Science, Technology & Environment
Scientists perform experiments and trials to expand knowledge in their chosen area.
What does a Scientist do?
As a research scientist, you would plan and carry out experiments and investigations to broaden scientific knowledge in a range of areas, from life sciences to industrial processes. Scientific research involves designing and conducting experiments to collect physical evidence of natural phenomena. This information is analysed to develop practical applications in the creation of new materials and devices. Theoretical researchers use thought experiments to increase knowledge of their subject.
As a scientist, you would:
- plan and carry out experiments
- operate complex equipment and instruments
- keep accurate records of the results of experiments
- analyse results and data
- presenting findings in scientific journals, books or at conferences
- carrying out fieldwork (collecting samples and monitoring environmental factors)
- develop new products or ways of applying methodologies
- test products or materials to ensure that they meet quality standards
- draw up research proposals and funding applications
- collaborate with other scientists, including scientists from other disciplines
- teach or lecture at a school, college or university
- specialise in a particular scientific discipline.
Key skills and interests
To become a scientist, you would need:
- scientific and technical skills
- an enquiring mind
- problem solving skills
- maths and computer skills
- a logical and methodical approach to your work
- patience, accuracy and attention to detail
- good spoken and written communication skills
- the ability to work in a team
- excellent presentation skills.
Working hours and conditions
As a scientist your hours would vary depending on your specialty. You would usually work a standard number of hours each week but in a research environment, you may need to monitor experiments during evenings, weekends or public holidays.
Scientists who work in industry may work on shift system in a manufacturing plant.
Scientists work in laboratories, offices and in the field. Some work in manufacturing facilities, where you would also spend time on the factory floor. In a research laboratory, you would wear appropriate clothing.
How to become an Scientist?
Entry Level Education
To begin your career as a scientist, you would need at least a bachelor's degree, usually with honours, in a science subject related to your area of interest. To get into these courses, you would usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent, English, maths, and one or more science subjects would be appropriate to study prior to university.
To work in scientific research, you would need postgraduate qualifications, such as a research-based master's degree. A PhD, post-doctoral research and/or practical research or laboratory work experience is also beneficial, and frequently required for academic posts.
Employment of scientists is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations.
The grant-funded structure of academic scientific research - which gives preferential treatment to established researchers with track records - has led to a large number of PhD qualified scientists being unable to obtain funding to work in academic research.
More opportunities are available in industry, and graduates with bachelor's and master's degrees may find better employment prospects at an earlier stage of their career outside of continuing academic study.