Careers in Science

Marianne Anderson
1991 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute


  • to learn the trends in the current job market for scientists
  • to find where the jobs are, the range of salaries, and the job requirements
  • to discover that scientists do some very interesting things
  • to write a letter of application for one of these jobs


Many highschool upperclassmen are naively ignorant about the job market available to science gradustes in biology. An initial survey shows familiarity with aspects of teaching and medicine but little else. Yet the types and numbers of research positions have grown enormously in the past decade and are incorporating a combination of sciences or a science with some other field (journalism, photograph). Instead of the instructor simply telling students what jobs are available, etc. the students can easily research the information and share their findings with others in the class.


  • Current AAAS Science journal (1/student)
  • University Library

Experimental Design:

Each student is given a AAAS Science journal of the current year. Students addresss the individual questio;ns by deciding how to best collect the data. With some encouragement, students make a decision on how to arrange what types of jobs are available in certain categories (for example: academic, industry, and government). Students can xerox these pages and highlight different categories with different colors. To see trends a third of the class goes back to the same month 10 years ago, another third goes back 20 years and the last third, 30 years. One idea to categorize geographic locations is to use the USA TODAY's weather map: Pacific coast, Rockies, Central, Midwest, Northwest, and Southeast.


In 2-3 weeks the students bring in their numbers and all are recorded on the board. Each student complies all the rawdata individually and draws graphs and conclusions. They utilize the scientific method to answer their questions and review lots of biological terminology (for example: behavioral neurophysiologist, molecular pharmacology, retrovirologist, etc.), as well as, become excited at the prospect of having a great number of appealing jobs to consider.

Optional Extension:

This activity can be restructured as a quarter or final exam, probably at the end of the course when students know more science terminology. The instructor should select 6-10 widely different positions available in the want ad section. Direct the students to select one of the positions and write a letter applying for that job. The letter should include the student's interest and knowledge in that particular area of science, the student's background in science (their coursework, their lab and field experience) and what the student hopes to accomplish in the position.


Many AP students like this activity. Maybe they do because there are no answers in the back of the book and their research is relevant to them.

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