Science communication

Science journalism, science publishing, medical writing and similar roles for graduates in the biological sciences and related biosciences

Entry routes

There are few clear entry routes, so you’ll have to do your research. Try to make contact with people working in areas that interest you, and don't be afraid to ask for help or submit a speculative application. Many opportunities are not advertised, but filled from speculative applications, contacts and networking. Some of the bigger employers may offer graduate training schemes, but places are limited and competition is tough. Be prepared to start at the bottom, perhaps with a short-term contract.

Smaller organisations – and voluntary work – may be a good starting point, especially if you are interested in a particular specialism. There may be opportunities to write for online publications.

General opportunities in media roles are advertised in a number of places, including mediaguardian and ppajobs.co.uk. Opportunities in science publishing can also be found by searching online: see bookcareers.com and The Bookseller. For newspapers and magazines see journalism.co.uk and HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk. Publishing companies working in the biosciences and related areas advertise in publications such as Nature and New Scientist.

There are postgraduate programmes in science communication, journalism and publishing. These are no substitute for relevant experience, unless it’s included, and there is no guarantee that they'll make you attractive to potential employers.

There's a video talk on the CABS blog by a Genetics graduate working as a scientific journalist for, among others, Nature and New Scientist.

Entry requirements

Expertise and experience! Entry is possible with a first degree, but a Masters or PhD will demonstrate deeper scientific knowledge. You'll also need to show that you are familiar with the latest developments in your field (especially if you want to focus on a particular specialism).

In addition to a bioscience background, you'll almost certainly need relevant experience. Advertised posts usually ask for it, but if it's all you lack use your covering letter to explain how other characteristics make you suitable.

Finally, you'll need to demonstrate a range of important transferable skills:

  • excellent communication skills (so make your CV and applications free from mistakes)
  • the ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • organisational skills, including the ability to meet deadlines.

Application process

As there is no one way to find yourself a job in this area, you’ll have to be persistent and resourceful.

  • There is no particular application period. Larger organisations tend to be based in Oxford, Cambridge, London and the south coast.
  • Make sure your CV and application are accurate. Use the covering letter to indicate relevant experience and your interest in – and suitability for – the post. Include examples of your writing if possible.
  • You may find that relevant experience in other areas, such as sales or marketing, can provide evidence of some of the important transferrable skills.

Undergraduate preparation

Research

Do your research! Identify where there are opportunities and, as far as possible, try to make some contacts.

Experience

Relevant experience can be the difference between success and failure. Try to find work experience or an internship on local newspapers, including the student newspaper, and think about other opportunities such as a student radio station. Be persistent! There are often opportunities for relevant work associated with student societies, including the preparation of publicity materials.

Smaller websites and blogs often have unpaid contributors who provide articles and features. Think of the sites you visit regularly and contact them with a sample of your work. You could also set up your own blog, to provide a portfolio of writing to show potential employers.

If you are seriously interested in journalism as a whole think about applying for the more competitive work experience programmers offered by national newspapers or broadcasters like the BBC.

Networking and contacts

Get involved. Join The Society of Young Publishers (SWP) or Women in Publishing as a student member. Attend book fairs and similar events.

Our support

There are a number of local opportunities to gain experience.

  • University of Leicester student radio: Lush
  • University of Leicester student newspaper/magazine: Ripple

The Leicester Mercury offers unpaid work experience.

Useful links

Science magazine has a series of online articles about science writing and editing

A Guide to Careers in Science Writing from the Council for Advancement of Science Writing

 

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The GENIE Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
The GENIE Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning