Alex Chattwood, Communications, Education & Outreach co-editor
Becoming a paid science communicator can be hard work. In my recent post, I offered up some resources for people looking to educate themselves in scicomm. In this post, I highlight some of the types of entry-level jobs that will pay you to apply those new-found science communication skills.
The information in the table linked to the image below is designed to give you some insight into the broad range of scicomm jobs available. This information isn’t intended to help you find a paid position within a specific organization. Rather, use the table to identify some areas of interest to explore in more detail through job search sites like www.indeed.ca, via #scicomm on social platforms (e.g., Facebook groups, Twitter) or through personal networks. By clicking on this link, you can view this information in three others ways, which you can navigate by clicking on the tabs at the top-left of the pop-up window:
- By Job: what do you want to do?
- By Skill: what communication skills apply to these jobs?
- By Audience: to whom do you want to direct your attention?
This table is a starting point. Most jobs do not fit snugly into one of these categories and may span many of them. The onus is really on you to align your unique background, skills, and values with the requirements of a specific organization. This can be arduous (trawling websites for hours on end), awkward (networking events!) and intimidating (“There’s too much choice!” Or equally, “There’s nothing out there for me!”). These feelings tend to be magnified if you are undergoing a career change and are unfamiliar with the field you are trying to access.
One resource that provides useful general information is the Versatile PhD Career Finder. Designed for academics wanting to move into non-academic STEM fields, but useful to anyone, this website outlines potential starting points, opportunities for advancement and suggestions on how to prepare for a wide range of STEM careers, including those related to science communication.
In my experience, the preparation piece is the key to landing a paid science communication job. You need to convince a prospective employer that you already have or are willing to learn the requisite skills to do the job. In my case, I applied for an interpreter job at Science World twice. I didn’t hear back the first time. I had more than enough science knowledge but very little experience in interpretive techniques. The second time around, I could point to two years of volunteer experience in school classrooms and science centres. I got the job. What for me was a bit of fun (and an escape from bad results in the lab) was essential to my prospective employer.
As you can read in my recent post, preparation for a career in scicomm will most likely require you to pay for some professional development course or volunteer some of your time. Not only will this equip you with the skills you need to be successful, but you will meet people along the way that will make your search for a job much less arduous, awkward and intimidating. For example, as a volunteer with Science Borealis (see opportunities), you immediately become part of a 40-plus-strong group of science communicators from across Canada with a wide variety of experiences in and insight into the field.
Yes, becoming a science communicator can be hard. But, with the right preparation and a little help from others along the way, you can turn those courses or volunteer experiences into a paying scicomm career.