Article: Science Careers

Summary

This article covers the following jobs:

  • Acoustician
  • Analytical Scientist
  • Astronomer
  • Botanist
  • Colour Technologist
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Ecologist
  • Food Technician
  • Forensic Pathologist
  • Forensic Scientist
  • Geochemist
  • Geologist
  • Geophysicist
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Meteorologist
  • Microbiologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Science Teacher
  • Zoological Scientist.

The career descriptions are only a brief summary. You should find out more about the careers that interest you.

Video: - Various: Science

Introduction

Scientists study and explain the world around us, often with the aim of solving problems or improving aspects of modern life.

In their investigations, scientists need a logical, systematic approach. They carefully design, monitor and analyse experiments to reach conclusions. They must also explain their findings clearly and concisely to others.

Examples of their work include:

  • creating new drugs to treat disease
  • finding stronger and lighter materials to build aircraft with
  • improving the colour and taste of foods
  • developing alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar power.

The three main areas of science are:

  • biology
  • chemistry
  • physics.

However, these areas are often interlinked at many levels. For example, biochemists study the chemistry of living things.

Biology

Biology is the study of all living things. There are many specialist areas within it, including humans, animals (zoology), plants (botany) and microbiology, and the complex relationships between these things and their environment (ecology).

Botanist

Botanists study plants, including their reproduction and growth, distribution, and how pests and diseases affect them.

Some botanists count and classify the number of plant species in a particular region. Their findings help to build up a picture of our plant life, including how it changes and is affected by pollution, such as acid rain, or overgrazing by animals.

Botanists also work in agriculture, finding ways to stop pests damaging crops. Some botanists work for agrochemical companies, developing pesticides. Others investigate how to improve crop yields or make crops more resistant to pests and diseases. They can use either traditional plant breeding techniques or genetic modification.

To become a botanist, you need at least a first degree in a relevant subject. Botany and plant science are available as single degree subjects.

Microbiologist

Microbiologists study life forms such as bacteria and viruses ('micro-organisms' or 'microbes') that are too small to be seen without a microscope. Some microbes cause disease, but others are harmless and some can be used to benefit humans.

For example, sewage treatment relies on bacteria and protozoa that break down the waste material. In medical research and pharmaceutical companies, microbiologists help to develop drugs and vaccines.

In the food and drink industry, microbiologists use microbes to help make products such as beer, wine, bread and yoghurt.

Many microbiologists are involved in environmental work, for example, using microbes to break down industrial waste. In agriculture, they can use microbes to tackle the pests and diseases that affect crops.

The usual entry requirement is a relevant degree.

Zoological Scientist

Zoological scientists specialise in the study of animal life, including their physiology, reproduction and genetics, behaviour, diseases and ecology.

Zoological scientists help to protect endangered species, prevent pests from damaging crops, improve livestock, develop and test drugs to treat both animals and humans, and undertake environmental surveys.

Entrants are usually graduates, and many have postgraduate qualifications.

Ecologist

Ecologists study how organisms relate to each other and their environment. They look at the impact of human activity, such as intensive farming and industrial development, on the habitat and development of plants and animals.

They advise local councils, civil engineering and industrial companies on how planned developments will affect the local environment.

Some ecologists have long-term responsibility for conservation areas, working as site managers, rangers or wardens. They protect the area against pollution and vandalism, and give information to visitors.

Entry is usually with a first degree or postgraduate qualification in a biological or environmental subject. Specialist degree courses in ecology are available at a number of universities.

Chemistry

Chemistry is the science that looks at what substances are made of, their structure and how they work, including how they react to different conditions.

Colour Technologist

Colour technologists research, develop and manage the production and use of dyes and pigments (colorants).

Some technologists research and develop the colorants themselves; others work on the coloration of a wide range of materials, including textiles, paints, printing inks and food. In large retail clothing companies, colour technologists often work with textile suppliers based in other countries, overseeing production and solving technical problems.

Recent areas of research and development include colour liquid crystal displays, the use of dyes in hospitals to diagnose illnesses, and colour use in the prevention of fraud.

