Career Options for Life Science Graduates – Part II

In last week’s post, Emmanuel discussed several career options and pathways for life science graduates and for anyone interested in a career in the life sciences. In part I , the following areas were discussed; Teaching, Lecturing, Research, Transition to medicine, Business management and entrepreneurship and Sales.  In part II, we will now conclude on other career options including non-traditional career routes that are open and might be of interest to life science graduates.

Graduate School (PhD & Professional Doctorate) – whilst a number of life science graduates are interested in transitioning to medical school, a larger number of life science graduates proceed into postgraduate studies. This might be studying for a MSc degree, Masters by way of research or Masters Philosophy (MRes or MPhil) or a PhD. There has been an increase in the numbers of graduates embarking on postgraduate studies in the life science subjects in the UK perhaps due to difficulties in finding jobs upon graduation or the hope of better job opportunities with a higher degree. To embark on postgraduate studies in the UK, a minimum of a 2.2 is required i.e a GPA of 2.5 – 3.0 (dependent on University). With a 2.1 (GPA 3-3.5) classification, life science graduates are able to apply directly for PhD studies in the UK and in other countries. More universities in the UK now offer professional doctorate degrees which are equivalent to a PhD but focuses on the context of the workplace or practice of the applicants. Graduate school in the UK and USA are slightly different in the structure and modalities (we will expand on this later on in the future). We do encourage graduates to consider postgraduate studies as a great option however not before exploring the range of opportunities available to them first! After all, not everyone in a great career or job in the life sciences is a masters or PhD holder.

Forensics – Ever watched CSI, Bones, Law and Order or other US or UK TV Crime Drama? If you have, you’ve probably  imagined yourself as a forensic scientist or cool scientist, paleontologist or anthropologist of some sort. In our experiences dealing with prospective students interested in life science subjects we often find those interested in the area of forensics simply because of the television dramas. As scientists, we do welcome the interest created by such shows though we occasionally advise the young enthusiastic kids that life as a scientist is not usually or always as glamorous as the television dramas show. To embark on a career in forensics, a good degree in biomedical, biological or forensic science is a starting point – it’ll also help to study some chemical science or molecular biology during your degree. I (Emmanuel) remember interviewing for a role as a forensic scientist with the forensic science service (FSS) many years back and was presented with a very technical laboratory based practical alongside the formal interview. Thus, you will need good laboratory or technical skills to go with your degree.

Advisory and Consultancy – Do not be surprised about this, there are several advisory roles open to life science graduates globally. Several companies offer roles for Scientific Advisers, Medical Advisers, and Life Science Advisers. To be eligible for these posts, you will need a good honours degree (2.1 and above) with other skills such as good communication, analytical and presentation skills among others. Consultancy is also another area open to life science graduates and whist this is not a very common option for recent graduates, postgraduates (often PhD graduates) and experienced life science professionals work as consultants either on short term projects or in full time roles.

Scientific & Medical Communications – Life science graduate, not-interested in laboratory work but very capable when it comes to reading, analysis, interpretation, presentation and writing scientific or technical material? If yes, then a life in scientific or medical communications might just be the right career path for you. The terminologies for these roles are often interchangeable and sometimes these roles are also referred to in the same context as healthcare communications and medical writing. Many scientific organisations especially the biopharma sector contract some of the technical writing to medical communications firms who employ life science graduates to produce reports, study designs and writing of core scientific and general materials. This is a highly sought after career hence it is very competitive albeit with good remunerations. As usual you will be required to have a good honours degree and in some cases a postgraduate qualification and evidence of your ability to write including ability to design online materials which may or may not include blogging. Some Universities offer MSc degree programmes in Science Communication which is open to people of other disciplines which offers intensive training on different ways to communicate science and graduates from such degrees go on to practice in different environments including media, journalism and politics. For a good example of a MSc Science communication degree, click here

Recruitment – who is better at recruiting a science graduate than a science graduate? Working as a recruitment specialist or adviser for recruitment firms or other organisations that employ science graduates such as career departments at Universities and Colleges is also a good career path. Several friends have embarked on the journey into recruitment and have found it informative and interesting. working as a recruiter can be difficult for many reasons but it is also a great career as you get to interact with many job seekers as well as companies and imagine how much you learn about some of the clients and their products when you work as a recruiter (the science is never lost outside the lab!)

Government and Politics – surprised about this? Don’t be! Following our involvement with events run by the UK Biology professional scientific societies we became more aware of the possibility for scientists to work directly or in close association to government and politicians. In the UK for example, the biology societies have a designated representative in parliament who acts as a liaison or link between government and the respective societies. Also, members of parliament (senators or the like in other countries) have scientific advisors in their staff who can advise them on matters relating to science within their constituencies. In recent years, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) have offered fellowships with research councils, learned societies and charities to sponsor PhD students and Post-doctoral candidates for about three months to carry out parliamentary placements. This offers experience for the fellows to learn about politics and policies also creating opportunities to work closely with politicians and law makers.

