Careers for science graduates in Ireland
Many graduates think of the pharmaceutical and chemical sector when considering careers in science in Ireland. While the pharmaceutical sector in Ireland is a large employer, the science sector in Ireland also includes a wide variety of other industries. Some of the other areas you could work in include: food and drink; manufacturing (including agrochemicals, petrochemicals, toiletries, plastics, paints, polymers); environmental management; medical research/diagnostic companies; utilities; energy.
Many graduates from non-science backgrounds find work in the science sector too, with roles including management and administration, data management; IT support; HR; marketing; and logistics and sales.
Job roles in science
The main job roles in the science sector include:
Research & development
The focus of research and development (R&D) is mainly on creating products, processes or commercial applications using innovative, multidisciplinary approaches. Current R&D activity in private industry in Ireland is focused on clean and green technologies, life sciences and pharmaceuticals.
Ireland continues to be a favoured manufacturing base for leading biotechnology, medical device, pharmaceutical and chemical companies. Job roles for scientists involve the design, development and implementation of systems and procedures and the planning and control of scientific equipment to ensure that products are of specified quality. You could also be involved in process development, which entails improving existing manufacturing processes.
Quality assurance and control
Quality assurance (QA) or quality control (QC) involves ensuring that products are manufactured in accordance with recommended standards, and requires analysing raw materials, intermediates and the finished product. Quality is important at all stages of production from the initial stages when raw materials are received, through the production phase to testing and monitoring the product at completion. You could be involved in monitoring environmental factors like water and air quality, as well as checking and testing raw materials and products in the lab.
Opportunities for regulatory affairs officers, managers and consultants are found in the pharmaceutical, chemical, clinical research, medical device and biotechnology industries. You could be involved in ensuring regulatory compliance is adhered to for the appropriate Irish and European guidance documents. You could also be involved in mainstreaming quality systems, such as risk assessments, complaints, rejects, disposal, self-inspection, or batch reviews as required. You may assist the QA team in developing strategies for the overall quality function of the company, too.
All medicines must undergo clinical trials before they are granted licences. Scientists are involved in setting up trials to ensure that new pharmaceutical and chemical products are safe for use. You could be involved in lab-based research, or using statistical methods to analyse and interpret results, or managing and monitoring trials.
Postgraduate qualifications and your science career
A PhD is valued by many employers but is particularly relevant if you aspire to a career in academic research and teaching. However, there are many other careers for which a research degree is desirable or essential, for example working as a scientific researcher for a pharmaceutical company, or commissioning editor for a specialist academic journal. In some very high-tech areas, such as medical research, a postgraduate research qualification is often considered mandatory. See postgradireland.com for more information about postgraduate study.
- Continuing Professional Development (CPD) via part-time or distance learning courses
- information resources such as magazines, publications and libraries
- a network of professional contacts.
Belonging to a professional body also shows that you possess the relevant level of academic achievement, skills and experience to operate effectively in your chosen career area.
Career development for scientists
Graduates with several years’ professional experience may move into management positions. Opportunities for experienced science graduates include management consultancy, venture capital, investment banking and business development.
Alternative careers for science graduates
Not all science graduates want to work in a lab. Your degree can open opportunities in many other fields. Below are some of the jobs where a science degree can be useful.
Working in regulatory affairs involves the preparation of scientific and technical information, as well as keeping abreast of changes in legislation and informing colleagues accordingly. Job roles include: regulatory affairs specialist/manager; quality and regulatory affairs engineer; research scientist; process development chemist; formulation scientist; pharmacist.
This work involves visiting hospitals and GPs’ surgeries, informing them of new drugs coming onto the market and ultimately selling the products. Jobs in the area include: marketing manager, medical sales representative, hospital sales representative, communications specialist.
Patent examiners assess applications for patents. A good honours degree in science is essential. Relevant industrial experience is advantageous, but need not necessarily relate to patents and documentation. While opportunities in Ireland are limited, it’s worth exploring the opportunities in the UK patent office and the European patent office. For the latter, fluency in two languages is required: English and either German or French (a working knowledge of the third is preferred).
Medical writers are mainly employed by pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. The work involves writing reports, which include drug registration, promotional literature, training manuals and clinical studies. A good knowledge of physiology and anatomy is essential along with good writing skills, and attention to detail.
If you have a flair for writing and a strong scientific background, then scientific publishing could be the career for you. There are several job roles involved in this area ranging from editorial assistant to marketing executive.
If you enjoy science and would like to communicate your knowledge to the next generation, then teaching may be the right job for you. Excellent organisational and administrative skills are also very important. Teaching opportunities exist at primary, secondary and tertiary level.
Banking and finance
Increasing numbers of science graduates get jobs in the banking and finance area, particularly those who graduate from the more numerate disciplines such as physics, chemistry and mathematics. Investment banking, financial analysis, research and forecasting are among some of the roles pursued. Accountancy is also an area where science graduates pursue very successful careers.