If you’ve ever wanted to get into science, you know there’s no shortage of opportunities. There are thousands of careers listed on job sites like LinkedIn, and thousands more that aren’t listed.
But becoming a scientist isn’t as simple as looking up a career on a website and picking the first thing that looks interesting.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to become a scientist, from finding an apprenticeship to meeting the educational requirements. We’ll also talk about how to prepare yourself for the hiring process – after all, you don’t want to spend all of your time before your interview worrying about possible questions!
Choose the Right A Levels to Prepare You for a Career in Science
The most traditional path to becoming a professional scientist is going to university. In fact, becoming a scientist typically involves many years of study. Before applying to university, however, you need to complete your A levels (or Scottish Highers if you live in Scotland). Taking A-level courses will qualify you for the university and science program of your choosing, provided your grades are excellent.
After completing your GCSEs, you will have to take your A levels. If you already know what science specialisation you’d like to pursue, we recommend browsing different university websites to learn more about their specific requirements.
Here are some examples of the minimum A level-course requirements for the following undergraduate degrees:
The field of data science is up and coming and many universities require mathematics, and even further mathematics is recommended.
You must complete your A levels in at least biology and one other science course, such as chemistry or physics.
You will need to complete at least two hard science courses in biology, chemistry, physics, or maths.
How to Pursue a Science Degree Without Your A levels
Many prospective students want a career in science but haven’t completed their A levels. Fortunately, this is not the end of the road. Overall, universities in the UK accept students with equivalent diplomas.
International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
The IB Diploma is a two-year programme that covers a wide range of subjects—from languages and literature to science—and requires three higher-level studies in the field of your choice. If you’re interested in becoming a scientist, select three courses in the hard sciences to study at a higher level.
Many universities accept students with IB Diplomas in their bachelor programs, provided their grades are high enough and they meet other entry requirements.
Access to Higher Education Diploma
An Access to HE Diploma is designed for people who have not been in school for some time or who left their educational path because their grades did not allow them to continue. An Access to HE Diploma is designed for prospective university students of all ages.
Every year, students with Access to HE Diplomas successfully move on to university programmes.
Choose the Right University Courses For Your Career Path
Now that you’ve completed your A levels or equivalent courses, it’s time to choose your science program at university. Support your career goals by choosing the right degree that’s relevant to your ideal science job.
For example, if you want to be a data scientist, you should pursue a degree in computer science, mathematics, or statistics. If you want to be an analytical chemist, a degree in forensics is the most direct academic path.
A Note on Grades
We’ve talked a lot about the academic requirements for finding a job as a scientist, but keep in mind that good grades are just as important. Most higher-education programs and employers in the science sector are looking for a grade of at least a 2.1.
How Do Science Apprenticeships Work?
If you want to become a scientist without pursuing a master’s or doctorate, you can find an apprenticeship scheme. Provided your grades are stellar (as in, a 96 or higher), you can apprentice while studying for your bachelor’s degree. An apprenticeship is a great way to gain experience in your chosen field, and it could fast-track your career if your employer offers you a job as a scientist.
What Happens When I Get My BSc Degree?
For many science careers, an undergraduate degree is just the beginning. If you’re interested in a career in medical research and epidemiology, for example, you’ll need at least a master’s degree to be a viable candidate for a job in this field. Many science jobs also require a PhD.
Master’s and PhD in Science
Continuing your education after you obtain your degree in science not only furthers your knowledge and experience, it also makes you a much more attractive candidate to employers. For some science jobs—such as a research scientist or physicist, higher education is the only option.
If this is the right decision for you, you’ll have to spend at least another five years in university. If funding is a barrier to entry, we recommend looking into sponsored degrees, which are funded by companies.
Many students defer their education for more hands-on experience as a research assistant or lab technician (for example). Gaining work experience better prepares you for the job market and may help you save money to continue your schooling.
How to Prepare for a Job in the Sciences
So, you’ve earned your qualifications to become a scientist and now you want to put all your education to use. How do you prepare for your future job? Well, the good news is that if you’re at this stage, you’ve likely already narrowed down your employment prospects.
As you probably know, getting a job takes more than just an impressive CV. Your future at a company also relies on your ability to nail a job interview. Here are some tips for excelling at your interview:
Know the Company Inside and Out
Put your research skills to the test by learning about the company’s mission, values, and history. It helps to remember some key statistics about the company or major projects they’ve worked on. Your interviewers will be impressed by how prepared you are. Plus, this research will help you determine if the organisation is right for you.
Knowing the company’s dress code policy will give you a head’s up for what to wear on interview day.
Put Yourself in Your Interviewer’s Shoes
If you were the interviewer, what would you want to know? You’ll likely be asked a variety of questions about your background and career objectives, and you’ll probably be tested on your skills and aptitudes to ensure you’re the ideal candidate for the job. Be prepared to answer questions about:
- Your relevant experience
- Any skills you have that are suited for the job (come prepared with some examples)
- Your strengths and weaknesses; how your strengths will help you in this position
- How well you work in different settings (are you a team player, and can you show examples of this?)
Get Started on Your Science Career Path
There are always opportunities to build an exciting and meaningful career in the science sector. No matter what your dream job looks like, you’ll be expected to come to your job interview armed with a strong CV that demonstrates a clear passion for science.
If there’s already a particular career in science that interests you, start searching for those jobs on sites like LinkedIn to find out what qualifications they’re looking for in their ideal candidate.