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Science Graduate Jobs and Programs
A Bachelor of Science is one of the most flexible degrees available to students. Because the field of science is so broad, a university degree cannot hope to cover the whole – therefore a Bachelor of Science develops a student’s ability to think logically and creatively; to collect and interpret quantitative and qualitative data; investigate problems using the scientific method; to develop habits of precision; and fosters a love and appreciation of science in general. In addition, a Bachelor of Science provides the student with a huge range of majors and specialisations – allowing them to direct their study of Science as they choose, depending on their interest.
The fundamental scientific skills taught in a Bachelor of Science are valuable to a huge range of professions: this, coupled with the array of specialisations available in the degree, explains the incredible diversity of potential career pathways that Science graduates may follow. Careers for Science graduates are not restricted to the field of science, but may also lead to business and public service. This is especially true if the study of science is combined with a degree like Commerce, Arts or Engineering.
People hoping to enter the field of Medicine, but who did not attain the extremely high ATAR or UMAT score or in some other way did not meet a pre-requisite for an undergraduate Medicine degree, may do an undergraduate Science degree and either transfer to Medicine after a year or go on to do post-graduate Medicine. Similarly, students of Science may transfer to Engineering or go on to do further post-graduate research in Science.
What do you need to know to get a job in science?
Areas of Scientific Study
There are several kinds of Science undergraduate degrees – generalist degrees (such as a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Advanced Science) and specialist degrees. The specialist degrees vary depending on the university. For example the University of Sydney offers a Bachelor of Medical Science, while UNSW offers this in addition to a Bachelor of Medicinal Chemistry, a Bachelor of Science (Nanotechnology) and several others.
The array of majors available to Science students is larger than for any other degree – too large to list here in full. Melbourne University for example offers 37 majors, with Monash University (31 majors), University of Sydney (30 majors) and UNSW (29 majors) not far behind. The number and type of majors will depend on the university’s size and resources for research and equipment. However these majors can usually be grouped under broader scientific disciplines. These are listed below, along with some of the possible career paths available to graduates of these disciplines.
- Chemical Sciences
Chemical Sciences deals with the structure, composition and properties of matter, and how matter changes in chemical reactions. Types of majors that fall under this branch of science include Chemistry, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Food Science, Pharmacology and Physics. Chemistry graduates may find work across a variety of industries, including manufacturing and processing (such as food, water, mining and waste management), marketing and consulting (as technical and product development advisors), government (in policy development, research and administration) and education.
- Earth Sciences
Earth Sciences is concerned with the planet’s geological, atmospheric and hydrospheric processes. Majors include Geology, Meteorology, Climate Science, Ecology and Hydrology. There is a particularly high demand for geology graduates in mining, where they employ their skills in the search for new mineral and energy resources, and consult with developers on the construction of mines, dams, tunnels and roads. Others find work in finance and banking and public service.
Graduates of geoscience, meteorology, oceanography and climate science may all be employed to help predict the weather and natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. In a world increasingly affected by global warming, climate scientists are in great demand – in research capacities (for example, developing models of how changes in climate will play out), in public policy (such as advising on the best ways to reduce carbon emissions), in non-government organisations, state corporations (like Sydney Water) and in business (advising industries on how best to minimise or repair their damage to the environment).
- Engineering Systems
Engineering Systems delves into the fundamental mathematics and the physical and chemical science that underpins engineering. Majors include Bioengineering, Electrical Systems and Chemical Systems. Engineering Systems is a good foundation for a career in engineering, especially if the student does it as part of a combined Science/Engineering degree, or follows their Bachelor of Science with a Masters of Engineering. For a detailed guide to jobs in engineering, see our engineering jobs guide.
- Environmental Sciences
Environmental Sciences is a multidisciplinary branch of science concerned with environmental systems, and how physical, chemical, and biological processes interact on our planet. Scientists in this field analyse and attempt to solve environmental problems using a systems approach. Majors include Ecology, Environmental Management and Climate Science.
Possible career paths in environmental sciences include conservation, becoming an advisor to government and businesses (on how to sustainably use natural resources) or working in non-profit “green” organisations.
- Information Technology
Information technology is concerned with digital technology, computer networks and information systems. While it can be studied at the major level as part of a Bachelor of Science, it is more often studied as part of a Bachelor of IT. For a more comprehensive description of the possible jobs available to IT graduates, see our information systems jobs guide.
- Life Sciences
Life science relates to the study of biology. There are multiple specialisations within this broad branch of science, including Genetics, Cell Biology, Biotechnology, Marine Biology, Immunology, Pathology, Zoology and Physiology.
