Science and pharmaceuticals is a key industry in the UK and there is always demand for talented graduates…

What areas can I work in?

Employment can be found in many areas of science, including:

  • chemical;
  • food science;
  • forensic science;
  • geoscience;
  • life sciences (e.g. microbiology, pharmacology);
  • marine biology;
  • materials science;
  • meteorology;
  • nuclear;
  • oil and gas;
  • petroleum;
  • polymers.

There are opportunities in academic research, research and development (R&D), product and process development, scientific sales and commercial roles such as finance, human resources, IT and marketing.

You may also wish to consider science related careers in engineering and manufacturing, healthcare, energy and utilities or environment and agriculture.

There are many pharmaceutical companies in the UK. Areas of employment include:

  • commercial - such as marketing or medical sales;
  • clinical trials;
  • manufacturing and supply;
  • research and development.

For examples of job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in science and pharmaceuticals.

Who are the main graduate employers?

Science companies and organisations include:

  • AkzoNobel
  • Amec Foster Wheeler
  • Associated British Foods
  • BASF
  • Bayer
  • BP
  • Fugro GEOS
  • Met Office
  • Procter and Gamble (P&G)
  • QinetiQ
  • Reckitt Benckiser (RB)
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
  • Syngenta
  • The Technology Partnership (TTP)
  • Unilever

Examples of pharmaceutical companies include:

  • AstraZeneca
  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
  • Novartis
  • Roche
  • Sanofi

Scientific jobs exist in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Ministry of Defence (MOD), local government and the NHS. You could also work in a university, research organisation or an environmental consultancy.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the science and pharmaceuticals sector can expect:

  • varied work environments depending on the area of science you work in. These can include an office, laboratory, fieldwork or an offshore oil rig;
  • good salary prospects. An average starting salary for a graduate in the pharmaceutical industry is around £25,000 and at a senior level you could earn more than £100.000;
  • opportunities to further your interest in science through academic research or an industrial R&D role.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see job profiles.

What are the key issues in the science sector?

Chemical manufacturing is one of the largest industries in the UK and has one of the highest growth rates (Cogent). Jobs can be found manufacturing chemical ingredients used in the production of pharmaceuticals, paints, plastics and textiles.

Polymer composite processing is another area which is set to grow, according to the government report Skills for Growth. Polymer composites are used in a wide range of industries including aerospace, medical, transport and packaging.

The industry needs technologists and designers to respond to the worldwide demand for more versatile, lightweight, energy-saving products and applications.

The UK is a leading life sciences producer and exporter with a large number of world-class companies specialising in R&D and biotech products. Much of the research is healthcare related, such as developing new treatments to extend life expectancy.

Climate change has emerged as a key issue in the sector over the last two decades. Businesses involved in science-based activities are expected to think about their impact on the environment and scientists have to factor this into their research.

The UK's energy and utility workforce will be recruiting scientists as it needs 200,000 new recruits by 2023 (EU Skills). There is also a demand for scientists in the oil and gas and nuclear sectors.