Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Careers in science communication?

One of the first questions I had when researching this program was "What kind of job or career can I get with this program?". It is a hard question to answer quickly. It is like asking what careers can you get in Biology? Which field? Zoology? Microbiology? Marine biology? Entomology? You could be a research scientist, a professor, a lab technician, an environmental officer, a policy maker, an aquaculture technician, a zoo keeper, a field biologist... and the list goes on.

Science communication is even harder to describe because it encompasses and connects with so many different fields. Think about it. In what jobs/careers would you communicate science? The most obvious answer would be working in a science centre/zoo/aquarium. You could design exhibits, educational programs, marketing plans, communication plans. If you are interested in podcasts or radio, think about Bob MacDonald at Quirks and Quarks. For television, you could have a career at Discovery Channel on one of their many science programs.

I've mentioned the more sensational ones, but lots of governmental and non-governmental organizations need science communicators to write science policy or distill the information for ministers or the public.Off the top of my head, organizations like Project Seahorse, World Wildlife Fund, or Ontario Power Generation. One of our past graduates did her internship at Pollution Probe in Toronto and is now their project manager.

In the movie Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) there is science fiction regarding using material from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to make a bomb. The organizations and scientists with the LHC created a website to distinguish fact from fiction. Without good science communicators, there could be a lot more fear and misunderstanding about the entire project.

So... why not just get these jobs with the education you have? Say... a Bachelors or Masters (or even Doctorate) in science. You absolutely could, but it would be a bit harder. Just because you have one or more degree in science doesn't mean that you can communicate well (Think about your most boring university professor..everyone has one). Also, all the practical and transferable skills you learned during your university career are not necessarily apparent to employers.

After completing a program in science communication it will be quite apparent on you CV, not to mention that you'll have a portfolio showing potential employers what you can do. In North America we are the only comprehensive program in science communication. Because we are unique and because this is a rapidly growing field it makes your CV/resume stand out.

Before I applied to the program, I emailed lots of alumni to see where they ended up. Many of them had jobs in the field soon after graduation. One alumna commented that she was getting interviews and job offers for positions that normally went to people with Phds. Her Science Communication diploma really distinguished her from other candidates.

This program is so worthwhile and the career options are huge. You readers must think I'm biased since I'm always "selling" the program. I'm in the program so I am biased. It is just that I see so many potential opportunities with this diploma that I find it hard to contain my enthusiasm.

- Justin

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