Science Knowlege Hub -

Qualifications Needed

What should you study?

Qualifications you will need to succeed in a career in science

When you are at school it's almost impossible to know what career you want; most teenagers have only a rudimentary grasp of the options available.

But the good news is that most careers start in the same way, with GCSE's, providing more time for youngsters to start to carve out what will ultimately be their professional path.

A career in science might be something which a school-leaver works towards immediately, or it could be a route which is chosen after working in a different industry first.

There are a myriad of different career paths in science but getting the right qualifications is key to making progress.

Wide variety

There are an endless number of career opportunities within science, from those which have fairly basic entry requirements right through to the most skilled of professions.

To be successful in becoming a forensic or clinical scientist takes years of study, but anyone starting out on this path will typically follow the same route to start with as an individual working elsewhere within the field.

Make sure you have the right qualifications

Good GCSEs (or their equivalent) are an essential step in starting a career in science. Without these it's not usually possible to enrol onto a training course, be accepted as a scientific apprentice or to move on to further education.

Maths and English are considered as essential and at least one science is a helpful start.

At the very top

There are some occupations within science which demand years of study before an individual is qualified to secure a position.

A forensic scientist is a field which is extremely competitive and requires dedication and commitment, as is a clinical scientist. Other types of scientist include biomedical, pharmaceutical and physicist but there are many others as well.

In order to be eligible to be considered for one of these positions, an individual must be well qualified with a solid background in science. A degree in a subject such as biochemistry is required; other popular degree choices include chemistry, pharmacology, physiology, materials science, biology, crop, plant and soil science and biomedical science.

As a general rule, a degree in any of the applied sciences, mathematics, physical, life and medical sciences or horticultural or agricultural sciences will usually be considered as relevant.

Some individuals go on to study a PhD before securing a job in science. Even after they have a PhD they may still have many years of studying ahead of them before they are equipped to work at consultant level and run their own laboratory. Ten years or more of study is not unusual for  fully-fledged scientists.

Other ways to work in science

But not everyone who works within science could be described as a scientist; there are many vital jobs which don't demand such a long commitment to training and education but perform an equally important role.

Working in science is a fulfilling career.


A technologist plays a pivotal role in laboratories, a highly skilled profession which typically involves working in a setting such as industry, education, healthcare, research. Specialities may include biology, medicine, geology, the environment, electronics or chemistry.

A technologist is not the same as a technician and requires expertise; most individuals will have a degree or similar in engineering.

A laboratory assistant may carry out sample analysis, recording data, setting up equipment, disposal of hazardous materials and preparing cultures. A degree is not required for this type of position; key attributes are a background in science along with strong organisational skills.

Healthcare science is a particularly accessible route for individuals who don't want to study for a degree. Working as an assistant or support worker, the Modernising Scientific Careers initiative provides the option to study for vocational qualifications and generally requires GCSEs for entry.

Image credits: USACE HQ and MD Govpics

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