A Guide to Launching a Career in Life Sciences



Life sciences encompasses a broad spectrum of disciplines, each with a different focus and application. Whether you’re interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of disease, developing new therapies to improve human health, or keen to explore how ecosystems work, careers can be developed across many fields, including biotechnology, biochemistry, microbiology, ecology, genetics, pharmacology, and neuroscience. 

However, with the sheer number of life science career paths to choose from, picking the right one can be daunting. In this article, we hope to offer guidance on some things to think about, and key steps to take towards where you want to be.


Understanding Your Options

Outlined below are just some of the career areas you could consider:


Most life science careers require a high level of education and ongoing learning, but medical training is one of the longest and most intense. Then once you start working, though salaries are often high, the hours can be punishing, and the work itself is both physically and emotionally demanding. That said, a role in medicine is one of the most rewarding careers you can choose. You have a direct impact on people’s lives and are able to see first-hand the difference you’re making.


R&D is a great route for those who are curious, love to learn, and excel in an academic setting. Whichever research area you choose, the chances of having a positive impact on human life is high. However, most research roles require a PhD as the minimum qualification level so if this isn’t something you are considering, you may need to rethink.  


Working in education can be highly rewarding and new teaching techniques offer a much more interactive way of learning to traditional lectures. As a teacher or lecturer in the life sciences, keeping yourself educated with new findings and information is key. And if you work at a university undergraduate or postgraduate level, there may be a chance to combine both research and teaching.


As a scientist employed by a private company, the projects you work on need to be productive and profitable. These projects are usually better funded and the environment is often more fast-paced and exciting than working in, say, a research institute. However, it can also be very high pressure and projects are subject to sudden termination if deemed unproductive or unprofitable.


Whether it’s journalism, technical writing, editing, content creation or writing fundraising proposals, there are a wealth of careers within life science writing. Different skills are utilized for each – scientific journalists, for example, must make complex theories and technical information understandable and accessible to those with no prior knowledge of the topic. But if you have highly attuned research skills, are able to understand new ideas quickly, and can translate these into clear and persuasive writing, this could be the career path for you.


Getting some experience under your belt

Once you’ve decided what career you’d most like to pursue, the next step is finding out as much about it as possible. Do your research, read and discover as much as you possibly can, network far and wide to meet scientists or others working in your chosen field, and gain as much work experience as possible – hands-on experience is invaluable in the life sciences. 

Internships and research assistant opportunities are a fantastic start, but they do tend to be heavily oversubscribed. Volunteering is a great alternative to gain practical experience in your field of interest. Volunteer roles both in the UK and overseas enhance your CV, and can provide valuable insight into potential career paths and possible jobs in life sciences that could suit you well. 



Browser Update Required

This website does not support your current version of Internet Explorer, Please download the recent version from one of the links provided.

Update to Google Chrome Update to Internet Edge