The Science Industry: Jobs, Skills and Job Outlook
The Science industry encompasses a variety of disciplines, including STEM subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology, but also the social sciences.
Each of these areas in turn contains various fields of specialization, such as molecular biology, genetics, ecology, botanics, material sciences, nuclear physics, cultural anthropology, political economy and many others.
The sciences can be split into two categories: pure or theoretical science and applied (or experimental) science. Pure science deals with abstract concepts and the development of scientific theories, while experimental science is interested in the practical use of pure science concepts, employing scientific knowledge to solve practical and research problems and develop new technologies and innovative applications.
The principal task of scientists and technicians working in the Science industry is to study and carry out research. The results of their research efforts are subsequently used to make positive contributions to the economy and to society as a whole.
Each year, the research and development activities carried out by chemists, biologists, physicians, mathematicians, psychologists, economists and linguists result in new patents that enable industry to produce technologies and applications that have a positive impact on life, health and the environment.
For example, scientific discoveries contribute to improvements in energy generation and storage technologies, in agriculture and food production and in medical diagnosis and treatment procedures, help reduce the impact of human activities on the environment, enable the invention of new materials, and contribute to our understanding of social dynamics and human communication.
In addition to research personnel, the Science industry also includes people working in a wide variety of supporting and ancillary roles, such as laboratory technicians and assistants, administrative and accounting personnel and research commercialisation officers.
What types of organizations operate in the Science industry?
Many scientists, researchers and technicians work in industry - principally in research and development - as well as in universities and research institutes, where they are involved in research and teaching.
Companies principally invest in applied research and experimental development, while basic research is mainly carried out in universities and public and private research centres.
The sectors that invest the most in R&D are the information and communication technology, chemical, pharmaceutical and health, automotive, energy, aerospace and defence industries.
Finally, science and social science graduates also hired by schools, in teaching roles, as well as by testing laboratories, consulting firms, international organizations, public sector bodies and government agencies.
Companies hiring in the Science industry:
Science Industry - Job Outlook
A wide variety of job openings exist in the Science industry, while career opportunities are expected to grow as new technical and industrial applications emerge and gain traction as a result of scientific discoveries and innovations.
Demand for chemists, biologists, and life sciences experts is forecast to rise, for example in agriculture and food sciences, as a consequence of the need to ensure safe and efficient sources of food for a growing global population, and in biotechnology, where a better understanding of human DNA will open up new possibilities for pharmaceutical research and the treatment of disease.
Meanwhile, an increase in job opportunities for physicians, scientists and engineers is also expected in the energy sector, thanks to advances in smart grid technologies and the growing focus on developing eco-compatible and sustainable methods of energy generation.
Career prospects are also on the whole positive for students of applied mathematics disciplines, such as statistics, engineering and information technology, with opportunities particularly plentiful in programming and software development, engineering design and technical consulting.
For students of the social sciences, job opportunities are mainly found in the academic sector, as well as in government agencies and management consulting firms, but there are also interesting opportunities in market research, linguistics applied to software programming, cultural mediation (for businesses and non-profit organizations) and in international relations.
What skills are required in the Science industry?
As is the case in many other fields, the top employers in the Science industry seek to attract the best qualified candidates. And there are no prizes for guessing that what they are looking for are technical competencies:
Data analysis skills
Jobs in the sciences focus heavily on research and data analysis, meaning candidates will be expected to speak the ‘language of science’ - in other words, mathematics. With practically every business decision and activity these days based in some way on data, the ability to analyze, organize and interpret data (including ‘big data’) is a requirement for anybody interested in a scientific career in academic research or industry.
Ability to use scientific instruments
Scientific instruments have a vast range of applications - including taking readings and measurements, performing calculations and conducting laboratory tests - and are used by all science sector professionals in their work. Essentially, whether it’s a basic piece of laboratory equipment, such as a microscope, or a highly complex device, such as a particle accelerator, researchers and scientists need to possess a full working knowledge of the instrumentation they have at their disposal and be able to use them to their full potential.
The ability to manage a project is a key skill in all technical and scientific sectors. Projects led by a scientist with strong project management skills are more likely to be run efficiently and have the best chances of succeeding and securing financing or investment. For a researcher, project management expertise is a massive asset that can significantly boost their career prospects.