If you’re finishing your compulsory education or further education you may be told that university is the only option if you want to pursue a career in science. The vast majority of the candidates we place have a minimum of a BSc and many have an MSc or PhD, but occasionally we have science jobs that do not require a degree and those roles are often quite difficult to fill. If university is just not your thing or a logistical impossibility why not investigate other routes into some of the most exciting fields of scientific research!
The role of laboratory assistant can vary greatly and some placements will require experienced graduates. However many companies hire laboratory assistants to be trained on the job under a senior laboratory assistant or under a researcher. A successful laboratory assistant shows a real passion for science, a desire to learn and an ability to follow instructions to the letter. The role of the lab assistant is to well…. assist! You will usually be preparing equipment, setting up experiments, assisting the researchers and cleaning equipment afterwards. Some people choose a career as a lab assistant and some see it as a stepping stone to a research career that will probably require further studying. Whatever your reason, the role gives great insight into the work of scientists and can be a rewarding and fascinating career in itself.
A technician is someone trained to use specific pieces of equipment or software. Technicians are on hand to assist scientists in using the equipment and may be responsible for performing processes themselves. If you have a knack for picking up how machines work and have the focus to become an expert, this may be the role for you. Learning a specific piece of software can be a great way in and you don’t need 3 years of study at university to do it. You need to research the role and demonstrate your knowledge of the latest technology. What interests you? What equipment or software do they use in the field? This could be your gateway into a scientific career!
Using your passion for science in other ways
What do we mean by this? Well a real passion for science could make you well placed for a job in sales for a scientific company or indeed as a trainee scientific recruitment consultant. If you understand the needs, trends and terminology of the scientific community you can use that knowledge elsewhere. There are many suppliers and subsidiary industries working in the scientific sector that would value your passion. If you commit to becoming an expert in your field (which may involve self-study or distance learning for formal qualifications) you can achieve your goal of a career in science without a university degree.
Getting the job
For roles that don’t involve a specific academic path our clients lay great value on aptitude, enthusiasm and attitude. Science jobs that do not require a degree do not come up very often and when on-the-job training is a key component of the role our clients are making a long-term investment in you. They want to see commitment and can-do attitude.
You need to proactively seek out companies that offer apprenticeships, sign up with recruitment agencies and do your research. Identify the field you’d like to work in; jobs in science cover a great number of industries and you should narrow down the sort of companies you’d like to work for. Work out what you are really interested in – pharmaceuticals, biotech, energy… there are so many areas to choose from. Research, research, research!
It’s no guarantee but it is not uncommon for companies to fund further education for excellent assistants and technicians. Forward-thinking corporations are opening up to and even encouraging ‘unconventional’ career paths and gaining experience in industry early in your career could prove a real advantage.
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