Since biology is so fundamental to all life, the career possibilities for a biology graduate extend into almost all industry sectors. These include physical, “outdoors” jobs like agriculture, zoo-keeping and forestry; “exploration” jobs like field research in remote, wild locations (such as the Amazonian jungle or Antarctica); careers in environmentalism and conservation (either in a scientific research role, or as a consultant); careers in the commercial sector (in R&D roles such as working on the genetic modification of plants or the creation of pharmaceuticals; or in sales and management roles); and careers in education, forensics or government. The possibilities are endless for a life sciences graduate.
- Mathematics and Statistics
Applied mathematics and statistics are fundamental components of a science degree, and there are several majors available for those students who are interested in taking this study further. Mathematics is particularly important for those wishing to pursue a career in theoretical physics or engineering, but students with a mathematics major may also apply their skills in life sciences, the social sciences and finance.
- Physical Sciences
Physical sciences refers to the study of non-living systems. This branch encompasses physics, chemistry, material science and earth sciences. Careers in physical sciences include working with engineers to create new technologies and materials, research, helping develop new telecommunications and photonics technology, and working in sales and management of scientific corporations.
- Psychological Sciences
Psychological science attempts to understand why humans behave in certain ways by studying the mind and analysing patterns of behaviour. Psychology graduates may find work in a range of settings, from healthcare, counselling, education, HR and policy-making.
As with all industries, work experience in the form of internships or vacation programs is a great asset to one’s career. Many organisations may offer internships for science students, including pharmaceutical, FMCG and mining corporations. Even banks recognise the value of a scientific mindset, and some specifically call for science students to join their internship programs.
Depending on your particular scientific interests, you could gain work experience by volunteering or getting a part time job at a range of different organisations. For example those passionate about environmental sciences or macro biology might consider volunteering at the local reserve, working with conservation groups or WIRES; or at the zoo.
Professional Scientific Membership
While it is not necessary to join a professional scientific association, it can be beneficial for students to join an association in their relevant specialisation, since it will put them in contact with their peers in the industry and provide them with possible mentoring and networking opportunities. There are too many associations to list here, but some examples include the Society of Human Geneticists, the Statistical Society of Australia and the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. While membership usually requires the payment of a fee, students are given discounts.
Macroeconomic trends in scientific research
Government allocation of funds to scientific research has always been a significant driver of demand for research jobs in the relevant scientific fields (although private funding in corporations is also extremely important). Graduates should examine the state and federal budgets of the government in power, to gain insight into which fields are going to increase hiring for research, and which ones will be laying off workers. For example, if (as the 2014 budget indicates is likely to happen), the federal government cuts hundreds of millions of dollars of funding from scientific research institutes like CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Biology and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (among others), demand for research graduates in these public sector organisations will decrease. However the proposal of a multi-billion dollar future fund for medical research will improve prospects for graduates in this area.
Science Graduate Work Prospects and Salary Averages
Because of the broad range of jobs available to science graduates, work prospects are higher than for more specialised degrees. The hard skills of science can be applied to almost any career,providing science graduates with the ability to transfer between different careers across disparate sectors (such as from science to finance). Since most of today’s professionals can expect to undergo from three to five career changes, this flexibility is an asset in the modern, highly competitive job market, and can be increased even further when Science is studied in conjunction with either Commerce or Arts.
Starting salaries for science graduates are relatively high. A study taken in 2013 by Graduate Careers Australia indicated that science graduates made on average $55-60k in their first year of employment. This figure does not account for differences in specialisation. According to Open Universities Australia, research and development managers can start with salaries of up to $71k, while pharmaceutical scientists and life scientists can earn up to $62k. Median salaries (around $55k) are earned by mathematicians and physicists. Lower starting salaries are typically earned by geoscientists and chemists ($45-48k). Of course, starting salaries all depend on the organisation hiring, and can vary widely depending on location and type of role required.
Gender and a Career in Science
A common stereotype about science is that it is a “masculine” industry, compared to the supposedly “feminine” social sciences and liberal arts. This perception is changing as more and more women are entering, and excelling, in science. According to Graduate Careers Australia, the ratio of male-to-female graduates in many science specialisations (such as Chemistry) are almost equal, and while some specialisations (like computer science) are dominated currently by men, other specialisations (like pharmacy) are dominated by women. However the industry still has a way to go before women will be treated equally in these fields. A wage gap still exists of several thousand dollars a year, even in specialisations where women outnumber men. This can be partially (though not completely) explained by the higher rate of part-time employment among women than men.
Benefits to science graduates will vary depending on the organisation hiring. They may include such things as travel allowance, PhD sponsorship, share options (for major corporations), relocation assistance, gym membership, or the ability to devote a proportion of research time to a personal scientific study.