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Where to start  

Explore how alumni are using their scientific knowledge in the Hands Off Science category on our blog and and check out our Hands Off Science playlist for more inspiration.

Are you keen to use your scientific knowledge away from the lab? There are several fields where your expertise is valued, each encompassing a variety of organisations and roles to explore.

Take a look at the Prospects Guide to a Career in STEM 2020/21.

 

Commercial Science

Where to start 

There’s a wide variety of roles in industry, beyond research and development. Some roles help organisations to be more successful and profitable from within, others provide valuable support to scientists conducting research.

  • All organisations (public, private and third sector) need people to lead and run their finances, IT, human resources, marketing and sales.
  • Organisations developing products may need people to manage projects, run trials, secure regulatory approval, provide customer or technical services, and manage procurement/the supply chain.

Will a Masters or PhD be valued?

  • Some specialist roles may value or require a PhD, for example clinical trials, regulatory affairs, or sales and technical support.
  • Companies in the EEA will expect a Master’s level qualification, as they do not have BA degrees.
  • If you have a PhD and are considering applying for a graduate scheme or role open to graduates of any discipline, be ready to explain your motivations and demonstrate the breadth of your experience.

How to get the experience to be credible

  • Many large organisations offer formal internship programmes, which may lead to a place on their graduate scheme.
  • Seek opportunities to gain commercial experience in a smaller organisation. You may need to make a speculative approach to secure an opportunity as many won’t have formal internship schemes.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

  • Take opportunities to develop commercial knowledge alongside your transferable skills through i-Teams, EnterpriseTECH or student entrepreneurship and consultancy projects.
  • Take on leadership roles in your extracurricular activities­; this could include taking on committee roles in student societies, becoming a member of the JCR or MCR, or becoming a student rep within your department.

How to find employers or training courses

  • Browse internship and graduate opportunities via Handshake, and use graduate-specific websites including GradCracker, Prospects, Milkround and TARGET jobs.
  • Attend the Engineering, Science and Technology and Graduate Schemes and Internships careers fairs in Michaelmas Term,
  • Explore virtual insight opportunities via the Bright Network or Forage.
  • Use the UK Science Parks Association directories to find smaller organisations across the UK.
  • Sign up to organisation mailing lists and generalist jobs boards.
Patents & IP

Where to start 

There are four key roles in patents and IP, each with their own focus and requirements.

  • Patent Attorney: you will liaise with inventors and analyse scientific research to assess whether inventions are innovative and eligible to be patented, before writing patent drafts to be submitted to patent examiners. Further details on the role, training routes and salary can be found in this Patent Attorney Job Profile.
  • Patent Examiners: work for the Intellectual Property Office or the European Patent Office and assess patent applications. Further details on the role, training routes and salary can be found in the Patent Examiner Job Profile
  • Intellectual Property Lawyers: are trained as solicitors and are involved in patents are infringed or contested.
  • Technology Transfer: works with academic researchers to identify work that may be worth commercialising. Opportunities are often based in research-intensive universities.

Will a Masters or PhD be valued?

  • Most of these roles (with the exception of IP Lawyer) will require at least an undergraduate degree in a science subject. In practice, many Patent Attorneys, particularly in the life sciences, also hold a PhD and academics may be more receptive to technology transfer staff with PhDs.
  • Patent Examiners at the European Patent Office must have at least a Master’s, as well as excellent language skills.

How to get the experience to be credible

  • Law firms offer 1–2 week vacation schemes for both law and non-law students. If you are a non-law student you may only be eligible to apply in your final year.
  • Some patent firms offer open days or vacation placements from 1–12 weeks.
  • Demonstrate an interest in the commercialisation of science, whether via experience in industry or as part of an industrial facing research group.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

  • Take opportunities to develop commercial knowledge alongside your transferable skills through i-Teams, EnterpriseTECH or student entrepreneurship and consultancy projects.
  • Join the Cambridge University Law Society.
  • Meet Patent Firms at the Engineering, Science and Technology Careers Fair in Michaelmas Term.
  • Attend the Law Careers Fair to meet IP lawyers in Michaelmas Term.

How to find employers or training courses

  • Browse Handshake for vacation and training opportunities.
  • Sign up to IP Careers for trainee positions, vacation schemes and open days. Some firms welcome speculative applications.
  • Use Civil Service jobs to find opportunities in the government’s IP office.
  • Search jobs.ac.uk for technology transfer roles which will be advertised throughout the year.
  • Use our Law Sector pages for advice on vacation schemes and training contracts.

Hear alumni stories and learn more about a career in Patents and IP by catching up with our Careers Panel.

Science communication & publishing

Where to start 

There are many jobs in science communication: running the peer review for a science journal; medical writing for a medical communications agency; science writing for a magazine, website or company; managing social media and communications for a science-related charity, and working in a science museum.

All will look for a broad base of scientific knowledge, as well as excellent communication skills that can be adapted to different audiences. Highly-valued abilities include being able to use a variety of media, and work efficiently to meet deadlines.

Will a Masters or PhD be valued?

