and in the public sector. Many graduate recruiters will offer industrial placements or summer internships. Apply for these early; many have deadlines between October and January. Ensure you see your placement tutor and check departmental notice boards on a regular basis as some placement opportunities will be posted there, as well as the careers jobs board in the intranet.
Ensure you see your Placement Tutor and check Departmental notice boards on a regular basis as some placement opportunities will be posted there as well as on the Careers & Employability noticeboard on Trevithick Bridge, on the Careers & Employability twitter and Facebook pages as well as on your careers advisers twitter page – @GayeatCareers.
Careers & Employability organises many events throughout the year providing you with the opportunity to meet relevant employers. Check our events calendar here or in your Careers Account and notice boards in your department (Physics – the careers noticeboard is on Trevithick Bridge) to find out who has arranged forthcoming visits.
Cardiff Science Careers Fair, held every November, is an excellent opportunity to meet industry professionals. Physics students will also find the STEM Careers Fair in October useful.
Larger scientific recruiters such as the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS have structured graduate training programmes. Start looking early in the academic year as many have deadlines between October and January. Other opportunities can be found in SMEs which tend to recruit throughout the year and therefore it is worthwhile making speculative applications.
Recruitment websites and consultancies always have more vacancies for people with experience than for new graduates (with the exception of those listed here specifically for new graduates). To see a selection of vacancies, try a keyword (eg ‘chemistry’ etc) to start with, and avoid being too selective about location, salary etc. NEVER pay money to a recruitment agency – a bona fide one charges the employer, not the candidate.