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Science, research and development: career FAQs

Science, research and development: career FAQs

Your questions answered about graduate careers in science, research and development, including getting a job, applications, working life and salaries.

How can I get a job in science, research and development?

To secure work in the scientific field, technical ability and a passion for your chosen area are prerequisites. Employers are interested in hiring people who have good interpersonal skills, who are ambitious and who strive to get the job done to the best of their ability. Most of the large science companies regularly recruit into graduate training schemes.

How to get a job in science

What are the different areas of work?

Jobs are available for science graduates in a wide range of areas, and you don’t even have to work in a lab. Recent years have seen growth in the pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices industries, and many science graduates have gone on to work in the manufacturing facilities of these sectors.

The pharmachemical industry in Ireland is dominated by global multinational companies. Ireland remains a location of choice for the manufacture of pharmaceutical and chemical products: many of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world have now established facilities in Ireland. And the jobs are not just in Dublin: there are major operations all around the Republic, with several multinationals having multiple facilities around the country. Half of the people employed in Ireland’s pharmachemical industry are third-level graduates.

Other employers of science graduates are the medical devices and diagnostics sector and the biotechnology industry.

The food industry is Ireland’s single largest indigenous industry and also involves many multinationals. We have a number of high quality research and manufacturing organisations operating in Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, the public sector remains a considerable employer of graduates in general and recruits a substantial number of scientists. Recent environmental legislation has led to increased opportunity in the Environment and Heritage Service, waste management, pollution control and planning. There are also opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry amd in small companies producing medical devices. There is a range of lab jobs available, varying from technician posts in schools to research posts in hospitals, consultancies (especially environmental) and, of course, the universities. Teaching remains a popular option and the voluntary sector is also a major employer, in particular organisations dealing with environmental issues.

The main industry sectors for science graduates
Job roles for science graduates
Alternative jobs for scientists
Research and development
Food science

What’s involved in the application process?

For most science jobs, you can expect a first round and second round of interviews. You’re likely to be interviewed by someone from HR and someone from the department you are applying to. Second interviews are likely to be more technical.

Science jargon busting

When should I apply?

The major international companies are likely to recruit annually, so keep an eye out for application deadlines. Some companies recruit throughout the year, depending on their needs.

If you want a job on graduation you should start looking early in your final year, if not before. First identify what you want to do, find out which organisations offer opportunities in this area and do some research. Check employers’ application schedules carefully: there may be specific times of the year when jobs are posted and a set date for applications, particularly for training-grade positions in healthcare science.

What qualifications and skills do I need to work in science, research and development?

Usually the minimum requirement is an honours science degree in a subject area relevant to the post. As well as technical skills and abilities, employers would expect potential employees to demonstrate qualities such as communication, teamwork and business acumen.

What are the opportunities for professional development?

There are numerous opportunities for professional development in the science sector, both in industry and in academia. The scope for training and learning is constantly developing due to the growing demand for new and innovative products and materials.

The main scientific professional bodies and institutions offer professional development and routes to chartered status, an internationally recognised mark of excellence. Review the continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities offered through the main scientific professional bodies at their websites. In some roles you may have the opportunity to continue your studies, either through a career break or part-time study.

What are the salaries in science, research and development?

The gradireland Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey 2011 found that the median starting salary for science (across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) is €24,000. This is similar to the average across all sectors. This figure does not include funded postgraduate research positions.

Other related career sectors

Public sector and civil service
Manufacturing and processing
Environment and natural resources