Development work can involve repeated testing over a long period of time. In quality control, for example, colour technologists ensure that dyes and pigments are colour-fast.

To become a colour technologist, you usually need to complete a relevant degree, or an HND or foundation degree.

Pharmacologist

Pharmacologists study the effects of drugs and medicines on humans and other animals. They research new medicines to treat or prevent disease, and then develop them through a process of experiments and analyses.

On average, it takes about 12 years to develop a new medicine, from the filing of a patent to the medicine's launch and full availability.

Pharmacologists might be involved at any stage of the process, from research through to testing, and then producing the medical information needed to guide users of the new medicine.

You'll need a relevant degree to become a pharmacologist.

Analytical Scientist

Analytical scientists investigate substances to see which chemicals they contain. Analytical science combines chemistry, physics, biology, maths and engineering.

Their findings help to:

  • ensure the safety and quality of food and drink
  • monitor and protect public safety and the environment
  • diagnose disease
  • increase the efficiency and safety of manufacturing processes.

Analytical scientists use a wide variety of methods and technologies in their analyses. For some tests, they can use automated testing machines to analyse hundreds of samples at once. Other tests are more time-consuming, like using gas chromatography to separate compounds in a sample.

Usual entry is with a relevant degree; specialist degrees in analytical chemistry/analytical science are available.

Physics

Physicists study the Earth and the universe, in terms of matter, force and energy. They help us to understand everything from the origins of the universe to the tiny particles we are made of. They develop a huge range of products, for example, in aerospace, communications and engineering companies. They also develop medical technology and research new sources of energy.

Acoustician

Acousticians study the physics and management of sound, using their knowledge to solve problems in areas such as industry, medicine and the environment.

Some acousticians help to measure and control noise and vibration levels in the workplace, working to strict regulations and legislation. In environmental noise control, acousticians predict and measure traffic, rail and aircraft noise, using their findings to advise local authorities, rail companies and airports.

Other acousticians research and develop the sophisticated equipment used to record and measure sound, including microphones, amplifiers and sound-level meters. They also work on medical technology such as ultrasound testing.

You'll need a relevant degree to become an acoustician.

Astronomer

Astronomers study the physics of the universe, including the workings of stars, planets and galaxies. They make observations using telescopes on the ground or in space, and analyse and predict the behaviour of all the objects in the universe.

Some astronomers design and build equipment to collect new data. In all areas of research, astronomers develop our understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe.

The usual route towards a career as a professional astronomer is through a first degree in a relevant subject, such as astrophysics, astronomy, physics or mathematics.

Astronomers almost always need a postgraduate qualification as well (usually a PhD).

Meteorologist

Meteorologists study the atmosphere and how it affects the Earth. They use their findings to understand and predict weather and climate.

They collect data on atmospheric conditions such as pressure, wind, temperature, humidity and cloud level. They use weather stations on land and ships, radar and satellites to collect data at fixed times of the day.

As well as providing advice to the public in the form of weather forecasts, meteorologists advise government, industry, agriculture and the armed forces.

Some meteorologists study and measure global climate change over longer periods, assessing the implications of this for the environment.

Meteorologists are graduates. There are some specialist degrees in meteorology. Many entrants have first degrees in maths or physics, followed by a specialist postgraduate qualification.

Earth sciences

The Earth sciences are about the origin, formation, development, workings and structure of the Earth.

Earth scientists often use their knowledge in the exploration of natural resources such as oil, gas, water and minerals. Other earth scientists advise civil engineers, or monitor and predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Geologist

Geologists study the origins, structure and evolution of the Earth. They examine rocks, crystals, fluids, sediments and fossils, and find out how they formed and developed.

Many geologists work for oil, mining and specialist survey companies, using their knowledge to find and extract natural resources such as oil, coal, water and uranium.

They understand how these resources are formed, and where they are likely to be found. In oil and gas exploration, geologists must be confident that they have found the right area before drilling begins.

