Options for non-lab based careers
Many STEM graduates choose to follow careers paths outside science or in roles that use some of their scientific or technical skills, but in a non-lab based role.
Your degree will have developed a range of skills and knowledge that can be transferred to other career areas and many employers are interested in what you can bring to their sectors.
Spend some time thinking about yourself:
- what you have to offer - your skills, strengths and personal qualities
- what motivates and inspires you
- which aspects of science interest you;
- what sorts of activities you would like to do;
- how much involvement you want to maintain with science and technology
- the kind of work-life balance you want.
Use the resources in these science resource pages and the general get ideas page to help explore your options.
Examples of alternative careers
Below are some of the popular areas of work where scientists can use their skills/knowledge. This is not an exhaustive list. It is just to give you some ideas - use our job sector pages to explore other options.
Legal services, patents and trademarks
- Solicitors and Barristers work in a wide range of specialisms in private practice, the public sector, and in-house for a range of organisations. There is particular demand for scientists in areas such as intellectual property (IP) and environmental law. See our Legal Services sector pages for information
- Patent Agents (or Attorneys) assess new inventions and draft and carry through applications to obtain intellectual property rights for the individual or company that has developed it. They also act to enforce inventors’ rights if patents are infringed. They work in private practice and in-house, for example in manufacturing and pharmaceutical organisations. The patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions (CII) is a growth area - see the CIPA website and www.ipcareers.co.uk. Patent Examiners assess applications for patents, checking that the invention is new. They work in organisations such as the UK Intellectual Property Office www.ipo.gov.uk or the European Patent Office www.epo.org
- Trade Mark Attorneys specialise in advising clients about protecting and enforcing their trade mark rights. See the CITMA site for further information
- Regulatory affairs specialists support or assess registration applications for products in areas such as chemicals, agrochemicals, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals. They may work in-house for companies, in consultancies or in regulatory authorities and agencies, for example the Chemicals Regulatory Directorate. (see below for more information on pharmaceuticals)
- Librarians and Information Managers research, manage, organise, evaluate and disseminate information, in physical and online formats. They work in organisations such as academic libraries, research centres, the NHS, pharmaceuticals and specialist collections. The growth in electronic and digital libraries requires skills in managing and producing digital information. See www.cilip.org.uk/page/JobRoles for more information. The Pharmaceutical Information & Pharmacovigilance Association (PIPA) has information specifically about working in the pharmaceutical industry
- Bioinformatics and Health Informatics jobs involve the application of IT to manage and organise huge quantities of data generated by research, particularly by the increasing number of bioinformatics academic programmes such as the Human Genome Mapping Project. The following website provides an insight into the work www.biohealthmatics.com. The NHS Management Training scheme has specialisms including Health Analysis and Health Analytics. The Civil Service Fast Stream includes streams for Digital, Data & Technology, statisticians and operational researchers, but graduates can also be recruited into Assistant Statistician and Data Analyst roles through the general recruitment website
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's (ABPI) careers website is an excellent starting point for information about the wide range of opportunities in the industry and www.pharmiweb.com is a useful website for industry news and job vacancies.
Some key areas of work include:
- Clinical trials: providing administrative support and management of the clinical trials process. Key roles include Clinical Trials Administrator (CTA) and Clinical Research Associate (CRA). Find out more at the The Institute of Clinical Research (ICR)
- Regulatory work: includes roles such as medical writing and regulatory affairs. This involves recording and documenting details of new products and devices, preparing drug protocols and submission documents for licensing. The Organisation for Professionals in Regulatory Affairs (TOPRA) has some careers information on their website
- Statisticians and Statistical Programmers are involved in experimental design, statistical analysis, data manipulation and reporting of results – see www.psiweb.org for more information. Public Health England recruits research assistants into epidemiology – vacancies are listed on the NHS Jobs and Civil Service recruitment websites
- Communications: key areas include Healthcare Communications/PR/Marketing and Medical Sales Reps who visit health professionals to promote and sell pharmaceutical products and medical equipment. Useful resources include Prospects job profiles and the Healthcare Communications Association, whose website includes a directory of member companies.
- Medical Communications: typically roles within specialist consultancies relating to producing regulatory documentation, communications and publicity for pharmaceutical companies. Useful career guides and information at FirstMedCommsJob.com
Science education and communication
Covers a range of jobs that have the communication of scientific information and knowledge as their major function. Our sector pages include information on many of these areas.
- Teaching in schools, colleges and universities. Generous bursaries are available for graduates training to teach some STEM subjects. See the Education job sector pages
- Working in museums and science centres - see 'Considering science communication' and 'Considering arts and heritage' information sheets
- Communications - many organisations, including research centres, charities, science centres and learned organisations employ staff in communications-related roles. This can include public engagement/outreach work and marketing and communications. See the Advertising, marketing and PR job sector page
Manufacturing and production
Work in this area can involve working with hi-tech environments with responsibility for areas such as:
- Production management – planning, co-ordinating and controlling the manufacturing process. See the Prospects job profile
- Health and Safety Management- monitoring, managing and controlling health and safety in the workplace. See www.iosh.co.uk for more information. Some environmental consultancies and companies in sectors such as manufacturing, engineering and oil & gas recruit graduates into areas such as Health, Safety & Environment (HSE)
- Quality control – testing and checking to ensure production quality, developing and implementing systems. See www.thecqi.org
- Logistics– dealing with customers, suppliers and distributers to ensure smooth product manufacture, storage, supply, recycling and waste management. Opportunities arise within logistics companies and in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, transport, chemicals, health and household products and food production. See The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport
Scientific policy and strategy
The work can involve gathering and synthesising information on scientific issues, drafting reports, identifying and analysing policy issues, and offering information and advice to a range of audiences.
- Typically, policy officers work in government departments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), trade associations and professional and learned societies. This is not an easy profession to enter and postgraduate qualifications are usually required. The Science Careers website has some useful articles (search on Science Policy)
- The Civil Service runs a Generalist and a Science & Engineering Fast Stream. Entry to Science and Engineering is open to those with a 2:1 or higher in any degree subject and a masters or doctorate in a biological, physical, mathematical science or engineering subject (or a chartered engineer or scientist). The NHS offers a Policy & Strategy scheme and the Department of Health and Social Care runs a Health Policy Fast Track scheme
- Working in the field: not all scientific research and analysis takes place in a lab. You could look out for opportunities that would allow you to work in the field, eg in ecology and conservation, agriculture, environmental management or work with water and renewable energy companies. See the Environment job sector page for more information.
- Meteorology: involves forecasting, studying the impact of weather on the environment and conducting research into weather patterns, climate change and models of weather prediction. The Royal Meteorological Society's website has more information about training, qualifications and employment
- Health professions: there is a wide range of health professions, many of which offer graduate entry training options for science graduates, eg medicine, dietetics, speech therapy, medical physics and physician associate. See the Health job sector pages, including medicine, nursing and allied professions
- Business Management/Commercial/Finance: Many companies recruit graduates into business/management, Finance and IT training programmes but sectors where your science degree might be helpful include; pharmaceuticals, manufacturing (eg consumer health, food and drink), engineering, construction, utilities (energy, water), universities and professional services consulting firms, who work with clients in these sectors