Science communication

The wide variety of roles in science communication makes it an exciting option.

Introduction 

Science communication involves sharing scientific information and knowledge with a variety of audiences such as the scientific community, policymakers and the public. Since it is used to educate or increase awareness of particular scientific topics or research, there can be crossover with the communication of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).  So, you may sometimes see job roles advertised as STEM communicators.  

Find out how you can build experience and stand out. Discover what it’s like to work in science communication and get inspired. 

Opportunities exist in areas such as science journalism, science/medical communications, medical writing, public engagement and outreach. If you’re interested in using your degree outside the lab, a career in science communication could be for you. 

What’s it like?

Science communication

There are many routes into science communication. Some enter the field after an undergraduate degree (not necessarily science-related), others after completion of a postgraduate degree and many after discovering their strengths lie in communication. 

Use these profiles of common roles within this sector to see what each role involves, how to get into it, what salary to expect and who the major employers are: 

Prospects - Science writer job profile

BIG STEM Communicators Network - What is science communication?

Medical communications

FirstMedCommsJob provides free comprehensive careers guides on topics ranging from getting started in medical communications through to being a freelance writer in medical communications:

FirstMedCommsJob – Career guides

They are also running a number of free careers webinars – check out their upcoming events webpage for more information, including registration details:

FirstMedCommsJob – Upcoming events

Looking for some inspiration? 

University of Edinburgh alumna, Alexandra Bradie, MSc Science Communication and Public Engagement and BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences (Immunology), provides a fantastic insight into medical communications, specifically account management:  

Inform.ed blog - Account management in medical communications: the “write” career for you?  

University of Edinburgh alumna, Lisa Kelly, MSc by research in Biomedical Sciences (Life Sciences) and PhD in Inflammation, shares an excellent insight into the varied world of medical writing:

Inform.ed blog - Medical writing can be a career match for you: discover how

Watch this video to hear from a recent University of Edinburgh Chemistry graduate who completed the one-year Allegro fast track training and development programme for entry level medical writers at Ashfield Health: 

Medical writing – what it is, and how to enter this field (University of Edinburgh login required) 

Visit our Life Sciences – Graduate Profiles webpage for inspiration on where your Life Sciences career can take you. Read our varied alumni careers case studies:

Life Sciences - Graduate Profiles

Building experience and getting started 

There is no set route to a career in science communication. Whatever area you are interested in, gaining experience is key. The communication of science takes different formats, from blogs, articles in newspapers and magazines to delivering a session or interactive workshop for children.  

Here are some suggestions to get you started: 

Public speaking; grasp every opportunity to practise presenting in front of an audience. Put yourself out there, whether it’s presenting to a few classmates as part of your course, participating in tutorials or to an audience of 40 people. This short video on Careers Service Plus provides some top tips on public speaking: 

Public speaking tips (University of Edinburgh login required) 

Science journalism is an exciting and important part of science communication. Build a portfolio of your work; start by writing for student newspapers and magazines. For example, Edinburgh University Science Media (EUSci) is a student-run science communication group who publish the University of Edinburgh's Science Magazine and have a science website with news and podcasts. EUSci is also a community of aspiring artists, writers, scientists and journalists:

Edinburgh University Science Media

Put your work out there on the internet by creating a blog. This link from Information Services provides details of available services for blogging:

Blogging for students

There are lots of other external free places to publish your work such as WordPress:

WordPress

Meet and network with likeminded writers through a local Meetup – search for writers to find local groups: 

Meetup 

Sign up for the free UK based Freelance Writing Jobs weekly newsletter which has links to paid freelance and part-time writing jobs. It also provides details of editors actively-seeking pitches but do your research – make sure you’re pitching to a publication that would actually run that type of article. Be concise – sum up your idea in two sentences or less:

Freelance Writing Jobs 

Working or volunteering at a science festival is a great opportunity to gain experience and meet people in the industry. Check out the calendar of UK Science Festivals from BIG STEM Communicators Network, a not-for-profit organisation for people involved in science communication and education projects in the UK: 

BIG STEM Communicators Network – science festivals list 

Edinburgh Science, an educational charity, encourages those wishing to develop a Science Communication career. They deliver an annual Science Festival in Edinburgh, offer outreach opportunities, jobs and work placements: 

Edinburgh Science – jobs and work placements 

Consider signing up to Science Live, an event platform run by the British Science Association. You can contribute to an event or search for volunteering opportunities: 

Science Live 

Volunteer to become a STEM Ambassador to inspire young people about STEM subjects. This could be via online or in person, in schools or in community groups: 

STEM Learning – becoming a STEM Ambassador 

Is postgraduate study expected? 

It is not always required; the core skills required can be demonstrated with an undergraduate degree and relevant work experience. 

Masters and PhDs are common in some areas of science communication such as medical writing so it’s advisable to look at job adverts to see what their requirements are. 

There are specialist Science Communication courses with a focus on specialisms such as journalism, public engagement and digital media. For example, the University of Edinburgh offers an MSc Science Communication and Public Engagement. When researching courses, talk to course providers to establish what the course involves and whether it’s right for you.  

Where can I find job vacancies? 

Check MyCareerHub for vacancies: 

MyCareerHub - Opportunities 

Browse job listings on BIG STEM Communicators Network:  

BIG STEM Communicators Network - Latest Jobs 

Subscribe to the psci-com free mailing list for science communication and public engagement vacancies, events and meetings by sending an email with “subscribe psci-com” in the body text to listserv@jiscmail.ac.uk:

JISCMAIL - PSCI-COM List

ScicommJobs blog advertises job vacancies relating to Science Communication in the UK: 

ScicommJobs 

Search for vacancies on Twitter – make your search more specific by using #SciCommJob and/or location hashtags. 

The Wellcome Trust’s two-year graduate development programme has various rotations including public engagement and communications: 

Wellcome Trust – Graduate development programme 

Look at the websites of individual healthcare/science communication agencies.