"alternative" career paths

Deborah Merriam dmerriam at gpu3.srv.ualberta.ca
Mon Nov 18 17:14:54 EST 1996


Sarah and a couple of other people have talked a little about the
"head-in-the-sand" attitude of academics regarding nonacademic career
paths and the need for more discussion of the alternatives. Since I've
been giving this a lot of thought recently, I thought I'd start the ball
rolling.

First, a little about me... My background is a B.Sc. in Biochemistry, and
I'm a little over two years into my M.Sc. project. (I'm trying to figure
out which component of tyrosyl-radical-oxidized high density lipoproteins
is responsible for their enhanced stimulation of cholesterol efflux.)
Since I started my M.Sc., I've realized that my rosy view of what a
life in science would be like was a bit naive. Like many undergrads, I
wasn't fully aware of the uncertain job prospects that would face me, and
I had the impression that the make-your-own-hours nature of research in
academia would give me more time (not less) for family and extracurricular
projects. I had been intending to switch into the Ph.D. program, but now
that the scales have fallen from my eyes ;), I've been seriously
considering other potential career paths.

Here are the options I've thought of. Perhaps they can be a starting point
for more discussion.
	- medicine
	- law school (science policy or intellectual property)
	- industry (research)
	- industry (management, with an M.B.A. perhaps)
	- industy (sales rep) 
	- science writing or journalism

I've decided that science writing would probably best suit my skills and
temperament. So, I'm planning to finish up my thesis, then do as much
freelancing as I can to get some experience and put together my writers'
portfolio while my husband finishes up his Ph.D.  Unfortunately I haven't
found much information about the different areas within the field, with
the notable exception of the stuff compiled on Science's Next Wave web
site. I'd love to hear from anyone has any advice or thoughts on this....
In particular, how does working for a journal or a book publisher differ
from writing for the lay press, or for broadcast? It would also be useful
to hear about the hours and payscales involved, the educational background
required, and if I can expect to have to freelance for the rest of a
writing career.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts...

Deborah Merriam




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