Life Science Solicitors – with the rising interest in medical ethics and law and with increasing discourse in genetics, climate change, assisted suicide and genetic modifications (GM) this is another interesting option for life science graduates. This would require undertaking a Masters degree or PhD degree in Bioethics and Medical Law or Jurisprudence. To embark on a career in this area, an undergraduate degree at 2:1 or above is required in the life sciences or other subject areas such as social sciences, law or medicine among others.

Whilst we highlight a range of career paths open to life science graduates, this is by no means the end of it. With the range of skills developed by life science graduates, there are undoubtedly other areas graduates of life science disciplines have found themselves so do not despair if you have not found something on here for you. if after reading this article, you have identified a career path that interests you, we would encourage you not to hold back and to chase your dream career.

For further detailed advice on Life Science Career roles and challenges, look out for our career profiles pages from people who have had success transitioning from University to professional life. To contribute an article, please contact us on @AspProfHub

 

So they ‘fall in love in the lab’ and they ‘cry’, so what? – lending a voice to the conversation about women in Science

Picture1In the past week there has been an outcry about the place of women in science following the comments by Nobel Prize winner, Professor Tim Hunt suggesting the need for sexually segregated labs as women in labs are a distraction because they ‘fall in love’ and ‘cry’ when their work is criticised. His comments raised furore, with both men and women – in science and other disciplines.Sadly, this is not the first denigrative assertion to be made about female professionals, particularly within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Sadder still, it probably will not be the last.

A friend of ours – a non-scientist – heard about these comments and posted articles on Facebook about the legendary late Marie Curie (1867-1934), the first woman to win a Nobel prize and the only woman to have won it twice. She was famous for her work on radioactivity and in 2009 was  voted the most inspirational woman in science. We now have Marie Curie research fellowships which have provided both men and women excellent opportunities to carry out research that have contributed to the development of the science. Aside from Marie Curie,  there have been many other female scientists who have made outstanding contributions to their fields such as Mary Somerville, Dorothy Hodgkin, Rosalind Franklin, Alice Roberts and Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Amidst the furore which engulfed the science pages of many newspapers and editorials in the last week, there is a lighter yet important point to consider in this conversation.  Many people do meet their spouses or partners at their places of study or work – this is not unique to the sciences. Does it really matter? We know a lot of ‘research couples’, when you spend so much time in the lab or in a work environment, you can get to know your colleagues on a much more intimate level. As long as you remain professional, ‘falling in love’ does not need be a bad thing.  Thus, the suggestion that it is a distraction is really far from the truth. `Falling in love’ in the laboratory environment is not a distraction but rather should be seen as a blessing in disguise as many scientists would not have a hope in Pluto to find partners and spouses because of the demands of the research or science. Perhaps we need to celebrate science unions widely so that it is accepted! Perhaps!!

As for the comments on crying!!!  The thought of the alternative to crying makes crying possibly a much milder reaction to criticism. Until you learn to deal with it, most of us – male and female alike – do not respond well to criticism. In all disciplines, criticism abounds but we must use it as a tool for growth. There have been scientists, men included, who have resorted to far worse actions following criticisms of their publications, retractions of their publications or failure to get certain grants. For anyone who keeps up with the ‘going ons’ in their field, you will be very conversant with these. Should we now applaud violent reactions or in some cases suicidal tendencies following criticism because crying is for want of a better word, intolerable?

At least they cry, come back and try again to succeed which is the basis of research. Who knows! The Marie Curie’s, Rosalind Franklin’s and Sally Davies’s of this world shed a tear or many in the early days of their scientific journeys to the point where they achieved global status but do we remember them for ‘falling in love in the lab’ or ‘crying’? Of course not, thus, the comments should be given the response it deserves, NOTHING!! Whilst we generally lambast the comments alluded to Prof Hunt let’s silently applaud him for saying what he thinks in the open for us all to tackle a much bigger problem of stereotyping and marginalisation of women in the scientific and technical careers.

Women have immensely contributed to science and in my opinion, whilst every scientist is not a woman, every woman is a scientist after all women perceive, experience, plan, execute, and manage biological change better than any male scientist. (Open for debate!!).

In future posts we will address the real world issues surrounding gender, race and disability in different career disciplines.

Disclaimer – If after reading this you find yourself falling in love with someone in your lab or feeling the rightful need to cry when your work faces criticism, please do not hold us responsible, but come back and share your wonderful stories.

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