• Question: What's the process in becoming a scientist how long will it take?

    Asked by Chris to Jonathan, Kellie, Kevin, Melissa, Stephanie on 23 Apr 2016.
    • Photo: Stephanie Moon

      Stephanie Moon answered on 23 Apr 2016:

      Hi 923hemb24–
      There are different education and experience requirements to become a scientist depending on the field you are in and also the job responsibilities you’d have. For example, if you want to run your own laboratory and research anything you want, in my field you are normally expected to get a bachelor’s degree (~4 years) in a STEM subject, go to graduate school (~5 years) to get a Ph.D., then work for ~1-5 years in an established scientist’s lab to get experience creating and running projects as a post-doctoral researcher. There are other ways to have a career in science though- for example, if you want to do scientific experiments and manage a lab, you could have a bachelor’s degree (without graduate school experience) and become a scientist through work experience.

    • Photo: Kellie Jaremko

      Kellie Jaremko answered on 23 Apr 2016:

      Stephanie put it nicely but just to reiterate the most common path is 4 years of college in a scientific field (chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology etc) then a 4-6 year graduate program when you make your own project and then 1-3 years as a post-doctorate fellow using your skills in someone else’s laboratory to develop more skills and learn how to run a lab.

      Other paths are through any field or job where you learn science like medicine, dentistry, physical or occupational therapy or nursing, just to name a few in medicine. Getting involved with research from a science-related career is certainly possible without formal training but it takes a lot of help and time.

    • Photo: Melissa Wilson Sayres

      Melissa Wilson Sayres answered on 24 Apr 2016:

      Stephanie and Kellie have the academic path pretty well covered, so I’d like to provide additional feedback on non-academic possibilities. You can, with a Bachelor’s degree in S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), do many careers, including working for industry (on pretty much every kind of translational research that is done in academia, and even some basic science), teaching (K-12), working in public policy (doing research and advising people at local, state, or federal government on science policies), or working with government agencies (like an archaeologist friend of mine who works with the Army looking at possible historical relevance of future sites).

      Also, there are a lot of quality control and managerial positions across business (insurance companies, hardware companies, software engineers) that are happy to have people with STEM background experience.

      At many of these positions, a B.S. will help get your foot in the door, and M.S. may give you an advantage over other applicants, and a Ph.D. may even be too much training. I’ve certainly missed some, but overall, it is good to investigate the kind of careers you want, and aim for that level of training.

    • Photo: Jonathan Jackson

      Jonathan Jackson answered on 25 Apr 2016:

      I think the other answers covered this pretty well, so I’m going to chip in my opinion, which some people may not agree with:

      EVERYONE IS A SCIENTIST ALREADY. (Some people just have a bit more training than others.)

      It’s true! When we think about why the world is the way that it is, why some people act like they do, what may be going on in a place that we can’t see…all of that is scientific curiosity. When we make bets with our friends, we’re forming a hypothesis and testing it under controlled conditions. When we say “it depends,” we may be describing a complex pattern of data called an interaction. Odds are, you’re doing the same kinds of things every day that scientists do for a living. The difference is that we went to school and had training for our specific jobs, and we have special equipment to ask and answer very key questions. But think of it another way: people can be athletes at an amateur or professional level, too. Professional athletes train for many years and have special equipment to help them reach new heights, but it doesn’t mean that someone without that training isn’t an athlete. It just means that they may not be able to do as much as someone who is paid and has special training.

      So take heart! You’re already a scientist because you’re a human being who asks questions. If you look at the answers provided by Stephanie, Kellie, and Melissa, you’ll see that it’s possible to take your curiosity to the next level. It takes a while and you need to be passionate about your work, but it’s definitely worth it.

    • Photo: Kevin Baker

      Kevin Baker answered on 25 Apr 2016:

      Sorry to be a bit late to answer this. I am the youngest one here, so the other 4 are probably better at answering this than I am, haha.