Science careers: five top myths debunked

Posted June 22, 2012, by Molly Wiltshire-Bridle

Since Archimedes first leapt from his bathtub proclaiming ‘Eureka!’, the ‘mad scientist’ archetype has fuelled wild misconceptions about what goes on behind closed laboratory doors. Mention that you actually work in science, and the clichés start to amass: Coke-bottle goggles, crisp white lab coat, flyaway hair…. Cordoned off as the realm of the weird and wacky, the sciences have become somewhat of an enigma – but the reality is that there’s far more to science than tinkering with beakers and test tubes.

From the smallest microorganism, to the swirling expanse of the universe (and everything in-between), the sciences – physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics – are the instruments with which we make sense of our world. Acting as an umbrella term for a plethora of industry fields and specialisations, the sciences are as vast and varied as the universe itself. Everything from nanotechnology to astronomy, zoology, food technology and even psychology is founded on one strand of science or another. 

What’s more, research indicates that an undergraduate science degree is your ticket to success, with over 80 per cent of graduates gaining full-time employment in their chosen fields. Whether you’re interested in research and lab work, teaching, the commercial sector or just plain old discovery and innovation, it makes good career sense to pursue an enabling degree in the sciences. What’s more, with a range of science courses now available to study online, it’s time to start thinking outside the lab. 

Still not sure whether to take the plunge? You need not gaze as far as outer space to find out more. We put some of the most common industry myths under the microscope, to help you decide whether a career in science is right for you.

1. You’ll spend your life in the lab

Contrary to popular opinion, the science community at large does not suffer from a debilitating vitamin D deficiency. Far from restrictive, a science-based degree could see you jetting off to exotic locations to consult on engineering projects, conduct field research or exchange specialist information and ideas. The opportunities for varied and exciting employment are abundant, with potential careers ranging from marine biologist, to mining engineer to medic with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

As David Hobbs, senior rehabilitation engineer, points out, ensuring that you are well rounded is key. ‘It is important to have other interests as well. Join a club, do something else. It adds another dimension to your life’.

2. It’s a solitary life

The age-old motif of the lone scientist slinking off to his lab to ruminate over the findings of his latest experiment is all too familiar. Notorious figures like Dr Frankenstein seem to have convinced us that the sciences are a sad and lonesome affair, devoid of empathy and human interaction. As Desley Pitcher, product specialist (automation and drug discovery), underlines, however, this is the stuff of fiction.

‘The best part of the job is meeting new people all the time, and learning about the science they’re doing’, she says.

More often than not, progress hinges on collaborative teamwork, with everyone from geneticists to cosmologists relying on combined input. A career in science guarantees that you’ll be continually working and communicating with others.

3. You’re an evil genius

Dr Evil might have been intent on global domination, but outside of Hollywood, it’s a different story. A great many of the science disciplines in fact require incredibly altruistic personality types.

‘It may sound trite but you actually do have to care about what happens to people, otherwise you are not going to be useful to anyone’, says Brinden Suresh, hospital resident.

All manner of science professions are underpinned by a desire to enact change for the better, and improve quality of life for both individuals and the planet. If this sounds like you, then anything from a biomedical degree to a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Energy Management could be your calling.

4. It’s no place for women

With government bodies and corporations rallying in a bid to boost the female constituent in industries like science and engineering, there’s never been a better time for women to challenge this particular stereotype. Every year, grants and incentives like the L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellowship continue to encourage women to enter the science game. 

 According to Professor Suzanne Cory, President of the Australian Academy of Science, this demonstrates ‘a recognition that reversing the under-representation of women in science, maths and engineering – particularly at the higher levels – is an issue for all Australians’. And it’s something that females entering the scientific sector can help to redress.

5. A science degree means you’ll work as a scientist

Like the gene combinations that comprise our DNA, a degree in science provides an infinite array of career opportunities. For those not so keen on donning a lab coat and wielding a pipette, everything from medical journalism to the corporate world – after all, many businesses are founded on technology and many business leaders come from a scientific background – is at your fingertips. The only prerequisite is an inquisitive mind, and a hunger for learning.

Armed with your analytical and problem-solving prowess, research skills and technical expertise, a science degree can take you places. To see how far, take a look at our full range of online science courses to kickstart your science career today. Also check out our specialised science courses in engineering, health and mining.

Molly Wiltshire-Bridle

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