Non-research career options
If your passion lies outside the lab it is important to get as much experience as possible in your chosen area. There is a variety of opportunities outside of
the laboratory such as science/technical writing, science administration and management, science communication, editing, technology transfer, patent law, teaching, sales and technical support. You are eligible for these positions because of the transferable skills acquired during your degree however you are competing against graduates from other scientific disciplines as well as your own, so it can be a very competitive career choice.
Science communication is an enormously rewarding but increasingly competitive field to enter.
If public engagement is where your interest lies it is important to get as much experience as possible because employers in this sector will be looking for evidence that you are enthusiastic and proactive. Volunteer to help out with your university’s outreach events or at one of the many Science Festivals run in the UK every year. The Society’s Public Affairs department has a wide range of outreach activities. If you are a member and are interested in helping out, we'd love to hear from you. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Offering your time to Science Centres and Museums in your area will also help you gain valuable experience.
If you wish to become a science writer, experience is important. You need to show an ability to write good English and explain complex topics in a straight-forward style. Write for your university paper or department newsletter, or submit a piece to a scientific writing competition. The Biochemical Society, Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust and Society for Endocrinology run essay competitions. Your local paper may be interested in a piece if you are writing about something big in the news at the time. Become a member of the Association of British Science Writers, look into internships at science magazines New Scientist, Nature and BBC Focus Magazine. Setting up your own blog is another good way to get your writing out there and get your name known.
Science policy aims to inform and influence government by providing accurate scientifically sound information to aid policy decisions. If you are interested in getting involved in science policy apply for a policy placement. These placements (usually lasting a few months) are designed to give you a taste of what is involved in working in science policy. Many Learned Societies offer policy internships; there are also policy placements available to PhD students sponsored by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
Intellectual property or patent attorneys work with businesses and scientists to protect their inventions, products and ideas. As well as a strong scientific background you need further qualifications in law. Some law firms accept exceptional science graduates onto in-house training schemes. The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, together with the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys has responsibility for running these examinations. Once you've completed the qualifications you will be a member of the Register of Patent Agents and the Register of Trade Mark Agents. For more information visit the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and Intellectual Property Office.
If you are interested in a career in business, most employers look for evidence of 'commercial awareness'. BBSRC runs a competition called Biotechnology YES (Young Entrepreneurs’ Scheme) which gives students a taste of what is involved in commercialising a research idea, complete with a Dragons' Den-style panel that will assess your 'company'.
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) are another good way of getting some experience in a business setting. A KTP is a three-way project between a graduate, a business and a university/research organization. The projects are paid and generally last on to two years depending on the project.
Education and policy