What types of jobs and employers are there in science?
As a scientist, here are some of the types of work you could find yourself doing:
- Research and development – your observations may be used by you or others to devise new products such as drugs, foods, building materials or cleaning agents.
- Monitoring industrial processes – you may analyse the products coming off a production line to ensure that they continue to be made to the correct standard in a safe and reliable way.
- Monitoring the environment of the earth and beyond – you may be measuring things ranging from the quality of air and water to ensure necessary standards are met, to the output of the sun to help predict the effects of solar storms on communication satellites.
Scientists do more than research, test and measure. If you decide to work as a scientist, you will find yourself spending some of your time presenting your findings to other scientists and possibly to non-technical staff too.
Below are some of the industries you could work in as a scientist.
Life-science industries (includes pharmaceuticals, biotech and crop research)
These industries employ scientists who specialise in life sciences, chemical sciences or a cross between the two. Businesses in this sector are involved with the research, development and supply of drugs to combat medical conditions and diseases; the study of biological systems to come up with novel technologies; and the development of new crop varieties to increase yields and make agriculture more efficient.
As a scientist working in this area, you could do a range of different jobs including:
- devising medically active new compounds
- testing drugs to ensure their safety and effectiveness
- developing safe and effective methods for the bulk manufacture of drugs
- monitoring production to ensure drugs are made to the right strength without contamination
- adapting biological systems to novel uses, such as generating energy
- breeding new varieties of plants that improve yields and decrease the need to use pesticides.
Chemical development and manufacturing
Chemical industries mainly employ scientists who specialise in chemical sciences, although they sometimes employ those specialising in life sciences too. These industries produce a whole range of products including paints, plastics, food additives, disinfectants, cleaning products, fuels and lubricants.
As a scientist working in this sector, you could find yourself doing a number of different jobs including:
- researching and developing new products
- checking product safety
- analysing waste to ensure nothing dangerous enters the environment
- monitoring the manufacturing process to ensure that products are produced correctly.
Food production and development
These industries employ scientists who specialise in both food and life sciences and occasionally those who specialise in chemistry too. Scientists working in these industries are employed to do a whole range of jobs including:
- product development, including testing for taste and texture (known as mouthfeel)
- ensuring that products are not contaminated with germs or unwanted chemicals
- checking and devising processes that ensure ingredients are mixed and cooked thoroughly
- devising safe and effective packaging for foods.
Other jobs done by scientists
There are other types of work done by scientists. If you decide on a career in science, you could find yourself:
- collecting data on weather and climate and making both short and long-term predictions
- monitoring pollution in the environment and reporting your data to industry or government
- ensuring the health of animals kept in zoos, on farms and in people’s homes
- investigating the action of water in the environment and its effects on flood defences
- using scientific methods to date objects found on archaeological digs.
Where would you work as a scientist?
Scientists are needed in the public and private sectors and are hired by lots of employers including chemical and pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, universities, food and drink manufacturers, hospitals, environmental agencies, the government and charities such as Cancer Research.
You may find yourself working in a variety of different locations depending on your job.
Research institutions have offices as well as laboratories on site and if you are working at one of these locations, you are likely to spend much of your time in the office, writing up results from your work in the labs and reading up on the work of others when devising possible new lines of research.
If you are working in a factory, you might often be taking samples from the production line and analysing them on the spot, or, depending on what you are testing, you might have to take the samples away to a laboratory on site for more detailed analysis.
If your work involves environmental monitoring then it’s quite probable that you might sometimes be outside making observations or taking samples.
Whatever industry you are involved in, as part of your role of informing those around you, it’s also possible you may find yourself in meeting rooms or lecture theatres, sharing your results and ideas, and giving advice to others within businesses about the best way to proceed in order to increase profits and decrease costs.
Scientists add value to businesses by making money
As a scientist, you can make money for an employer by providing them with the technical know-how to make new things. Your work could also help businesses to continue making money on existing products by making sure they are produced to a consistently high standard that consumers trust, thereby ensuring that they keep buying them. Your work may involve developing highly efficient processes that reduce overheads and increase profits. Or your observations might help pinpoint serious problems that can be dealt with and, by doing so, save your employer a small fortune in paying legal fees or compensation to injured parties.