Science careers are a booming sector of the US economy. This is also the case around the globe, and the situation won't be changing any time soon. We live in a high tech world, and much of our progress has been made possible by the millions of people working in science careers. It wasn't that long ago that the phrase "science career" brought to mind an image of a stodgy, middle aged man spending most of his day peering into a microscope in a dull laboratory somewhere. Those days are long gone, however. These days, science careers are, if not quite "glamorous", a whole lot more exciting than they used to be. It's scientists who make the breakthroughs that help America keep its competitive edge. It's scientists who devise the increasingly complex (and miraculous) blood tests which help police solve murders. These are just a few examples of the way in which nearly our entire world revolves around hard working people in science careers. In recognition of these facts, science careers now pay far more than they did just a few years ago. So if you're looking for a career in science, you've made a smart career decision.
The word science comes from a Latin word meaning knowledge. A scientist works to understand the world around him or her. Science careers are some of the most prestigious jobs in today's world.
The scientific method provides scientists with a framework for their studies. The scientific method includes the following:
- Ask a question. It can be a question about anything: why the sky is blue, why mixing baking soda and vinegar makes bubbles, why snakes are cold blooded, and so on.
- Research answers to the question. Read about discoveries of other scientists that relate to the question.
- Make a hypothesis. Using the facts gathered, answer the question.
- Test the hypothesis with experiments. Repeat the experiments several times to verify the results.
- Draw a conclusion. If the hypothesis is proven false, start over with a new hypothesis.
The history of science encompasses the history of mankind. The first person to mold and fire a pot of clay, fashion a weapon, plant seeds, or study the stars was a scientist. During the Scientific Revolution in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, scientists began to make huge discoveries. Science careers became a living for some. Astronomers such as Copernicus and Galileo discovered facts about the universe. Chemists Robert Boyle and Antoine Lavoisier proposed the atomic theory and how matter is conserved during reactions. Carl von Linné classified the living world. The work of these scientists led to the discoveries of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Linus Pauling, Stephen Hawking, and many others. Their science careers opened new explorations for the scientists of today.
The field of science is huge, and a variety of science careers is possible. A scientist studies the world around us and the universe. Their work may cover the smallest particles of an atom, a galaxy that is light years away from ours, or the moss that is growing on a tree in the backyard. They often perform experiments, whether mixing chemicals in test tubes, putting mice through mazes, or testing the strength of steel. Most people think of scientists working in laboratories, and many do. However, scientists also work outdoors, especially geologists, environmental scientists, and biologists.
When we talk of science careers, the area is usually divided into broad sections. Here are some of those sections.
- Life science: As implied by the name, life scientists study living organisms. This division includes biology, anatomy, physiology, agricultural science, and zoology. The study of plants, animals, and humans is the basis for life science.
- Physical science: This division includes chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Scientists in these fields are exploring the atom, forces, energy, the stars—the nonliving parts of our world.
- Earth science: The study of the earth, including geology, meteorology, environmental science, and geography is the work of earth scientists. People in these science careers also include space scientists, who learn about other planets and planetary bodies.
- Engineering: Engineers study the sciences and put them to practical use. They take the discoveries of other sciences and make them work for people. There are several disciplines inside engineering, including mechanical, aerospace, computer, and civil.
- Behavioral science: The study of behavioral science is also a subset of science careers. Psychologists learn about people's minds, behaviors, relationships, and how to change behaviors. Another field is sociology, the study of societies and institutions. Archaeology and anthropology investigate ancient societies and mankind.
Science forms a foundation for many other fields, such as medicine, technology, industry, and manufacturing. These areas all depend on developments in science to advance.
Workers in science careers are developing new ideas. Nanotechnology studies and manipulates matter down to the level of the atom. Biotechnology provides the ability to change the genetic code of living cells to make wheat more resistant to disease or find cures for human diseases.
Becoming a scientist is a noble goal, and science careers can be satisfying and fulfilling.
