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Scientific careers


As a science student, you might assume that your options for using your scientific knowledge upon graduation either involve working in a laboratory or teaching. 

You aren't alone in that assumption, but you couldn't be more wrong! Most job adverts rarely specify a particular degree, but we do know that science graduates are in demand across all sectors. 

To help you make sense of your career options, read on.


What are my options? 

Working in a lab, in the field or in a computational setting

Our graduates have embarked on diverse scientific careers in academic research, environmental consultancy, analytical chemistry, software engineering, pharmaceutical statistics, livestock nutrition and even space operations.

If you think that your future lies in science, a great place to start would be to take the Science Council's quiz to find out which of the 10 types of scientist you are:


Which type of scientist are you?

Laboratory work

Spotlight On: Science into Business

Kiri Granger, PhD alumna and Director of Neuroscience at Cambridge Cognition, talks about her job role and working in a commercial setting.

Science beyond the lab

While you might have enjoyed your subject while studying, you might not want to work in a lab. Many of our graduates chose a career in a sector outside of science, but where the transferable skills they have gained from their degree – problem solving, researching and analysis – are in demand.

Explore our seven alternative careers for scientists to give you a flavour of what else is out there.

Science careers beyond the lab

Going even further afield

Understanding how you can use your degree across a range of different occupations and sectors associated with STEM such as life sciences, food and drink, engineering, the games industry or the environment can help generate career ideas.

Outside of science and technology, take a look how the skills and experiences you have gained while at University can help you secure your dream job working in international development, or even the sports industry.

Other occupational areas

Further study

Perhaps you are considering embarked on a masters degree or PhD after your undergraduate degree? Use our further study pages to decide if postgraduate study is right for you.

Choosing further study as an option


How do I find a career path? 

In Careers we're often asked, "what can I do with my science degree?" The answer is anything you want as most job adverts rarely specify a particular subject discipline.

However, you may find that such freedom of choice can actually be constraining if you're trying to make sense of what your options are.

A better starting point might be to consider where your interests lie and what you enjoy doing.

In other words, what are your career values?

Useful questions to ask yourself could be:

  • Do I want to use science in my job?
  • Do I want to be hands-on and do something like research?
  • Would I prefer working in an academic or industrial setting?
  • Would I enjoy applying my scientific knowledge in an alternative career such as science communications, policy or regulation?
  • Could I successfully apply my transferable skills, such as attention to detail, data analysis and problem solving, to a career outside of science altogether?
  • Would I like to be my own boss and look at starting up my own company?

Our step-by-step guide to choosing a career

Whether you have too many ideas or none at all, our step-by-step guide will help you move forward. Alternatively, if you have some job ideas but aren't really sure how to get into them, we got that covered too.

Help to find careers that suit you 


How do I use recruitment agencies to find a scientific graduate job?

If you are looking for a graduate role which is related to science, recruitment agencies could be one effective way of finding employment. They can offer temporary or permanent opportunities over a broad range of sectors. Sometimes when you are looking for work it can seem that many of the vacancies are being managed by recruitment agencies. What does this mean and how should you approach a recruitment agency?

How do recruitment agencies work?

Recruitment agencies work on behalf of employers (clients) who will ask them for help in recruiting for a particular role. There are a number of reasons that an organisation might use a recruitment agency rather than recruiting themselves; the process will probably be quicker and the agency may have access to more candidates in a niche area.

A recruitment agency will also conduct eligibility to work checks and in some cases reference checks which could save the client time. Recruitment agencies charge the organisation for these services, as a candidate you cannot legally be charged for them to help you find a job. An organisation may use more than one agency to help them fill a role as often no charge is made until a position has been successfully filled.

Are you looking for temporary or permanent work?

Recruitment agencies deal with permanent and temporary (also called contract or interim) work. For a permanent role they would charge their client a one-off placement fee when they make a successful placement and the candidate would work directly for the client organisation.

For temporary work a candidate would be employed and paid by the agency but work for the client for a period of time. Temporary work could be a way to gain experience, try out a new sector or even a route to a permanent role.

What are the advantages of using an agency?

Recruitment agencies work on behalf of a number of different organisations over a range of sectors. For this reason they often have a great commercial insight into the areas in which they operate. If you can build a relationship with recruiters, they could be a great source of useful information. Established recruitment agencies have access to a large number of positions which may not be advertised elsewhere.

What are the disadvantages of using an agency?

Recruitment agencies are commercial organisations and will have a monetary interest in making placements, it is possible therefore that advice they give you may not be impartial. You may also find that recruiters only contact you when their client is interested in your CV and therefore, it is possible that the quality of service may not be consistent. Agencies may be most interested in graduates who already have some work experience.

How to choose an agency

Some of the science roles you will be thinking of applying to may well be advertised by recruitment agencies and you should be able to spot which agencies are advertising the most positions at a suitable level. It may also be worth asking any friends or colleagues if they have used an agency before – they may have recommendations. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) offers advice on choosing a recruitment agency along with a members’ directory. You could also use Agency Central to help you find and select a recruitment agency.

How to work with an agency

There are lots of science jobs advertised through recruitment agencies and you could choose to apply for one of these online and wait and see if the agency contacts you. Alternatively, it is worth contacting recruitment agencies and having a more general conversation about what sort of vacancies you are interested in. You could do this by email or telephone.

If you use LinkedIn or a CV library website, you may find that recruiters contact you about opportunities. It is really important to have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile with a professional photograph, and you should make it clear what sort of employment opportunities you are interested in. Connect with any recruiters who contact you about vacancies.

Find out how to create your LinkedIn profile

In order to register with an agency you will normally be required to send your CV. You may then be invited to a face-to-face registration interview where the recruiter will explore your experience and what sort of roles you are looking for. A good recruitment company will definitely want to meet you face-to-face so that they can really get to know you. You could look to develop a relationship with two or three  agencies. Reputable agencies should be keen to spend a little bit of time getting to know you and understand exactly what your career aims and work requirements are.

The agency will submit your CV to any suitable roles and organise interviews with the client organisation for you. They should be able to offer feedback after an interview process and also to help you negotiate salary or benefits if you are offered a role.

Get advice on developing your CV

It may be worth signing up with two or three agencies who can help with your job search. It is important not to rely solely on recruitment agencies; you should continue to check jobs boards, network and undertake your own job search activities.


Which recruitment agencies advertise science-related roles?

Agencies for work in health care (health care assistants to doctors)


Acknowledgement: The University of Kent Careers and Employability Service was the original source for this list.


Further suggestions

You may want to explore other career paths! Look at the GSK Future Leaders Programme page that includes other suggestions for careers outside the lab that could be applicable to other organisations you may be interested in:

  • Business operations: communications and government affairs, finance, HR, Procurement, Technology
  • Manufacturing and supply: engineering, operations, quality science and quality supply chain

You may also be interested in a career in teaching! Watch a recording of our Spotlight On: Science Careers beyond the lab in which Emma Mizen talks about how she became a Biology teacher.

Other articles that may be on interest:


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