Where do I start?

As a scientist you might be undertaking fundamental research, developing the technologies of the future, making scientific ideas a commercially viable reality, developing and refining manufacturing processes, or innovating medical solutions.

Within the scientific sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.

Job roles

Finding opportunities

Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.

  • Cogent Skills - The Career Training and Pathways provides a huge range of job roles available in the science-based industries.
  • Prospects - The ‘Science sector overview’ is a useful information guide focused on the huge range of occupations which the science sector encompasses
  • New Scientist - Useful graduate careers, interview and postdoc advice.
  • British Pharmacological Society - Information about the pharmacology sector with specific sections for careers and employment.

Getting experience

Finding work experience

Work experience can be invaluable to develop your skills, enhancing your employability prospects as well building some good professional contacts with employer in the sector.

There are different ways to get work experience:


Several large employers, such as Unilever, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and P&G, offer internships and industrial placements. Applications generally open around September, with closing dates as early as October and November. The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and apply for your experience in good time.

You might also consider researching placement or internship opportunities in the science and research sector.

The websites below provide further information about opportunities:

  • RateMyPlacement - offers information on a range of internships and work experience, including science and research.
  • TARGETjobs - provides a specific section on different career sectors, as well as the ability to search for placement and internship opportunities in science and research.
  • Gradcracker - provides a search function for placements and internships relevant to your degree discipline including science and maths.
  • Milkround - provides a search tool for internships and industrial placements across a range of sectors, searchable by the keyword Science.

The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations.

Research internships

Several academic institutions and research institutes offer summer research projects to students. Professional bodies and research councils also advertise opportunities, including clinical research, funding and studentships.

Professional societies/institutes

Research councils

Sector skills councils/industry associations

Speculative Approach

Smaller companies often don’t advertise opportunities, so it may be worth contacting organisations directly with a speculative approach. This involves sending a CV and a covering letter to an employer asking if they have work opportunities if they are not currently advertising.

Ideally, contact the company in advance to ask if you can visit to talk to them informally and to find out the name of an appropriate person in the company to send your CV to. Make sure you have researched the company thoroughly and highlight in your covering letter why you think you are suited to work in their organisation.

The UK Science Park website is a great resource to start speculative job hunting. Under the members section you will find a listing of UK Science Parks grouped according to a geographical/regional area. Once you have identified the region near to your area you can find out more and visit their own website to find a list of companies. You could also research companies working in biosciences using the members directory of the BioIndustry Association.

It is also worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience, especially if you want to build on your transferrable skills. The Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates with a wider range of opportunities. The easiest and most convenient way for you to access the information is to log on to MyCareer to visit our virtual Volunteering Bank, which offers the opportunity to search by sector or role title and complete your application(s) electronically. You can also access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability centre.

Tips to build experience

  • Talk to your tutors and lecturers: you may already have access to a wide potential network of contacts that you could approach.
  • Use the University of Portsmouth Alumni Association to get in touch with alumni already working in the sector for advice.
  • Large organisations post opportunities on Twitter and on their Facebook and LinkedIn pages so it is worth using social media to keep an eye on your chosen sector.
  • Be proactive in arranging your own work experience by directly approaching organisations. In sectors dominated by Small Medium Enterprises this may be the only option.
  • Talk to your lectures, tutors in your particular areas of interest, as they might have useful contacts.

Lab work experience

A lot students wish to find lab-based work experience this can be done by:

  • Contacting your University department. Check your School noticeboards and contact science departments. They may be looking for any support staff or assistants during vacations or term time.
  • Hospitals sometimes offer lab-based placements. Try approaching the principal clinical scientist in your local NHS trust hospital. You may have to go through the HR department.

Public Health England has regional offices across the UK. It’s also worth contacting their laboratories directly.

Other ways to gain experience

All work experience is valuable so if you can't find lab-based work experience, why not try some of these alternative ideas for gaining skills and experience:

  • Volunteer as the University’s STEM Ambassadors helping to promote STEM subjects.
  • MyCareer offers student volunteering opportunities, including healthcare opportunities.
  • Find a part-time job, such as care worker, for experience of dealing with patients.

Finding a job

The range of employers who recruit in this area include:

Large science-based companies will advertise vacancies for graduate schemes and jobs on their websites or on graduate careers websites such as Prospects, and Gradcracker.

Useful websites to help you start your job search

  • NewScientist Jobs - Jobs board listing industry, academic and government bioscience, chemistry and pharmaceutical employment opportunities.
  • MyCareer - can be accessed through our website to search the latest vacancies, save job searches and set up job alerts.
  • TARGETjobs - Graduate job opportunities in science and research.

Useful websites for speculative job applications

  • UK Science Parks Association - Provides contact details of a wide range of potential employers.
  • One Nucleus – Includes lists of biotech company clusters.
  • Local business directories, often found on council websites.
  • Key-word searches on LinkedIn to find companies in your region and sector.

Top tips to finding a job

  • Many large organisations post opportunities on Twitter and on their Facebook and LinkedIn pages so it is worth using social media to keep an eye on your chosen sector.
  • Arrange your own work experience by directly approaching organisations. In sectors dominated by SMEs this may be your only option. Refine your search by narrowing down by location and chosen sector.
  • Several large employers as well as some smaller firms are present at the annual University of Portsmouth Graduate Recruitment Fair.

Specialised agencies

Further information

Many, but not all, scientific research and development roles require a PhD. For information about applying for a PhD, or a research-based masters course please visit Vitae – for more information on research careers, example research career stories and researcher CVs.

Contact us

The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:

  • Career options
  • Further study
  • CV and covering letters
  • Application forms
  • Job search
  • Interviews

We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.

You can also access our services by calling or emailing us:

Email us: careers@port.ac.uk

Phone us: +44 (0)2392 842684