  • It is possible to undertake specialist Master’s courses in science communication. This will enable you to extend your skills, do real projects, and network. It is not, however, compulsory for entry into the field.
  • Many working in science communication do have a PhD, and the level of knowledge acquired this way will be valued, but this isn’t essential.

How to get the experience to be credible

  • Get involved with opportunities in communication (particularly science communication) alongside your studies. This may involve managing social media for a student society, doing outreach work for your department, or writing your own webpage, blog or social media account.
  • Engage with how science communication is done, and form your own views on what works, and what doesn’t. Reading science magazines, watching relevant TV shows, and listening to radio shows or podcasts will help you to understand the art.
  • Connect with science communicators via social media. The Naked Scientists are based in Cambridge, follow Kat Arney’s blog for a good example (a Cambridge graduate), and look at the Scholarly Kitchen for publishing news.
  • Get involved with the learned society that is most relevant to you (eg the Royal Society of Chemistry, Institute of Physics).

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

How to find employers or training courses

  • Some graduate schemes exist, such as the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Publishing Editor scheme or the Wellcome Trust’s graduate scheme.
  • There’s no one place to look for science communication opportunities, and there are many different job titles they could be advertised under. Get creative with your searching. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of science communicators for ideas of key words to use across a broad range of jobs sites.
  • Follow @BIGchats on Twitter to stay up to date.
Sci tech consulting

Where to start 

This branch of consulting uses specific scientific or technical knowledge to solve problems for clients. It can provide external research and development (R&D) for companies commercialising technology or solve scientific and technical problems that they find difficult.

This area has several subsectors:

  • Medical, healthcare and pharma
  • Innovation and product development
  • Engineering and environmental R&D
  • Technology, IT and systems consulting

Sci-tech consulting offers the chance to use your specialist knowledge in a business context. Having a wide technical base is important.

Will a Master’s or PhD be valued?

This sector particularly values research-based postgraduate degrees. The deeper the scientific or technical nature of their work, the more likely they will require a higher degree.

Firms that are more business focused, (including many in healthcare or life science consulting) will be more open to undergraduates.

How to get the experience to be credible

  • Undertake technical or applied projects, either inside or outside your course.
  • Look for internship opportunities in consultancies, or within the commercial environment.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

  • Get exposure to commercialising technology via i-Teams or CUTEC.
  • Build your transferable skills and commercial knowledge through student entrepreneurship activities or consulting projects.
  • Attend the Consultancy and Engineering, Science and Technology Careers Fairs in Michaelmas Term.

How to find employers or training courses

There’s no single place to find opportunities in sci-tech consulting, but the Cambridge area is home to several top firms. Resources for management consulting jobs may not always cover sci-tech consulting, so you may need to do some targeted research.

  • Search for opportunities on Handshake using keywords like ‘physics’ or ‘life science’.
  • Cambridge Network publishes jobs and has a directory of local companies.
  • Use LinkedIn to identify firms either via their jobs listing, or by looking at the profiles of Cambridge alumni.

Get inspiration from alumni and learn more about Sci Tech consulting by catching up with our Careers Panel or listen to our In Conversation With... video with Greg Dickens from Innovia.

Science policy

Where to start 

Science can often have important implications for government policy. Likewise, policy decisions affect science in a variety of ways, from funding strategies to regulatory approaches.

Typical science policy employers in the UK include:

  • UK Civil Service and government departments including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, DEFRA, the Met Office and Health
  • Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)
  • Scientific professional bodies such as the Royal Society of Chemistry, Institute of Physics, Royal Academy of Engineering, Institute of Food Science & Technology, British Ecological Society, and the British Psychological Society
  • Research funders and charities such as the Wellcome Trust, Royal Society, Cancer Research UK, and RSPCA.

Other countries will have analogous organisations. You could also consider EU and international organisations such as the UN, WHO and OECD.

Will a Master’s or PhD be valued?

Additional insight into how scientific research works obtained via postgraduate qualifications will be valued in this career path, however there are entry routes into policy for those with undergraduate degrees.

How to get the experience to be credible

  • Internship opportunities may be available in some of the organisations listed above, including the Wellcome Trust and UK Civil Service.
  • PhD students should look out for POST 3 month fellowship schemes and the UK Research and Innovation Policy Internships Scheme.
  • Develop your ability to write content explaining technical information to those from a non-technical background for example writing for BlueSci.
  • Engage with policy developments such as the Campaign for Science and Engineering, POST Publications and the work of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.
  • The science policy community uses Twitter heavily, follow the feeds of science policy blogs and relevant policy organisations.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

How to find employers or training courses

  • Science graduates can apply to any of the Civil Service streams, but may be particularly interested in the specialist stream for science and engineering. Many graduates secure direct entry roles in government departments via Civil Service jobs. For further information visit our Public Sector A-Z page.
  • Other sources of jobs for science policy include New Scientist, Nature Jobs, the Times Higher Education and Guardian Jobs. Look for job titles that include ‘Policy Advisor’, ‘Scientific Officer’ and ‘Programme Manager’.