Scientists investigate how the universe and its parts work. Scientists formulate a hypothesis with initial observations and then test that hypothesis through additional experiments and observations in which they can measure the results and confirm or disprove the initial hypothesis. Scientists often work in universities and commercial or government settings. If you want to become a scientist, a long but also exciting and rewarding ride awaits you.
Part 1 of 3: Prepare the Ground
Step 1. Take the necessary prep classes in high school
Starting in high school and continuing through your undergraduate years in college, you should take classes that allow you to learn the analytical and critical thinking that is required to be a scientist. This is essential to take advantage of your future life.
- You will need to have a good mathematical foundation. Scientists who work in the physical sciences use mathematics a lot, especially algebra, calculus, and analytical geometry, while those who work in the biological sciences do not use mathematics much. All scientists also need a working knowledge of statistics.
- Consider going to a science camp during high school. You will do more interesting projects than the science projects that are usually done during class.
Step 2. Start by learning the basics in college
While you will specialize in a specific discipline later, you will first need to take the basic courses in biology, chemistry, and physics to lay the foundation for each science and the scientific method of observation, developing hypotheses and experimenting. You can also select elective courses based on areas that interest you or describe new areas of interest so you can define your major. In a year or two, you can decide on a more specific branch of science.
Learning a foreign language or two could also be very useful, as you will be able to read old scientific articles that are not translated into English. The most useful languages are French, German, and Russian
Step 3. Specialize in a field that intrigues you
After you have become familiar with the directions your career could take, you should specialize in a more specific branch of science. Astronomy? Medicine? Psychology? Genetics? Farming?
If you are interested in a field that is not in your university, you can wait and specialize later (in graduate school). A more generic specialty like chemistry is also a very good option
Step 4. Get an internship at the university
It's best to start making connections and working as soon as possible. Talk to one of your professors about internships, this way you could also get your name to appear in one of the articles published by your team.
This will provide you with a great lab experience, which will be very useful when going to graduate school and later looking for more serious jobs. This will also show that you took college seriously and that you have what it takes to live up to what is expected of you
Step 5. Hone your writing skills
To be a scientist, you must also write well, either to obtain grants for your research or to publish the results of your experiments in scientific journals. Language arts classes in high school and technical writing classes in college will help you hone your skills.
Always read scientific journals and stay abreast of events. Before long, you will be the one to publish in those magazines. Look at the published papers to learn its structure and the basic concepts that are required to achieve a good scientific article
Part 2 of 3: Get Higher Education
Step 1. Go to graduate school
While some commercial and industrial positions are available to those who graduate with a college degree, most scientists have at least a master's degree or to a greater extent a doctorate. Graduate programs are geared more toward researching and developing new theories, in conjunction with professors or other scientists, and possibly using state-of-the-art technology. Most postgraduate programs require at least 4 years, and even longer, depending on the nature of the research.
By now, you should have decided your specialty; something that is more specific within the field that you like and allows you to concentrate better. This will make your work more unique and your competition field smaller
Step 2. Get a research internship
In graduate school, you will need to seek out a research internship for your particular area of interest. The number of professors working in something related to your field will be very small; which implies that you will probably have to go elsewhere to find them.
Your teachers and your school in general will be very helpful tools so that you can find out what internships exist and where they are located. Take advantage of all the connections you made to find an internship that suits your needs
Step 3. Participate in a postdoctoral program
Postdoctoral programs will provide you with additional training in your chosen specialty as a scientist. Initially these programs lasted 2 years, but today they usually last at least 4 years and even longer, depending on the field of study and other factors.
In addition to this, you will have to do approximately three years of postdoctoral research after completing the program. If you've been counting, you'll notice that it takes 4 years of college level, 5 years of postgraduate education, and 3 years of research, which means it will take 12 years to actually start working. This time limit is something you should consider as soon as possible
Step 4. Keep your knowledge up to date
During your decade (or more) of education and career, you may want to stay current in your field by attending conferences and reading peer-reviewed magazines. Science is constantly changing, in the blink of an eye you could be left behind.
In smaller fields (and in some larger ones), you can get to know all the names that appear in the magazines. By reading them, you will know who you should consult for help with your research or favors when the time comes
Step 5. Continue your research and look for a full-time job
Scientists are always working on some project or idea. This is a fact, regardless of how far down the road you are. But after doing your postdoctoral research, you will surely need a job. These are some of the basic opportunities you will find:
- Science teacher. This position is self-explanatory and does not always require higher education (depending on the level you want to teach). In some areas and fields, you will also need educational credits.
- Clinical research scientist. Many scientists work with major companies or with the government. When starting out, you would be a clinical research associate. You would work in clinical trials, for example, on emerging drugs. You would collect data and control procedures making sure everything works according to protocol. Then, you would get to perform analyzes on different projects or develop products (such as vaccines) or sometimes you would even work with patients, doctors or technicians on laboratory procedures.
- Teacher. Many scientists, at least for a time, have a goal of becoming professors and becoming university graduates. It is a well-paid job with job security and allows you to influence the lives of many people. However, you should know that it could take decades to get this position.
Part 3 of 3: Develop the Right Mindset
Step 1. Be curious
People who want to be scientists do so because they are very curious about the world around them and they want to know how things work. This curiosity leads them to investigate the how and why behind what they see, even if the investigation takes years to come to fruition.
Along with curiosity is the ability to reject preconceived notions and be open to new ideas. Often an initial hypothesis is not confirmed by evidence from subsequent observations or experiments and must therefore be modified or discarded
Step 2. Be patient to advance in the career
As briefly discussed above, becoming a scientist takes a great deal of time. There are few races longer than this. Even if you do well on the educational side, you still have to get a branch to research. If you are one of those people who give in to immediate gratification, this may not be the career for you.
Some jobs only require a bachelor's degree and sometimes a master's degree. If you are not in a position where you can afford to go ten years without making money, this could be a viable alternative
Step 3. Be diligent and persistent, because a difficult task awaits you
It is often said that "taking into account IQ, quantitative skills, and hours of work, science-related jobs are the lowest paying in America." This means that a difficult path awaits you, for a while you will not live with many luxuries. Things will be difficult for a while.
You will also have to adapt to meeting deadlines, often you will not be able to determine your working hours and you will have to work every time your job says so. All these factors combined make this a difficult job, especially to endure over time
Step 4. You must have the urge to learn constantly
In essence, what every scientist seeks is knowledge. Whether it's reading peer magazines, attending seminars, or working to get your articles published, you'll always be learning. Does this seem like an everyday thing to you? Then you probably have what it takes to be a scientist.
Step 5. Be patient, observant, and think creatively
No scientific work is accomplished in a day, a week, a month, and sometimes even a year. In many cases, such as clinical trials, you won't get results for years. This can be a very disappointing thing to do. A good scientist must be patient.
- Observation skills are also necessary. In the years in which you wait for the results, you should be in constant observation to look for small changes in what you hope to see. Your eyes should be focused and ready at all times.
- And as for creative thinking, think of the apple that fell on Newton's head or Archimedes jumping out of his bathtub and displacing the water. Most people don't care about these events, but these men saw something else, something that no one had seen before. To make advances in human knowledge, you must think differently.
The ACRP offers three certificates to clinical research professionals: the Clinical Research Associate Certificate, the Clinical Research Coordinator Certificate, and the Research Physician Certificate. You will need to take an exam and you will be ready to go
- Due to the large number of doctoral candidates for teaching and commercial positions, future scientists will have to fill post-doctoral positions before landing a permanent position.
- Being a scientist usually requires a lot of patience. There are equal chances of success and failure, so you must be ready to accept the results no matter what they are.