3 Examples of Non-Academic Career Paths for Scientists


If you know academia is not for you, you will want to know about non-academic career paths for scientists. You might want to transition out of academia but feel overwhelmed or unsure where to start. Your science degree gives you many skills, but it can be difficult to know where you can apply them. It may feel like you are limited by your science degree and couldn’t work in a non-science industry. The truth is, you have many transferable skills from your degree that will set you up for success in a wide range of roles and industries. The key is expanding your knowledge of the types of jobs out there.

Here are 3 examples of non-academic career paths for scientists:

  1. Business roles

Your science degree gives you a number of transferable skills that can be applied to non-science roles as well as science-based ones. Companies hire people for business roles when they demonstrate the soft skills to learn quickly. Your specific academic subject is often not important here, although they are likely to look at what grade you attained.

If you are interested in carving out a business-focused career, there are a number of different approaches. To keep a link to a science industry, you could apply for a support function role in a science-led organisation. An example of this would be applying for a HR role at a pharmaceutical company. Other support function roles include IT, Finance, Procurement and Legal roles. Another route you can take is applying to a completely different industry, such as banking. You would need to demonstrate what skills from your science degree could apply to a role in Finance for example. Often, science graduates are attractive in industries where you need numerical and analytical skills.

  1. Educational roles

If you enjoy conveying scientific concepts to others and inspiring people, there are lots of options to work in education. You can explore both traditional and non-traditional roles. Teaching is a popular route for many graduates, and you can consider this at many levels. Primary or secondary education would require you to study for a further qualification, which can often be done on-the-job. If you have completed a post-graduate qualification such as a PhD, you may have already done some teaching at university level alongside this. You could pursue this further as your full-time career.

Alternative options in the education sector could be working in a museum, doing science outreach activities for a charity, or working in an educational arm of a research institution, which you can often find at universities. You might have an interest in healthcare, which could pave the way for you to work in a health or medical education role.

  1. Research in an industrial setting

Maybe your passion lies in scientific research, but you just want a different environment. Perhaps you want to make a particular impact with your work, and feel attracted to working in industry. There are a variety of scientific areas, products and customers your work could be centred around in industry. There could be a specific disease area that is important to you or you are interested in. You may want to work in the healthcare industry, pharma or consumer goods. Think about what type of commercial company you want to work in, and what type of environment would suit your style.  

As you consider non-academic career paths for scientists, make sure you take steps to plan your career path outside the lab. This doesn’t mean you have to know exactly where you are going in 5 or 10 years time. But it is always useful to have reflected and researched your options. Know that there are many options outside of academia for scientists, depending on your personality, interests and how much of a link you want to keep to science!  

If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.

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