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  • A man and a woman, wearing white lab coats, are performing various experiments in a laboratory.

    Scientists often work in teams made up of other scientists with different specialist knowledge to their own.

  • A man, wearing a white lab coat, is looking at the skeleton of an animal.

    There are scientists who study the development of animals.

  • Two men are holding a white sheet of paper underneath a telescope.

    Most scientists use special equipment to help with their experiments.

  • A woman, wearing a full protective suit, is performing an experiment in a sealed room.

    Some scientists work with dangerous substances and have to use protective equipment and clothing.

  • Somebody is crouching down on the ground, outside.  They have dug a hole in the mud with a spade and are now inserting a small device into the hole.

    Other scientists find out about plant life and soil.

  • A woman is sitting at a desk, using a telephone and looking at various paper documents.

    Most scientists' work involves a fair amount of desk-based research.

  • Scientist

  • Scientist



Scientists develop new information about 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.

Video: - Sharon: Biotechnologist

Video: - Ruth: Analytical Chemist

Video: - Richard: Ecologist

Video: - Marion: Horticultural Scientist

Video: - Mike: Acoustics Physicist

Video: - Lorna: Soil Scientist

Video: - Steve: Senior Scientist

Work Activities

As a Scientist, you will design, plan and manage trials and investigations in pure and applied research. Examples of applied research are:

  • developing a new drug to treat a 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
  • work on conservation projects helping to protect the environment

The types of experiments and technology involved will vary depending on the area of research.

However, as a Scientist, you will always need to ensure the accuracy of your results. You must think carefully about the number of tests needed to reach an accurate conclusion, the sample size of the investigation (for example, how many volunteers should be involved in a test?) and any factors that might affect or distort their results.

Often, you will work with other Scientists who have different specialist knowledge from your own.

You might be responsible for a team of technicians, who look after the day-to-day running of the laboratory.

Scientists use a variety of methods to collect and analyse data, often including statistics. You'll analyse results and present findings in the form of models, graphs and charts. You will also use specialist software to design and control experiments, create models and analyse results.

During an investigation, you'll use traditional methods, for example, observing change with the naked eye, as well as very sophisticated technology, such as using an electron microscope to study micro-organisms.

Research and development work can involve routine testing over a long period of time. For example, the process of developing a new drug might take over ten years, from discovery and testing to becoming available for sale in a community pharmacy (chemist's shop).

You must be able to explain your results clearly and concisely to others. This will often be to other Scientists, for example, in reports, presentations, or articles published in scientific journals. This could also be to non-Scientists. For example, Forensic Scientists sometimes have to give evidence in court.

Increasingly, Scientists have to consider the environmental impact of their work, for example, trying to ensure that pollen from genetically modified crop trials doesn't come into contact with crops from farms that are not involved in the trial.

As a Scientist, you might be involved in analytical investigations rather than development work. For example, you could investigate substances to see which chemicals they contain. Your findings help others to ensure the safety and quality of food and drink, monitor and protect public safety and the environment, diagnose disease, and increase the efficiency and safety of manufacturing processes.

As well as working in a laboratory, you might travel to collect samples or to do experiments. This is called fieldwork. For example, geologists travel to map physical features, sometimes in remote areas.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Scientist, you'll need:

  • to enjoy solving problems
  • a logical approach to plan experiments
  • practical skills
  • imagination and creativity
  • to be methodical and well organised
  • patience - you must not mind having to repeat experiments several times

Scientists often work in teams, so communication skills are important. You must be able to express yourself clearly, both verbally and in writing.

In contrast, some Scientists also spend time on their own, especially during fieldwork. For example, geological scientists might travel on their own to map remote areas.

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £30,000 - £31,000
  • With experience: £35,000 - £40,000
  • Senior Scientists earn £42,500 - £47,000

Hours of work

Scientists usually work 35-39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, you might have early starts, late finishes, shifts and weekend work, especially as deadlines approach or where call-outs are necessary.

Where could I work?

Scientists work in a wide range of jobs across all industries, including manufacturing, construction, engineering, pharmaceuticals, IT, colour technology, textiles, plastics, cosmetics, food and drink, oil and gas.