Geologists also investigate civil engineering sites, making sure surrounding rocks are safe and suitable for building on.

Some geologists are experts on earthquakes and volcanoes, studying past eruptions and earthquakes to predict their behaviour.

To become a geologist, you usually need a degree in geology, geoscience or Earth science. Many entrants also have a postgraduate qualification.

Geochemist

Geochemists study the type and distribution of chemicals that make up the Earth, for example, in rocks, soil and water.

Their knowledge helps us to understand the origins of rocks and other structures, and can help companies to find and extract natural resources such as oil, coal, gas and minerals.

You need a relevant degree to become a geochemist. Many entrants also have a relevant postgraduate qualification.

Geophysicist

Geophysicists study the physical structure and workings of the Earth. This includes the Earth's origin and evolution, gravity and radioactivity, and motion within the planet's core.

Many geophysicists work for companies that find and extract natural resources, such as oil, gas, metals and minerals. They travel to areas where they think these resources are, collect data to confirm their predictions, and advise if the area is suitable for exploration.

To locate resources, geophysicists can use techniques such as seismic surveys, aerial photography and satellite images.

To become a geophysicist, you usually need a degree in geophysics or a closely-related subject. Many entrants also have a postgraduate qualification.

Other science careers

Science is a huge area and there are many careers that don't fall neatly into one of the three main areas of study (biology, chemistry and physics). The following are just a few examples.

Crime Scene Investigator

Crime scene investigators work for the police. They collect and record evidence for use in criminal investigations. Their work includes taking fingerprints, photographs and forensic evidence. They might be called scenes of crime officers.

Crime scene investigators use special equipment to take DNA swabs, record shoe marks, gather fibres from clothes and furniture, and collect fingerprints from documents.

Qualifications vary from area to area. They can range from a few GCSEs at grade C or above to A levels, a foundation degree or a degree.

Competition for posts is fierce, with a very large number of candidates applying for only a few vacancies.

Forensic Scientist

Forensic scientists use scientific techniques to examine materials thought to be associated with a crime. They use their findings to provide evidence in law courts. They examine things like fibres from clothing, bloodstains, fire debris, and objects that have been handled during the crime.

Entrants usually have relevant first degrees (for example, in biology, chemistry or forensic science) or specialist postgraduate qualifications.

Food Technician

Food technicians help scientists/technologists to develop food products. Technicians test the safety and quality of raw materials and finished products, as well as testing packaging, processing and storage techniques.

They look after the day-to-day running of the laboratory, and may also help in the research and development of new products.

The usual minimum entry requirements for a trainee position are four GCSEs (A*-C), including English, Maths and a science subject.

Laboratory Technician

Laboratory technicians help and support scientists. They are responsible for the day-to-day running of the laboratory. They have a variety of duties, including:

  • Managing equipment stocks, ordering replacements when necessary.
  • Disposing of laboratory waste.
  • Preparing and maintaining equipment.
  • Taking and testing samples.
  • Recording and analysing experiment results.
  • Reporting findings to the scientist, verbally or in writing.
  • Identifying potential hazards in the lab and assessing risks.

For many types of work, they will need to wear protective clothing such as white coats, gloves, goggles and boots.

Technicians use a wide variety of laboratory equipment in their work. They also use computers, for example, to monitor stock levels and record experiment results.

Most employers ask for at least four/five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including Maths, English and science subjects, or equivalent. Entrants often have higher qualifications, such as A levels or equivalent.

Forensic Pathologist

Forensic pathologists find out how and why people have died. They do this when there is a suspicion that someone hasn't died from natural causes.

At the crime scene, they see the body for the first time. They supervise people who collect evidence such as samples of blood or tissues.

Then, forensic pathologists carry out an autopsy. This involves cutting into the body to look at organs such as the brain, heart, stomach, lungs and liver. They might find signs of injury, such as internal bleeding. They take blood and DNA samples, and test to see if the person died from poisoning.

