Getting Experience in Biosciences and Chemistry


Work Experience

Scientific work experience enables you put the skills gained through your studies into practice. It shows employers enthusiasm for science, a good work ethic and can help you explore your career ideas. In a study by the Skills Body for the science industry 61% of employers felt relevant work experience or an industrial placement was the most important factor to consider when recruiting graduates (COGENT, 2011). There are a variety of ways in which you can gain that vital experience: the Guide to Finding Scientific Work Experience hand-out (on the RHS) provides a starting point for your search. In some sensitive areas of work such as forensics, short placements and internships can be very difficult to find. Try consider related scientific placements- all experience is good experience and employers in these areas realise the difficulties students face, so will look very favourably at any additions to your CV.

Remember Plan ahead. Many vacancies are advertised from as early as September of the year prior to the start date and many applications close well before Christmas- some even in October. So don't leave it too late!

Year Long Placements

Students in the Bioscience and Chemistry department can apply to do a year long placement with an employer which would start sometime between June and September after the 2nd year of your degree studies. A very comprehensive placement handbook is available to all students during the first year and this is when you should start thinking about the process and starting preparation.

The process is a competitive one with about approx one third of students securing a placement. Your Employability Adviser, Nikki Abbott can help you with all aspects of the application procedure including writing CVs, applications or interviews. You can book an appointment above in the See an adviser section above or email Nikki directly at The Careers and Employability department are there to support you to be better prepared at presenting yourself effectively to employers and increase your confidence and success rates by offering you mock interviews.

The benefits of industrial placements are often expounded by employers who say graduates are better prepared with knowledge of the scientific environment, enhanced skills and more confidence gained through responsibility. Students too are often very positive about their experience. 

But what if you decide against or are not lucky enough to secure a placement? Are there other options that will still increase your employability?

Other Work Experience and Voluntary work

There may be summer placements and employers that can be approached to offer visits and shadowing which will improve your knowledge of that field The Guide to Finding Work Experience document on the RHS highlights many ways to obtain work experience. There is also part time laboratory or other scientific work that can be done while studying. The Society of Biology lists a number of paid and unpaid summer placement schemes, possibly with the offer of expenses. Some examples are AstraZeneca, Cancer Research UK in their London Research Institute for students in their penultimate year, IAESTA a scheme backed by the British Council offers paid international work experience and The Wellcome Trust. The employment advisers and placement officer can give you more information on how to obtain these sort of opportunities.    

Employers value skills that students gain in all forms of employment that are required in most jobs. These are skills such as communication, team working and organisational skills and should always be mentioned on a CV along with voluntary work experience. For local and national volunteering opportunities have a look at the volunteering section.

In areas such as teaching and medicine a certain amount of experience, paid or unpaid, is a requirement.  There are some useful downloadable booklets eg on Health Care Scientist careers and medicine on the NHS Careers website. For information about what experience is usually needed in order to make a successful application for postgraduate teacher training, see the Get Into Teaching website. At the time of writing, there are special incentives for graduates who are interested in teaching chemistry.

Last modified: 
Monday, September 12, 2016 - 15:44