There are also opportunities in forensic science, the NHS, journalism, and in local and national government departments and agencies. Scientists teach in schools and colleges; they teach and carry out research in universities.

Opportunities for Scientists mainly occur in towns and cities, throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in science magazines such as New Scientist (which also posts jobs on its website), on job boards, and in national/local newspapers.

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

To become a Scientist, you will usually need a degree relevant to the type of post you want to enter. Entry may also be possible with a relevant HND or foundation degree, although this is often into technician-level posts.

Some universities offer courses with a foundation year. This is an extra year for students who don't have the specified science A levels for entry.

A small number of universities offer integrated science degrees (ISciences), aiming to give graduates interdisciplinary skills and knowledge through a problem-based approach.

Competition for research posts is often very strong, so a postgraduate qualification such as an MSc or PhD can be an advantage. Employers might ask for a postgraduate qualification for entry. They can be all but essential for some posts - for example, Astronomers usually need a PhD.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.


Some employers give graduates the opportunity to study for a postgraduate or professional qualification while in employment.

Work Experience

Previous experience working in a laboratory would be really useful for this career.


You could progress in a number of ways. Experienced Scientists can take on more responsibility, perhaps moving into a supervisory or management post. This could involve training other Scientists or Technicians. Depending on your area of work and qualifications, you might specialise in a particular area of research or development.

Scientists can also move into areas like teaching, lecturing, journalism, marketing and sales (depending on the area of science).


For entry to a degree in a science subject, the usual minimum requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels, including at least one science subject
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 and above in your A level subjects
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, including English and maths

You might also need A level maths, often depending on the degree subject. For example, you'll usually need A level maths to do a physics degree.

Alternatives to A levels include:

  • BTEC level 3 qualifications
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma

However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites very carefully.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree, foundation degree or HND course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.

A foundation year before the start of a science degree or HND is available at some universities and higher education colleges for students who don't have the science A levels usually needed for entry to the course.

Science degrees and postgraduate courses are available from the Open University.


Sponsorship for higher education study of science subjects is available from research councils, industrial organisations, some government departments, private companies and professional bodies.

Some employers also offer a 'studentship' with financial support for postgraduate study.

Further Information


Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

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

Tel: 0845 6439001






New Scientist

Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd



Open University (OU)

Tel: 0845 3006090


Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)

Address: 7th floor, Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QT

Tel: 0870 8904333


Biochemical Society

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

Tel: 020 7685 2400



Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1UH

Tel: 01793 413200




Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Address: Crichton House, 4 Crichton's Close, Edinburgh EH8 8DT

Tel: 0131 5230493


Royal Society of Biology

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

Tel: 020 7685 2550



Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST)

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

Tel: 020 7603 6316



Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3)

Address: 1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB

Tel: 020 7451 7300


Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS)

Address: 12 Coldbath Square, London EC1R 5HL

Tel: 020 7713 0214



Geological Society

Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG

Tel: 020 7434 9944


Institute of Physics (IOP)

Address: 76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT

Tel: 020 7470 4800



Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)

Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BQ

Tel: 020 7734 4582


Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)

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

Tel: 01223 420066


Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)

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

Tel: 01962 868626



British Ecological Society (BES)

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

Tel: 020 7685 2500



Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM)

Address: Fairmount House, 230 Tadcaster Road, York YO24 1ES

Tel: 01904 610821



British Geological Survey (BGS)

Address: Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG

Tel: 0115 9363143



Marine Biological Association (MBA)

Address: The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth, Devon PL1 2PB

Tel: 01752 633207



Society for General Microbiology (SGM)

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

Tel: 0118 9881800



British Pharmacological Society (BPS)

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

Tel: 020 7239 0171



British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA)

Address: Regents Park, London NW1 4RY

Tel: 020 7449 6599



British Toxicology Society (BTS)

Address: Administrative Office, PO Box 10371, Colchester CO1 9GL

Tel: 01206 226059




Women in science, engineering and technology

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

Tel: 01274 724009



Planet Science

Publisher: Tinopolis


People Exchange Cymru (PEC)

Public sector recruitment portal for Wales



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