After they have finished the autopsy, they put all the organs back inside the body and carefully sew it up again. They can then let the coroner know their findings. Forensic pathologists report to the police and might have to give evidence in court.

To enter this job, you first need to do a five-year degree in medicine. Then, you need many more years of training.

Science Teacher

Science is one of the statutory subjects in the National Curriculum at Key Stage 4, meaning all pupils study it up to the age of 16. It covers biology, chemistry and physics, but students might be able to study these as separate subjects, depending on their school.

Science teachers teach pupils about how science is relevant to their everyday lives and the natural world around them. They study scientific theories, and topics such as global warming, genetic modification, radioactive substances, how to keep healthy and how drugs affect the body.

Teaching methods include group and project work, doing experiments, and using interactive whiteboards, audio-visual materials and the internet, as well as more traditional teaching sessions.

To become a science teacher, you'll need a degree that leads to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), or to follow a relevant degree with postgraduate training leading to QTS.

Further Information

Geological Society

Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG

Tel: 020 7434 9944

Website: www.geolsoc.org.uk

Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)

Address: Thomas Graham House, Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 0WF

Tel: 01223 420066

Website: www.rsc.org

Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC)

Tel: 01274 725138

Email: info@sdc.org.uk

Website: www.sdc.org.uk

Coloration Technology

Publisher: Society of Dyers and Colourists

Website: www.sdc.org.uk/en/resources/publications/coloration-technology/

British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA)

Address: Regents Park, London NW1 4RY

Tel: 020 7449 6599

Email: admin@biaza.org.uk

Website: www.biaza.org.uk

Society of Biology

Address: Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, London WC1N 2JU

Tel: 020 7685 2550

Website: www.societyofbiology.org

WISE

Women in science, engineering and technology

Address: Quest House, 38 Vicar Lane, Bradford BD1 5LD

Tel: 01274 724009

Email: info@wisecampaign.org.uk

Website: www.wisecampaign.org.uk

Institute of Acoustics (IOA)

Address: 3rd Floor St Peter's House, 45-49 Victoria Street, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 3WZ

Tel: 01727 848195

Email: ioa@ioa.org.uk

Website: www.ioa.org.uk

British Pharmacological Society (BPS)

Address: 16 Angel Gate, City Road, London EC1V 2PT

Tel: 020 7239 0171

Email: info@bps.ac.uk

Website: www.bps.ac.uk

Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)

Address: 43 Southgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9EH

Tel: 01962 868626

Email: enquiries@ieem.net

Website: www.ieem.net

Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST)

Address: 5 Cambridge Court, 210 Shepherds Bush Road, London W6 7NJ

Tel: 020 7603 6316

Email: info@ifst.org

Website: www.ifst.org

Institute of Physics (IOP)

Address: 76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT

Tel: 020 7470 4800

Email: physics@iop.org

Website: www.iop.org

Institute of Science & Technology (IST)

Address: Kingfisher House, 90 Rockingham Road, Sheffield S1 4EB

Tel: 0114 2763197

Email: office@istonline.org.uk

Website: www.istonline.org.uk

Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS)

Address: 104 Oxford Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 7LL

Tel: 0118 9568500

Email: chiefexec@rmets.org

Website: www.rmets.org/our-activities/careers-and-courses

Society for General Microbiology (SGM)

Address: Marlborough House, Basingstoke Road, Spencers Wood, Reading, Berkshire RG7 1AG

Tel: 0118 9881800

Email: info@microbiologysociety.org

Website: www.sgm-microbiologycareers.org.uk

Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)

Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BQ

Tel: 020 7734 4582

Website: www.ras.org.uk

Royal College of Pathologists

Address: 2 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AF

Tel: 020 7451 6700

Email: info@rcpath.org

Website: www.rcpath.org

Semta

Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001

Email: customerservices@semta.org.uk

Website: www.semta.org.uk

Earthworks-jobs.com

Website: www.earthworks-jobs.com

New Scientist

Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd

Email: ns.subs@quadrantsubs.com

Website: www.newscientist.com

Planet Science

Publisher: Tinopolis

Website: www.planet-science.com

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