How To Start a Career in Science

So you want to be a scientist when you "grow up"?  There are a lot of different jobs in different areas of science out there waiting for you to find them.  Here are a few steps to consider when starting a science career.

  1. Get the proper education.  Most jobs in science require you to have at least a bachelor's degree in the appropriate scientific field.  While some employers will accept degrees from different science fields than their particular studies, most opt to hire candidates that have the knowledge of their specific branch of science.  For instance, if you want to be a park ranger, most likely you would need an environmental science degree and not one for microbiology.
  2. Decide what type of job is best suited for you.  There is such a broad range of jobs for science majors from marine biology to biochemical research in academia or biotech companies to forensic science and even teaching.  It is always important to choose what you will enjoy the most to avoid burnout.  Use your time in college to decide which track you like the best and focus on finding a job in that field.
  3. Search for an entry level position.  A lot of people get out of college immediately thinking they will get a job that pays well at a high level.  Unfortunately for most of us, this is not the case.  Unless you have an advanced degree in a scientific field, look for entry level positions.  In biotech companies that is usually a mundane quality control job or as a lab assistant in other areas.  Only apply to positions that actually fit your level of experience and education in the job descriptions so you don't get in over your head.  Check company websites and other job search engines to find these positions.  Another great source is scientific journals, although most of those jobs are high level positions.
  4. Consider internships, temp agencies, or student lab programs.  Advertised positions require experience, but how are you going to get experience if you can't find a job because you have no experience?  It's a vicious cycle that can be broken by accepting an internship (even if it is unpaid), registering with a science oriented temp agency, or taking a student lab assistant job while you are getting your degree.  Even if you are only washing dishes or mixing solutions for the entire time, do the best job you can to get that experience on your resume along with a good rapport with your boss for a great recommendation and reference for future positions.

Getting your foot in the door is the hardest part.  After you get some experience under your belt, you will be able to climb the ladder and have a successful career in science.  


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