Going in for a career in science is not as glamorous as going into Wall Street or living the surfing life on the west coast. Well, maybe only if you happen to win a Nobel prize. This road is for those who are inquisitive by nature and want to advance the world with discoveries. If you are majoring in the sciences and wondering what it would be like to go into a research career, these are some ideas on what to expect.
1. It takes patience and not just an undergrad degree
A biology or chemistry degree is not what makes you a scientist. It is really all about your critical thinking skills combined with your knowledge. Make sure you understand experiments and nurture your inquisitive mind by thinking about how you can make experiments better.
2. There is no one “right” way
Many roads may lead you to what you are looking for. There is not one way to become a scientist, so make sure you follow your personal interests because every scientists’ path is different. History shows that some became scientists by luck!
3. Failure is part of it
Do not be afraid of failure. Having your predictions fail is just a part of the process. You will always be learning if you choose this career path!
4. Grad school applications
Grad school applications are a major part of your journey into being a scientists. You want to show your enthusiasm as well as specific projects you worked on that you can keep exploring.
5. Your daily life may not be as exciting
Studying a major topic like “psychopathology” or “cancer” will sound highly exciting when you mention it to your friends at your favorite restaurant. However, your daily life may not be very exciting, and may include some tedious tasks and repetition until your desired outcome is found.
6. Scientists have rivalries and weird dynamics
When you get into the field, you will realize that science is also biased. Just like any field, scientists collaborate with each other and some even disagree to the point of rivalries. Yikes!
7. You never know what discovery you stumble upon
Many major discoveries like Newton’s have been made through “luck”. When you choose this career you never know what new discovery or derails you will stumble upon.
8. Your hours are not stable
Becoming a scientist takes much dedication and hard work. It is no surprise that you will be highly attached to your lab or field of study and you can kiss a stable 9-5 goodbye. The road includes unpredictable hours and constantly dedicating yourself to improvement.
9. You depend on your funding
if you go into research, the university is technically not paying you. You depend on where the funding is coming from, so you have to write grants to rich people telling them why they should fund you. It is quite different than a job with a stable paycheck for consistent periods.
10. Remember to enjoy it
The road is indeed bumpy, but remember that being a scientist is a wonderful career path, to be savored and enjoyed.
A scientist’s life can be full of excitement when you are in it for the greater good. If you go in with the goal of making money and fame (especially if you plan on collaborating with Big Pharma where the big bucks flow) , that is doable, but not really fulfilling. Working in science will shape you as a creative thinker, curious mind and as a human being.