Jobs in science? A whole world of curiosity and delight awaits...
Science, that joy in trying to understand the world around us, perhaps to solve problems or make something new. It is a deeply satisfying, challenging and exciting path which is as broad as human experience.
I remember being 14 years old and having no idea what I wanted to do, I enjoyed science at school, but found it difficult when I got to A level (I studied Chemistry, Physics, Maths and IT, I didn’t do very well!) I managed to study for a degree in Chemistry with Ocean and Earth Sciences at Southampton University through a process called clearing. Since then, I have completed a PhD in materials chemistry, worked for the Discovery Channel, been the Head of Education at a Science Museum, and now help other scientists and researchers have conversations about their work with people outside of Universities.
The reason I share this short, personal story is that science opens doors. Most of the time you have no idea where those doors might lead, but studying science or working in science can prepare you for the unexpected. The skills you develop, that spirit of curiosity and yes, hard work, can take you from studying frogs in Malaysia to working for NASA on the next mission to Mars. I think one of the most important things to remember is that you don’t have to be ‘naturally gifted’ or go to University to do well in science.
I realise this doesn’t answer your question! Have a look around you right now, what can you see? What can you smell, feel, taste or hear? Scientists are involved somewhere in everything around you. Scientists study the food you eat, exploring how flavours work or how to store sandwiches so they don’t go off (yes, there are jobs in the science of chocolate! Link to careers as a food scientist)
Scientists study the sounds around you, perhaps exploring ways of reducing the noise of planes flying overhead or inventing new speakers that make it seem like you are lost in a rainforest (Link to careers in acoustics). Scientists helped research and choose the very materials of the chair you are possibly sat on now or the screen of the device you are using to read this text (Link to careers in materials science). Scientists develop the perfumes, deodorants, cosmetics, cleaning products in your house (Link to careers in cosmetic science). Scientists even developed the paint on your walls! There are scientists trying to understand the behavior of your pet cat (Link to animal sciences careers) and scientists creating cures for diseases and illnesses (Link to careers in medical science).
But this is just a start, scientists help others with their work. Perhaps you are interested in archeology (the study of human history through artifacts)? Scientists analyse the findings archeologists make to answer questions such as ‘How old is it?’ ‘What is it made of?’ which helps answer the bigger questions of ‘Who might have used it?’ and ‘What was it used for?’ Beyond this, scientists try to answer the fundamental questions of the universe – What is a black hole? Is there life beyond Earth? How did stars form? (Link to careers in astrophysics) Scientists are at the forefront of exploring space and understanding our planet, trying to address and understand problems like climate change (link to careers in climate science).
This barely scratches the surface of the huge range of jobs and careers in science. It’s not an exaggeration to say that if you can imagine a question or a problem, there is probably a job in science related to it somewhere. You’ll find as you progress through school that science gets split up into three main disciplines: Chemistry, Physics and Biology. Although these three areas have their own key focuses (I like to think of chemistry as the science of matter, physics as the science of forces, and biology as the science of living things – this is a massive simplification of course!) Each of them will provide you with skills, tools, and ways of thinking which will allow you to go in pretty much any direction you want. As you study further or get into a career in science, you’ll find that the boundaries between these three disciplines blur and cross-disciplinary work is where some of the most exciting science happens! Ultimately science is about asking questions, being curious, creative, patient, dedicated, and being open to working with people of all backgrounds.
It’s ok to not know what you want to do (I still don’t!) but studying science and working in science can give you the best preparation to seize opportunities as they arise. No one really knows what jobs there might be in the future, but with a good grounding in science, you’ll be ready. (Link to some possible jobs in the future)