If you’re like me and you have many non-science interests, finding a way to do them all can be difficult. Hobbies and side hustles are a great way to dabble in multiple interests but sometimes you might want your non-science interests to also be your main hustle. Studying a science degree can lead to a broad range of careers, from working in a research lab to teaching. However, combining science and non-science interests can also open up a new world of opportunities. We’ve put together a list of some career options that combine science with other passions.
Science & Creative Writing
If writing long project reports and dissertations did not put you off writing for life, then you may be interested in a career that combines science with creative writing.
Science Writer or Science Journalist
Science writers mainly write about the latest news in scientific research. They communicate with a wide range of audiences, from fellow scientists to the general public. Being able to adapt your writing style to suit different groups is an important part of this role as working in science writing might mean that you write articles, features, or essays for businesses, news publications, journals, and/or general media such as TV and radio. Science writers could be considered journalists if they tend to write more critically about new research for news outlets.
A career as a science writer involves plenty of reading and analysing research, writing, editing, and, in some cases, traveling. There is no set path to becoming a science writer, although studying a science subject at degree level might be the best place to start. When applying to be a science writer, you might find it helpful to have some examples and emphasise any science writing that you have done before. This can include publications, blog posts, articles in student journals, or even lay summary assignments.
Special Mention: Author
Writing about science does not have to be limited to new scientific discoveries. You could also write books for general readers. As an author with a science background, you could write both non-fiction and fiction for adults and children. Non-fiction writing could include books with in-depth explorations of a specific concept or research topic. Fiction writing could be in any genre. If you did want to lean more into your scientific background, science fiction might be a good genre to write in.
Becoming an author requires excellent communication skills and persistence. Writing a manuscript and getting published can take a while and it may take even longer before you see any profit. Self-publishing your work might be an option that you can explore to get your work out in the world. It may be helpful to practice your writing and storytelling before committing to writing a whole book. Once you have something written, if you choose not to self-publish, you can try submitting your work to different publishing houses like Penguin Random House.
You can learn more about self-publishing your books here.
You can find out more about being an author here.
Science & Art
If you spend more time drawing than writing, then a career that combines science and art may interest you.
Science illustration involves communicating complex scientific information visually. This includes animation, sculptures, and digital and non-digital drawings. Similarly to science writers, science illustrators produce work for a broad range of audiences, including children and people who find it difficult or may not be able to read written text. Science illustrators are responsible for artwork in a variety of settings including textbooks and revision guides (shout out to CGP!), museum exhibits, and even in instruction booklets for medical devices.
Medical illustrators are a subset of science illustrators who create artwork for medical textbooks and other medical educational materials. These illustrations often lack diversity, reflecting a lack of diversity in the field. In 2021, Chidiebere Ibe, a Nigerian medical student drew attention to this issue by drawing a Black fetus in the womb (1).
Chidiebere’s illustration went viral and highlighted a clear need for more Black science
illustrators. Becoming a science illustrator requires good artistic ability and proficiency in industry-standard digital art programmes like Adobe Illustrator. If you’re thinking about applying to be a science illustrator, putting together a portfolio to showcase your art is a great first step.
You can learn more about becoming a science illustrator on the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators website or by reading this Guide to Becoming a Science Illustrator by Simplified Science Publishing.
Science & Filmmaking
If you prefer working with non-researchers to tell compelling stories, then a career that combines science and filmmaking might interest you.
Science Documentary Filmmaker
Science documentaries help the public understand complex scientific concepts using audio-visual techniques. Science documentaries aim to be both educational and entertaining and cater to multiple audiences. Being able to find and show an engaging storyline from research findings is an integral part of this role.
Science filmmakers are responsible for TV documentaries, movies, and even public health adverts. Just like illustration, filmmaking requires technical skills and knowledge of some industry-standard methods, programmes and equipment. You can take Master’s-level courses in science filmmaking such as the ones offered by the National Film and Television School and Imperial College London.
If you do choose to apply to Imperial, it is worth noting that they also offer a scholarship to help increase diversity in science filmmaking. There are also workshops available, like this one offered by Blue Fire Films. You can also learn to film and edit on your own, using online tutorials like the ones offered on the British Film Institute's Screen Skills site and learning from other filmmakers on social media. Creating a portfolio of any work you do will also be helpful for applications to jobs in this field. If you already have some filmmaking experience, the OKRE Network provides funding and professional support for aspiring filmmakers. They are currently interested in funding films on mental health, infectious disease and/or climate health.
You can learn more about working as a science documentary filmmaker here.
You can also find a list of some of the most popular science documentaries here.
Special Mention: Scientific Consultant or Advisor in Film
Scientific consultants or advisors help to make sure that the science presented in fictional TV shows or movies is accurate or, at the very least, not complete nonsense. This usually involves a short conversation with the director towards the start of a film production. Turning this into a career is difficult as many consultations are unpaid. However it could be an interesting role to try if you love science fiction and/or get frustrated with scientific inaccuracies in film and TV.
You can learn more about science consultancy in film here.
Science & Business
If you have a talent for persuasion or strategy, then a career that combines science and business may interest you.
One of life’s greatest mysteries is what a consultant actually does. This section might give you a better idea.
A scientific consultant works with companies to help them answer any research questions that they may have. For example, if a company wants to test a new product, they may hire a scientific consultant to work with its research and development team to come up with a strategy. Scientific consultants typically only stay with a company for as long as it takes to complete a project, before moving on to a different organisation.
Consultants often give presentations to members of the company that they are working with, which may include fellow scientists and those who did not study a science degree. Just like other careers described above, simplifying complex scientific concepts is important for this role too. Another key part of consulting is giving clear and effective presentations. Practicing public speaking may be helpful if you choose to try your hand at scientific consulting. There is no set path to becoming a scientific consultant but studying a science subject to degree level is a good first step.
You can learn more about scientific consulting here.
Science & All of the Above
A career in science communication, or sci-comm, can encompass elements of all the careers described above. As a science communicator, you would be helping translate findings from research articles into plain and easy-to-understand language for the public. This could involve reading and writing about new scientific discoveries just like a science writer; creating some art to help explain concepts in your writing, like an illustrator; filming some content for video-based platforms to summarise your work and increase the reach, like a filmmaker; and presenting your work just like a consultant.
In an ideal world, every scientist would be an excellent science communicator but, unfortunately, we are not quite there yet. In the meantime, a few brave souls (such as yourselves, perhaps…?) have been taking on the challenge of communicating research findings.
The importance of sci-comm cannot be underestimated, especially now, when more and more researchers are pushing for increased open-access publishing. Research should be accessible and science communicators help to make sure that it is. If you’d like to learn some more about science communication, you can read some more about it in our previous blog post ‘7 Science Careers you may be missing out on’. You can also find some great sci-commers on social media. Check out BWiS member, Adama Saccoh’s sci-comm work by searching @catalystinme on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Each of these career options come with their own challenges and entry requirements so it might take a little bit of extra-curricular work before you can transition into them. Getting experience and creating a portfolio of your previous work can be really helpful when applying to more creative jobs. Internships, online courses, and even your just-for-fun personal projects can all help you build up your creative portfolio, getting you one step closer to combining science with your other passions.
By Esther Ansah, Blog Writer
Cascone S. A Nigerian medical student wondered why his textbooks only depict white patients. So he drew his own illustrations-and they went viral. Artnet News 2021. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/diversity-medical-illustrations-chidiebere-ibe-2045122.