Where are all the science jobs?

6/1/2018 4:02:54 PM

One frustrating thing about academic training is that it tends to pigeonhole early-career scientists into niche areas. To be successful in academia, you usually have to hyper-focus on a narrow research topic. Sure, it would be cool to spend life studying the neurological basis for why dogs yawn, but the chances of being gainfully employed doing that are slim. Don’t get me wrong, specialized training is important to learn how to do science, but, at the same time, it may be difficult to understand how you are prepared for the job market and what kinds of jobs you are qualified to do.    

The fact is that the number and types of science jobs out there fluctuate with workforce demands, and qualifications change based on these trends. Thus, it is important for early-career scientists to track hiring trends within the science and technology labor markets. It’s also advisable to learn more about career outcomes to know where people are working. Collectively, this is informative when planning an education or career move (e.g., selecting a degree, choosing a career path).  

So, how do you know where all the science jobs are? There are a number of online resources, tools and reports freely available to help you make more informed decisions about careers. Here are a few ideas on information to seek out.  

  • Most government agencies track and provide data related to the educational and career outcomes of students and early-career scientists. For example, the National Science Foundation publishes an in-depth biennial Science & Engineering Indicators report on the status of the scientific enterprise in the U.S., which includes the numbers of degrees awarded, workforce demographics and related employer statistics. The National Institutes of Health provides similar resources and reports specifically related to the future of the biomedical research workforce.  
  • The U.S. Department of Labor creates lots of handy resources for tracking labor-market trends. This includes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook with insights on career outlooks, such as the highest-paying and fastest-growing jobs. Also, the O*NET Resource Center has a number of interactive applications, including My Next Move, a career-exploration tool.  
  • Lately, there has been a big push among academic, government and nonprofit coalitions to better track the career outcomes of graduate students and postdocs. This comes from the recognition that most scientists don’t become academics (there are just not enough open academic jobs for all the Ph.D.s out there), so early-career scientists need this info to make fully informed decisions about their futures. To stay updated on data produced from these efforts, check out the nonprofit Future of Research, which maintains a comprehensive collection of resources on tracking career outcomes at institutions.  
  • Even if you’re not looking for a job yet, it helps to look through job boards (e.g., ASBMB job board) to see what types of positions are being advertised. You can get a good sense of who all is hiring in your field. This also is a way to see what qualifications you may need for a career path of interest. Tip: Save some of the interesting job postings for future reference and use as a guide for career-development purposes.  
  • Recruiters, meanwhile, know all about hiring trends: who is hiring, what fields are growing, technical skills in demand, etc. You can reach out to recruiting firms to get connected to a recruiter in your hiring area. Career fairs are another place to find recruiters and have an in-person conversation. I’ll feature some advice from recruiters on industry-job trends in a future post.  
  • And of course, keep updated with activities ongoing at the ASBMB. The ASBMB policy team covers a variety of topics related to skilled-workforce training and policies. And we also produce many career resources and publications (like this careers blog) that cover diverse career perspectives and insights into the hidden job market.  

Donna Kridelbaugh is a contributor to the ASBMB Careers Blog. She holds an advanced degree in microbiology and is a former lab manager.     

Stay updated on new posts by following the  ASBMB on social media  or click “follow” on this blog (must be a member and signed in). Also, be sure to check out the ASBMB Job Board  for even more job listings.