Thinking seriously about a career in Science?
Preparing yourself for a career in science can be testing - there are many different disciplines and different specialisations to choose from.
If you're thinking about a career in science you probably love to find answers, you're curious, and think analytically and critically. In science, you can work in a profession that really improves our lives and changes the world.
Now it's time to move forward with your career planning. Here is some useful info to help you start building your skills right now.
What skills do I need?
- a thirst for knowledge and a desire to make a difference in the world
- a natural curiosity about why things work the way they do
- learn how to challenge others in factual, evidence-based argument and to respect the right of other people to prove you wrong
- ability to do structured, hands-on work, with close attention to detail, and a commitment to finding the truth.
- Different science professionals use a range of specialised equipment and methods to do their work. They need good technical skills to be able to test, experiment and make accurate observations.
Problem solving skills
- Scientists work to solve problems every day in their work.
- Communication skills are most important in the science professions. Scientists need to collaborate with other scientists, and also communicate complex issues in language that non-scientists can understand, to gain support to apply or commercialise their findings.
You also need STEM skills
In 2012, it was estimated that 75% of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills. These included occupations where STEM skills are essential, such as in Engineering (electrical, mining, mechanical), Science (agricultural, forestry, environmental, chemical and food), and Business/ ICT (systems analysts, software and applications programmers, database and systems administrators).
In 2014, Bureau of Statistics figures showed STEM skills jobs grew at 1.5 times the rate of other jobs in recent years, with the fastest growing occupations requiring STEM qualifications including those in engineering and science.
Building skills to succeed
Science emphasises the value of problem solving, being creative and working individually or as part of a team. Start building your skills now.
Building your technical skills can be as simple as practising taking accurate measurements, being careful to record all your observations and learning to use equipment carefully. This is something you can do in your science classes at school. With practice, applying these skills becomes second nature and you can do these things without errors.
Problem solving skills
The science you learn at school also trains you to be good at problem solving. Practise problem solving at every opportunity - wherever you are. Step up for roles that exercise your problem solving muscles, mental as well as physical.
- You have to like numbers to succeed in the sciences, but remember, even scientists have calculators and use them every day. Ability in mathematics is a core component of many science degrees. To build your skills in mathematics, select school subjects that best prepare you for your science preference at university, even if that means seeking extra help from your teachers or a tutor.
- Get involved in activities and competitions that stretch your creative thinking and problem solving - push boundaries.
Teamwork & Communication skills
These skills are most important in the science professions. Scientists need to collaborate (talk amongst themselves and work together), and also communicate complex issues in language that non-scientists can understand. Practice your communication skills in class presentations, group project meetings, debating, role playing, acting or game play. And be open to feedback about how well you got your message across!
- Written Communication – Practise building this skill, especially in your schoolwork. As a scientist you need to communicate effectively in written form to present your ideas in a logical, coherent and professional manner. Correct spelling and grammar are just two components of well formed written communication. Often, scientitific papers communicate in their ‘own language’, consisting of technical terms, acronyms and formatting. Do some research to become acquainted with these.
- Verbal Communication – It is commonplace for scientists to collaborate in a variety of scenarios - in meetings, at conferences, in client interactions and working in teams. When preparing for class presentations, focus on how you can present your ideas clearly, using words your audience can understand. Practise using tools like charts, slides and animations to illustrate and clarify what you will say. Rehearse and ask friends for feedback. Again, learning the ‘language’ of your preferred discipline will be of value.
- Listening and understanding – These are skills that you will use throughout your career. Learn active listening skills and practise being open to constructive criticism without taking it personally - a scientist who has their hypothesis disproved has actually learnt something.
There are many different science experience activities where you can get involved. Visit the Sciences Activities page for information about LEAP activities you or your school can attend. Check out the ConocoPhillips Science Experience website for upcoming events. These are fun three or four days of science activities for Year 9 and 10 students, run across the State at different university campuses.
Share your interest with like-minded science fans, through organisations like Young Scientists of Australia, a youth-run organisation for 14 to 25 year olds. Melbourne YSA members get involved in science communication, events and support for school and university students. They also conduct monthly social activities, produce weekly podcast and host a science blog.
Talk to Scientists
Do some research and networking to locate and talk to scientists working in your preferred field. Ask them about their experience and interests, why they chose their area of science, and see if they have any tips for you to help you achieve your goals. Ask your science teacher if you need help finding someone.
- Check out organisations, such as CSIRO, to see if they offer programs during school holidays.
- Speak to your Careers Counsellor or science teacher at school to find out about other programs available.
What school subjects can help?
For a career in science, you definitely need good STEM skills (Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) - so sticking with STEM subjects right through to the end of year 12 will certainly increase your options for higher education and beyond.
- Select VCE subjects that match your scientific interests and meet university course entry requirements. These could be biology, chemistry, physics, maths, mathematical methods or specialist mathematics.
- Consider other related subjects like, health and human development, psychology and environmental studies.
Aim to do your work experience in a science-related workplace:
- In finding a workplace, consider what industries are near your area. Many, such as food, agricultural or chemical industries, employ scientists. Or you could try the Science Faculty of your local university or TAFE college;
- Alternatively, you could think outside the box. Consider other industries related to science, such as health or engineering;
- The tasks you undertake as part of your work experience may not be your dream job, but you'll get an understanding of the day-to-day work of a scientist. It's a great opportunity to see what others are doing in that workplace.
Use VCE to achieve your personal best results. While ATAR isn’t everything, you will have the widest possible choice of options if you achieve the best results you can. You will also learn about your own potential - it’s great preparation for the effort that will be expected of you at university.
Before choosing VCE subjects, do some research on your course options at different universities. Our LEAP Partner Universities websites all have a special LEAP landing page with shortcuts to their courses, entry pathways, scholarships & financial assistance, student support services and more...
If you're aiming for a specialised degree, your subject choices can be even more focused. University courses may vary, so their course guides will explain the subjects you will be studying at their uni and their course outcomes.
You should also check the VTAC publications web page, go to the page Publications for Year 10 and 11 students and browse to the Prerequisites for [year], link for the year you'll be applying for entry. It lists all Victorian Universities' pre-requisites for entry into their courses.
Explore options and pathways
There are lots of options for science study at university. Science is diverse, so you should first understand the Science areas and specialisations - check out our sciences > glossary to help you decide which area sounds right for you. Also check out Science professions snapshot - facts and figures on our Getting started page to see what employment trends are predicted.
If you can't decide on an area of specialisation, consider a general Bachelor of Science degree - it is a solid foundation for your career in the sciences. It will help you explore your options while you are developing a sound skill set for any career in science. It will also equip you for a range of scientific areas and give you time to choose from the many specialised course options (e.g. Bachelor of Biological Science, Bachelor of Chemical Sciences or Bachelor of Physical Sciences).
Research the courses and pathways that will best get you where you want to go. Make sure you consider what flexibility is available to transfer from one discipline or course to another, in case you find you're not enjoying your first choice.
Visit Open Days
It is a good idea to visit open days held on metro and regional university campuses. Download our Open Day Calendar (PDF 79Kb) to plan your visits and our Open Day Hints and Checklist (PDF 100Kb) for tips on what to do and ask at an Open Day.
Build your skills in a LEAP activity
See the LEAP activities you can get involved in, to skill up and prepare for a career in Science.
Are you ready to make the leap?
Is your career formula worked out? Then go to Making the leap for some final hints and tips to refine your calculations.