Scientific Research, Analysis & Support

Scientific Research, Analysis & Support

Factors to consider when thinking about a career in this area:

  • science or engineering students who are looking for careers that will enable them to use their degree subject post graduation will be attracted to this area.
  • this sector encompasses work within a vast range of scientific disciplines.

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.

Postgraduate study

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-based careers

Research and development opportunities exist in both the public and private sector:

  • Private sector 
    • The pharmaceutical industry is a major player and offers a number of internships as well as graduate vacancies each year.
    • Biosciences graduates in the private sector are also employed in the agrochemical, biotechnology, food & drink industries in roles such as process development scientists, microbiologists and food technologists.
  • Public Sector
    • Civil Service – see related links below
    • Public Health – see Health Careers link below
    • Research Institutes and Councils eg Cancer UK, Welsh Heart Research Institute, Wellcome Trust; BBSRC, MRC
    • Universities - in addition to academic research, universities have links to spin out research companies, often in science parks near to the university eg Cardiff Medicentre – find more at UKSPA

Clinical-based careers

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.

Work experience

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.

  • If you are certain of the area that you want to work in (eg NHS, pharmaceutical industry), then you would benefit from direct work experience within that particular sector
  • 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
  • Remember to choose as many practical modules as possible in your degree course and to choose a practical dissertation rather than a library-based project
  • Enquire within the School about paid summer research work under the University’s CUROP scheme

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:

  • Public sector
  • Science policy
  • Communication – opportunities include science journalism, medical writing, PR, events coordinator and broadcasting; further study may be required as well as gaining some work experience
  • Science administration - the administration of scientific research is also another of keeping involved in research without actually carrying it out, eg dealing with grant applications, advising applicants and liaising between the academic department and Research Councils; some research experience may be required 
  • Technology transfer – Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) facilitate the transfer of academic knowledge and expertise to real life business’ strategic projects and there are opportunities to work with spin out companies in this field. The Wellcome Trust offers a scheme under the Graduate Development Programme
  • NHS – you can consider graduate entry medicine or nursing and a number of roles within the NHS which allow you to combine your science knowledge and skills with patient contact eg Audiologist or Physician Assistant; all require further on the job training and many lead to professional registration with the relevant body – it is advisable to obtain some work experience or visit to a relevant hospital department if you are considering any of these
  • Intellectual property – if you enjoy dealing with complex technical information and putting together an argument then you may consider working as a Patent Agent or Patent Examiner. Law firms and the Intellectual Property Office recruit scientists to work on patents, trademarks, design rights.  If you have a second European language eg French/German the scope of opportunities would be increased to work as a European Patent Agent.
  • Technical sales and marketing- eg Medical Sales Representative, acting as a link between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals, advising healthcare professionals on suitable products and developing relationships to encourage repeat business
  • Teaching – if you enjoy working with people and explaining how things work then teaching may be for you.  There are opportunities to teach at primary, secondary and further education levels; it is essential to obtain some work experience in a school

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.

Work experience

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.

 

Chemistry

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.

Work experience

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.

Physics

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

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.

Local events

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.

Related links:

Getting started

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) – Britain’s leading funding agency for academic research and training in the non-medical life sciences, also offer graduate ‘CASE’ studentships
  • Medical Research Council – lists funding opportunities available
  • VITAE - academic researchers and a useful starting point if you are considering a career in academic research.
  • findaphd.com / findamasters.com - for PhD studentships and Masters Courses at UK/Irish universities – but always look
  • findapostdoc.com - useful information on applications, funding etc  
  • Books available at Careers & Employability, 51a Park Place:
    • Alternative Careers in Science
    • Careers with a Science Degree
    • Career Planning for Research Bioscientists
    • Successful Research Careers

Professional bodies

Employers and vacancy sources

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.

  • Our Jobs Board – search vacancies posted by employers or set up job alerts via the Jobs Board or Career Account intranet apps. Also tweeted via @CardiffCareers