Case study

Comment editor — Kit Chapman

Kit has used the scientific skills he gained on his pharmacy degree to develop a successful career as an editor. Find out about the challenges and rewards of a career in publishing

How did you get your job?

After finishing my pharmacy degree at the University of Bradford I was keen to move in to publishing and use my skills in science communication. I searched for jobs where I could use my degree, and applied for a position as a sub editor on a journal for GPs. I worked there for two years, before becoming a reporter on an industry magazine for pharmacists.

Ten years later, I've worked my way up to editing the comment and careers sections of Chemistry World, an international magazine and writing opinion pieces for the Daily Telegraph.

How relevant is your degree?

It's a complete misconception that studying pharmacy forces you to become a pharmacist. You're given a solid grounding of science and medicine, which means your skills are directly transferrable to a lot of different areas. On the other hand if things don't work out, you have an amazing career to fall back on. You have the best of both worlds.

Science journalists also need to write with authority. You have to understand what you're dealing with and what your authors are talking about. My degree gave me this knowledge. Some of the best pieces I've written have been inspired by topics I covered on my course.

What's a typical working day like?

Usually it's a mix of writing my own pieces and editing those of others. Journalism is 90% research, so I spend a lot of time looking for interesting topics, talking to people about their work, and bringing in new and exciting voices.

In the afternoon I'll work through a piece that someone's sent in. Usually it's terrific and I'll only have to make a few changes to match our house style; sometimes I have to rework whole paragraphs and send it back to the author.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I think all journalists love discovering something and telling others. The rush you get when you see a story nobody else knew about, written there in print with your name on it, is intense. It's also great watching your views and opinions get shared around the world by complete strangers.

What are the challenges?

You have to be a jack of all trades. You could be writing about the latest medicine one minute and writing about the origins of life the next. You never know how you're going to use your expertise.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I'm working on a book, so I'd like to be a published author.

What advice can you give to others?

Don't panic if you don't know what you want from life. A lot of people will encourage you to specialise before you're ready, but the key is to take your time and find out what's right for you. It's okay to get things wrong and change your mind; don't get stuck in a job that's not for you.

University is also a great time to reinvent yourself. There's a lot of peer pressure at school, but once you're at university you will find people who have the same interests as you. You can be who you want to be.

Finally, don't expect success to happen overnight, or that you instantly deserve it. When I first went in to journalism, I was earning far less than my friends and living in a one-bed flat in East London, sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I kept working, and took advice whenever I could. There are times you'll question if you're doing things the 'right' way. There is no right way; the trick is finding a way that's right for you.

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