Advantages of Science Careers
Science careers, for people with the right aptitudes, can be the best professions in the world. No matter what field of science you choose, you can expect to find benefits to being a scientist.
Scientists get to study and learn about interesting subjects. New discoveries and explorations are taking place all the time. Being a scientist puts you on the forefront of new worlds. In few other careers would you be at the forefront of new discoveries that will change the world and enhance human lives.
Science careers are prestigious professions held in honor by most people. Others understand that work done by scientists has the potential to improve their lives, their health, and the condition of our planet. They also appreciate the amount of talent and work that is required to be a scientist.
Science is a particularly good career choice for those who want to learn new things and find solutions to problems. If you like a good mystery and wish to learn how things work and why, science would be a good fit for you.
The scientific field is also a well-paying profession. Whether it is a job in chemistry, biology, geology, or the other sciences, you can expect to receive good pay and benefits and an excellent chance at advancement.
Scientists have the satisfaction of knowing that their work can help people. An old commercial once had this tagline: “Science, improving lives.” Science still follows that saying today. New advances in physics, chemistry, biology, and all the sciences, help us live longer, healthier lives with improved products to enjoy and with a better environment to live in.
There are many different job possibilities in the broad field of science. For example, as a biologist, you could work in a lab doing microbiology research, as a zoologist studying animals, as a botanist studying plants and how to improve their yield and disease-fighting capabilities, or you could work to improve water or air quality or study genetics to improve the health of people. You might work for a company, a government agency, or a university. Other fields offer just as many or more choices.
Some jobs are performed in the laboratory, classroom, or office, while others are outside jobs. For example, an environmental scientist may spend large amounts of time in the field collecting water samples or installing equipment to measure rainfall and water temperatures in a stream.
Scientific jobs are often performed as part of a team. There also may be a project for an independent researcher, so whatever situation fits you, you can find the right job.
One of the best benefits of being a scientist is that you make an impact on the quality of people’s lives and the world. Science is often criticized for producing pollution, making chemicals that are toxic, and messing up habitats. In fact, science is the field that can clean up polluted environments, improve people’s lives with new products, and enhance their health with new medicines and better food. Being a scientist brings the satisfaction of making a difference in the world.
Science is a satisfying, fulfilling profession that appeals to many people. Maybe a science career is right for you.
Disadvantages of Science Careers
Science careers have many excellent advantages, but there are also disadvantages. You must consider both to determine if a science career is right for you. Only you can decide if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
Most careers in science require a lot of schooling. Some positions require a PhD degree, so you will have many years of school after your undergraduate education. More and more graduates with bachelor’s degrees find that they don’t have enough education to obtain the job they want. So, they have to return to school for advanced degrees.
Another disadvantage is that there may be limited positions in some fields. While there always seems to be a need for psychologists and biologists, people in other science careers, such as space science or meteorology, may have trouble finding jobs. Jobs openings for geologists, for example, tend to vary with trends of oil exploration and mining for minerals, while researchers usually must receive grants to have money to support their work.
A lack of recognition can be a disadvantage. For some projects and published papers, the head researcher or scientist receives most of the applause, while other scientists get little or no recognition for their work on the same project.
Sometimes, the work of the scientist is preempted by another researcher. Just as a scientist is ready to release a paper detailing new developments, someone else may publish the same advances. The first to publish is the one who receives the credit and awards.
Scientific discoveries can take a long time. Many scientists work years to develop one theory or advancement. Sometimes, all their work shows only the things that didn’t work and not any that were successful. The lack of progress can be frustrating.
Science jobs are often clustered in cities, at large companies, or universities. Some scientists would prefer to live and work in smaller towns and rural areas, but they must go where the jobs are. Some science careers are outdoor jobs, working in all types of weather. But, many scientists work alone in labs for the entire work week. Lack of social interaction is a negative for some people.
It can also be a competitive field. Researchers are usually in a race to discover the next great advance and publish the news before others. Often, there are multiple applicants for any open science job. Advancement can be slow, especially in academic positions.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013