If you'd like to pursue a science career but aren't interested in stereotypical roles there are plenty of alternatives that don't involve petri dishes and microscopes
If you love science but don't want to work in a lab there are a number of options available to you. You could work in publishing, consultancy or even patent law and in industries as diverse as communications, business and manufacturing. Here are just a few jobs to consider.
Communication and outreach
This area of work is about sharing scientific knowledge and information with non-experts, and explaining or presenting it in an easy to understand way.
For example, you could work as a:
- Science writer or journalist - You'll relay science news to the general public through media outlets and publications.
- Museum education officer - Working in museums and science centres, you'll explain scientific concepts to visitors.
- Event manager - Involves organising science-related information events or festivals for businesses, students or the general public.
Your job could involve presenting scientific findings to the government, or visiting schools and universities to promote science-related subjects and activities. You could also pursue a career in public relations.
Masters courses in science communication are available - Cardiff University, The University of Manchester, The University of Edinburgh, The University of Sheffield and Imperial College London all offer programmes. While this type of course is on the rise, the best way to enter the field is through gaining relevant work experience and building industry contacts. Valuable experience includes writing for university publications, joining university science clubs and organising events, volunteering at science museums and entering writing competitions.
Management consulting is an attractive option for scientists who are searching for a career outside research. It gives you the chance to apply your scientific background and analytical skills to solving client problems, such as improving the efficiency of manufacturing processes.
Management consultancy is open to all graduates but a degree in either business, economics, engineering or science will be beneficial.
You could find work with a general consultancy, which houses a science department such as PA Consulting, or for a specialist scientific consultancy such as BMT.
Funding and administration
If you'd like to keep up to date with the latest scientific developments but prefer the office to the lab, working in science funding and administration could be the role for you. You'll most likely work for Research Councils UK (for example, the BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC and the STFC) and major funding bodies like the Leverhulme Trust and the Wellcome Trust.
This type of work is about using your scientific knowledge to support others research and activities may include administering grant applications and advising applicants.
Intellectual property and patent law
Scientists with an interest in the law may want to consider a career as a patent attorney, patent examiner, solicitor, or trade mark attorney. Patent attorney and examiner roles are particularly suited to those with a science degree.
Patent attorneys assess whether inventions are new and innovative and therefore eligible to be patented. A degree in a science, engineering, technical or mathematics-based subject is usually required. Meanwhile, patent examiners use their technical and legal skills to assess applications for patents. You'll need a degree in a science, engineering, mathematics or computer-based subject for entry.
If you'd like to become a solicitor you could put your scientific background to good use in areas such as intellectual property and environmental law. See what the law sector has to offer.
Manufacturing and production
The engineering and manufacturing industry offers plenty of alternative careers for those with a science background. You could become a:
- Health and safety inspector - Science and engineering graduates are at an advantage when entering this highly competitive profession. The work involves protecting people by making sure that risks in the workplace are properly controlled.
- Product/process development scientist - Manufacturing companies need development scientists to understand and control the processes used to make the final product. You'll work across the manufacturing industry on a range of products, such as foods, medicines, cosmetics and paints. A background in engineering or science will stand you in good stead.
- Quality manager - You’ll aim to ensure that the product or service an organisation provides is fit for purpose, is consistent and meets both external and internal requirements.
- Nuclear engineer - You'll be designing, building, running or decommissioning nuclear power stations. You'll work in multi-disciplinary teams to come up with technical solutions. Chemistry and physics qualifications are particularly useful.
Medical sales representatives work for pharmaceutical companies and sell medicines, medical equipment and prescription drugs to healthcare professionals such as GPs, hospital doctors, pharmacists, nurses and dentists.
The career is open to all graduates but a degree in life sciences, medicine or pharmacy may be particularly useful.
Discover more about the sales sector.
Jobs in this field are incredibly competitive but you could use the knowledge gained from a scientific degree to work for a specialist publisher.
Science publishing, both online and print, tends to focus on the production of books, journals, textbooks and revision guides. The main publishers in this field are based in Cambridge, London and Oxford, and include:
- Bloomsbury Sigma
- Springer Nature
- Taylor and Francis
Jobs can be found in production, proofreading and editorial. Some employers may accept an undergraduate degree in a science subject, but due to the competitive nature of the industry a postgraduate qualification in publishing will stand you in good stead. Search for postgraduate courses in publishing.
Writing for university newspapers and science clubs, starting your own science blog or interning at scientific publishers demonstrates previous experience and a degree of commitment to the industry. Discover how to get into publishing.
The Royal Society of Chemistry offer chemistry graduates the chance to join their one-year graduate scheme to train to become a publishing editor, while Atwood Tate, a specialist recruitment agency, advertises scientific and medical publishing roles. The New Scientist also advertises vacancies.
You could work for a number of specialist recruitment agencies such as CK Science, Network Scientific Recruitment, SRG and STEM Graduates.
While not strictly a recruitment role, you could also consider working as a higher education careers adviser, specialising in science.
Jobs in science policy require you to draw on your scientific knowledge and understanding to inform and assist policy formulation. Policy workers are employed in a variety of settings in the public, private and voluntary sectors. Typical employers include:
- government departments
- non-governmental organisations
- public sector organisations such as the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)
- scientific professional bodies, for example, The Royal Society, Royal Society of Chemistry, Institute of Physics
- trade associations.
The work involves identifying and analysing policy issues, collecting information on scientific issues, drafting reports and writing briefing papers. Learn more about the role of a policy officer.
Vacancies are hard to come by and almost all policy officers hold a postgraduate qualification in subjects such as politics, social politics or policy studies. The University of Sussex offers a one-year MSc in Science and Technology Policy, while the Wellcome Trust's Graduate Development Programme covers a variety of business areas including policy.
If you'd like to share your passion for science with future generations, you should consider teaching in schools, colleges or universities. Jobs include:
You'll need to gain additional qualifications to become a teacher, so find out more about the different routes into teaching. Generous bursaries are often available for graduates training to teach a STEM subject.
Find out more
- Gain an insight into the science and pharmaceuticals sector.
- Learn more about graduate jobs in science and pharmaceuticals.
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