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Careers in Natural Science

Natural sciences professionals are employed in both the private and public sector, including private research and development organizations, consulting firms, and local and state governments. In addition, those interested in establishing a career in the federal government may find exciting opportunities with federal organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, or the Environmental Protection Agency, to name a few. Recent graduates may find employment opportunities as an entry-level scientist, field analyst, research assistant, or laboratory technician. With additional training, natural sciences graduates may also find rewarding careers in education, health, and technology.

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Useful Skills within the Field of Natural Sciences
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
  • Science - Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  • Active Learning - Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing the performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Quality Control Analysis - Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Career Options

To identify what education or training is typical for careers within the natural sciences field, use the O*Net hyperlinks below and click on “Job Zone.”

As with all majors, the education you receive serves as a foundation of knowledge that prepares you for what you may face in the professional world. The career field you chose may require additional education or experience.

Career Spotlight on Chemical Technicians

Training in the natural sciences equips students with a broad base of skills that can be converted into professional expertise and applied to many different science-driven fields and industries. What follows is just one example: a brief sketch of the career track of a chemical technician, a career in which academic training in natural sciences is both broadly relevant and complementary.

What do chemical technicians do?

Chemical technicians use special instruments and techniques to help chemists and chemical engineers research, develop, and produce chemical products and processes.

Chemical technicians typically have the following responsibilities:

  • Monitor chemical processes and test the quality of products to ensure they meet standards and specifications
  • Set up and maintain laboratory instruments and equipment
  • Prepare chemical solutions
  • Conduct chemical and physical experiments, tests, and analysis for a variety of purposes, including research and development
  • Compile and interpret results of tests and analysis
  • Prepare technical reports, graphs, and charts, and give presentations that summarize their results

The following are the two main types of chemical technicians:

Laboratory Technicians typically help scientists conduct experiments and analysis. Often, they prepare chemical solutions, test products for quality and performance, and analyze compounds produced through complex chemical processes. Chemical laboratory technicians may analyze samples of air and water to monitor pollution levels. Laboratory technicians usually set up and maintain laboratory equipment and instruments.

Processing Technicians monitor the quality of products and processes at chemical manufacturing facilities. For example, they adjust processing equipment to improve production efficiency and output. They collect samples from production batches and test them for impurities and other defects. Processing technicians also test product packaging to make sure it is well designed, will hold up well, and will have a limited impact on the environment.

Excerpt from the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook's complete occupational depiction of the chemical technician career track.

Getting Started: Internships

Gaining real-life experience is an ideal way to start a new career. The career services website has an extensive list of internships and fellowships. Browse through the internships, organized by interest or by federal program, and use the list below to find a few examples of organizations that offer internships for both graduate and undergraduate natural sciences students:

There are also government-organized internship programs, many of which require students to maintain either a half-time or full-time student status. The best ways to identify potential opportunities such as these are to contact branch offices directly, to search USAJobs.gov, or to look at the agencies' career portals. Keep in mind that these positions are not always posted online, so direct contact with the agency is key.

Pathways

The Pathways Program is a federal initiative that offers internship programs for current students and training and career development opportunities for recent graduates. Recent graduates must apply within two years of degree or certificate completion (except for veterans, due to their military service obligation, will have up to six years to apply).The internship program for current students replaces the former Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

The Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF)

PMF is designed to attract to federal service outstanding men and women from a wide variety of academic disciplines who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, a career in the analysis and management of public policies and programs. To be eligible for nomination, an individual must be a graduate student completing or expected to complete, during the current academic year, an advanced degree from a qualifying college or university.

The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)

WRP is coordinated by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense, and aims to provide summer work experience, and in some cases full-time employment, to college students with disabilities. The program develops partnerships with other federal agencies, each of whom makes a commitment to provide summer jobs and a staff recruiter. Each year, recruiters interview about 1,500 students with disabilities at college and university campuses across the nation, and develop a database listing the qualifications of each student.

Getting Hired: Government Agencies, Organizations, and Search Engines

There are several government agencies and organizations that seek candidates with degrees in the natural sciences. The list below provides examples of where graduates might find employment using their degree.

Government Agencies

Private Sector

While many of the major job search engines will have positions in several fields to choose from, the list below is specific to the natural sciences field.

Keeping Current: Professional Organizations and Associations
Get Connected: Social Media

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