The science sector covers:
- laboratory research and development (R&D);
- the pharmaceutical, nuclear, oil and gas, chemicals, petroleum, and polymer industries;
- R&D and manufacture of medical devices;
- publishing, patents, scientific communication;
- the science underpinning the engineering development of other sectors.
There are 5.8 million people working in science-based occupations, which equates to a fifth of the UK workforce. Graduates or postgraduates make up almost 60% of the core and related science workforce (The Science Council, 2011).
What kind of work can I do?
Work in the science sector encompasses a huge range of occupations, including:
- product and process development;
- research and development;
- medical and analytical chemistry;
- in vivo sciences;
- clinical research;
- writing and editing;
- management and administration;
- data management;
- IT support;
As so many different roles exist across the sector, graduates from non-science backgrounds can find many opportunities in science-based organisations. For science-based roles, graduates are recruited from across the academic spectrum, including applied, physical, material and life sciences.
What's it like working in this industry?
Working conditions vary according to your role. You might work in a laboratory, office, warehouse, on the factory floor or outdoors. Pay varies widely between roles. For details of typical salaries see job roles.
Women are well represented in pharmaceuticals and bioscience, making up around 40% of the workforce, although the proportion is smaller at senior levels (The Science Council, 2011). WISE (Women into Science, Engineering and Construction)
and The UKRC
(for women in science, engineering, technology and the built environment) offer career advice and mentoring to women embarking on a career in science.
SEMTA: The Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies
is working with organisations such as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (STEMNET) - for example, through the STEM Ambassadors programme
- to encourage inclusivity in science.
Ethical issues in the science sector that are subject to debate include:
- animal experimentation;
- drug testing;
- genetic modification of plants;
- human/stem cell research;
- nuclear energy;
- the involvement of global, commercial corporations;
- the environmental impact of scientific work;
- the ethics of work in the defence/military environment.
To explore these topics in more detail go to Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR)
How big is this industry?
- £7.5million is spent each day on R&D in the life sciences sector, making the UK one of the world's life sciences leaders (UKTI, 2011).
- The UK’s life sciences sectors employ more than 120,000 people and have a combined annual turnover of £30.4billion (BIS, 2010).
- The UK has the world's largest aerospace industry outside the USA with almost 20% of the global market (BIS, 2011).
- 45% of biotechnology and healthcare products in the pipeline in Europe are made by UK companies (UKTI, 2011).
- The UK's medical technology sector is the second largest in Europe, with over 3,000 mainly small to medium-sized (SME) employers employing approximately 55,000 people (BIS, 2010).
- The UK is responsible for 8% of all published scientific papers and has produced 70 Nobel prize winners (UKTI, 2011).
More detailed information is available from the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI)
and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
Where can I work?
- Opportunities exist in major cities and towns throughout the UK.
- Science-based industries are widely spread throughout Scotland. There is a strong chemical and pharmaceutical cluster in North Ayrshire and Falkirk, biotechnology, polymer and chemical manufacture in the central belt, and clusters of oil and gas employers in Shetland and Orkney.
- In the South of England, work can be found in the 'golden triangle' of Oxford, Cambridge and London.
- Clusters of chemical and bioscience employers and nuclear facilities exist in the North West of England.
- There are numerous chemical and polymer companies around Cardiff, Swansea and Newport and in the Yorkshire and Humberside regions.
- There are a significant number of environmental companies in the South West of England.
- Science jobs in Northern Ireland are concentrated in Belfast and areas with ready access to Belfast.
- There is a concentration of pharmaceutical, polymer, chemical and energy companies in the North East.
- The East and West Midlands have large concentrations of polymer employers.
- The East Midlands has significant numbers of pharmaceutical and chemical companies.
- There are lots of opportunities to work overseas - for more information see opportunities abroad.