Tips for Career Preparation
- Use Your Resources. Make sure to take full advantage of the career resources on campus. No single advisor has expertise in everything, so use all of them. Faculty advisors can give you insight into academic careers, academic advisors can help you shape your undergraduate education to meet your goals, and career counselors have special expertise in helping students think about what comes after graduation.
- Explore your interests and strengths. You don't have to narrow down your studies right away—take time to explore. You may find that you absolutely love something that you had never heard of before you got to college. Taking a variety of bioscience courses can be useful. There are also specific courses that can help you explore the field of biology overall and find out about careers. Career counselors have a lot of tools to help you identify your strengths, too—and it can be really fun!
- Get the facts about possible career paths and the preparation they require. You may think you've found the perfect career path already, or you may not, but it always pays to get more information. What are the hiring trends? What are entry-level jobs like? What's the difference between graduate school and professional school? How competitive are admissions, and what are schools really looking for? It's better to get the facts than to rely on popular rumors.
- Shape your undergraduate experiences to prepare you for your career goals. As you plan, think about more than just your courses. Experiences that take place outside the traditional classroom, like internships, research, public service, leadership, and international experiences, can be extremely valuable. You can gain concrete skills, explore career options, build professional networks, and broaden your perspective. All these can make you more attractive to employers as well as admissions staff.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Science changes daily, so you may be preparing for a career that doesn't exist yet. Gaining multiple skills, both within and outside of biology, is wise. Current statistics show that you're likely to change jobs quite frequently. You can devise strategies for dealing with the failures, delays, and other disappointments that are inevitable in any career path. Practice opening up to new possibilities, so you can go places you haven't imagined yet.
- Faculty advisors can be a good resource for information about bioscience careers in academia. If you don't have a faculty advisor, talk to a professor in one of your classes.
- The Center for Pre-Health Advising provides one-on-one appointments as well as valuable resources to help you understand the requirements for health professional schools and how to find a program that suits you.
- Since the health professions are most often service careers, exploring public service can be crucial in helping you learn whether medicine or another helping profession is really for you. You can also find out first-hand about many other biology careers. The Morgridge Center for Public Service is a great resource to help you find opportunities. Internships can also be a great way to learn about careers.
- The Career Exploration Center supports undergraduate students who are undecided about their academic and career goals. They assist students in gathering information, personal insight, and experience that help them explore their options and provide direction in planning the next steps in their career journey.
- Several Colleges and Schools have Career Services offices that serve current students and recent graduates. They can help you discover your career path, identify your next best step after graduation, and provide you with the tools and resources to get you where you want to go:
- There are some Job Boards that may be helpful:
- The Division of Continuing studies Adult Career and Special Student Services has a website with links to many career planning resources and job search websites. They also provide individual educational and career counseling to prospective and returning adult students.
- Exploring Biology is a two-credit course specifically designed for first-year students interested in the biosciences. It exposes students to the richness of bioscience research at UW–Madison, gives an overview of the "big ideas" of biology, and helps students learn more about career options in the biosciences.
- WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) Seminar The WISE Seminar is a one-credit course that meets once a week over dinner. The women who enroll in this seminar hear from many faculty members and are exposed to a wide variety of scientific research and future career possibilities. To sign up for the seminar series, register for Inter Ag 175.
Experiences that allow you to see and do different types of work directly can be invaluable in exploring careers. Below are several types of experiences that can help you define your career direction, gain work experience for your resume, and develop essential skills and perspectives. They can also be some of the most powerful and defining personal experiences of your undergraduate career.
- Internships: Internships can be a great way to explore a career more deeply once you've narrowed down your interests. An internship can also give you demonstratable job skills and a professional network for job recommendations.
- Undergraduate Research: Research experiences can help you understand the enterprise of research more deeply, gain technical skills, and learn to work with people and communicate more effectively. They can also help develop independence, initiative, and creativity.
- Public Service: Especially if you're considering a service career like medicine, public service can help you see if you enjoy that type of work. Beyond learning about careers, you can also learn about community-based research and how to collaborate with community partners. It can be particularly satisfying to do work in the community while you're still in school—you can make a difference right now and not just after you graduate.
- International Experiences: There is almost nothing that can broaden and change your perspective like an international experience. That kind of change can be personally fulfilling, as well as helpful in your career path. Global perspectives are very much in-demand. UW–Madison has some very accessible programs to help students study abroad, and there are many programs in the biosciences—everything from public health to genetics to conservation.
- Leadership and Involvement: Involvement in student groups and other leadership opportunities can help you build support networks of students with similar goals and interests. Students exchange information and insights all the time, so it can be very valuable to hook into a network of people with similar goals. Leadership experiences can also help you develop practical skills like facilitation, budgeting, strategic planning, and project management, which are helpful in any career.
A bachelors degree in the biosciences will qualify you for work as a laboratory assistant, technician, technologist, or research assistant, and it can be helpful in nontechnical work in writing, illustration, sales, photography, and legislation, if you also have training or experience in one of those fields. Students who graduate from UW-Madison with a degree in the biosciences have a wealth of post-graduate options:
- Going directly into the work force
- Getting a job to gain some experience and then pursuing an advanced degree
- Pursuing a graduate degree right after graduation
- Pursuing a professional degree right after graduation
Below are some bioscience-focused sources of information that may help you get a picture of the range of careers within biology and give you a glimpse of some of the real-life details of specific jobs.
- For those interested in health careers, check out the Wisconsin Health Careers website and ExploreHealthCareers.org, and be sure to visit the Center for Pre-Health Advising.
- The American Institute of Biological Sciences careers page contains lists of careers, advice for preparation, and everything from salary information to personal profile links so you can hear from individual biologists in many fields.
- CityTownInfo.com has a career stories page where you can pick a job title and read short descriptions from individuals who do that job, telling the best and worst parts of the job, job tasks, tips, etc. The site has other good, in-depth career information as well.
- Check out Youtube for videos of biologists describing their careers. Search on a particular career, or use "careers in biology" if you want a broad spectrum of information.
- For current job outlook information, visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published every two years by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- For a good description of careers in genetics and the biosciences, plus additional resources, visit this Human Genome Project page.
- What Can I Do With This Major? has a long list of careers for biological sciences majors generally, as well as for more specific biological sciences majors.
- Bright Hub's Top 10 Jobs for Biology Majors
- Payscale.com's List of Best Jobs for Biology Majors, with salary information
In addition to taking advantage of UW–Madison's career services offices, you can also take advantage of student-focused online resources from other universities:
- Rutgers University's career services page on the biological sciences contains a good list of careers as well as first jobs that students have gotten in the field.
- Northern Illinois University's biological sciences careers page has a good list of professional associations, as well as examples of employers, sample careers, and a list of biology-related job sites.