Choosing science opens up a vast and exciting range of study and career options
Career Guide: Science
PhD student Monika Koziel, responsible for identifying potentially fatal species of bacteria in monkeys which can be passed onto humans at the CREATE build at Cork Institute of Technology. Photograph: Darragh Kane
Fancy living in a cave, picking beetles off the wall, shivering in fear for your life? That’s where you’d be without science. There’s no going back from science, which has become central to the way we live our lives.
Science graduates are trained to think in an analytical, logical and structured way. They focus on facts over speculation. Employers value science graduates because of their ability to research and analyse information, to spot patterns and trends, and present their findings in a disciplined manner. Being able to think scientifically is also a useful skill for day-to-day life, while well-trained science graduates are crucial for making informed decisions about major public issues including climate change, food policy, and enterprise.
The natural sciences – what we usually think of as physics, chemistry, and biology – are a very broad church, and students can take many different paths. Geology, for instance, is nothing as snoozeworthy as the study of rocks: it is a way of discovering the history of the Earth and its many cycles of life and extinction. Genetics gives us an insight into the most complex code ever written, the human genome. Pharmacology, which develops crucial medicines, is now nothing less than our ability to stay alive. Then there’s microbiology, zoology, astronomy, theoretical physics, neurobiology.
But you don’t need to worry about that just yet. Increasingly, third-level institutions are moving towards general entry, with students choosing science specialities after a year of studying several subjects.
Where to study science
Where to study very much depends on what you want to do, although Trinity College has the best overall research profile, with a world-class reputation in many areas, including immunology and nanoscience.
If you’re broadly interested in science but have no idea whether you want to study the human brain (neurobiology) the ocean (oceanography) or the universe (astrophysics), it makes sense to choose a common entry course: students take three or four subjects for the first two years, before choosing among 16 specialities for their last two years.
University College Dublin and the Dublin Institute of Technology offer general entry courses, with an emphasis on physics, chemistry, biology and maths in the first year, before students go on to specialise. If you’re a bit more certain, University College Cork has retained its direct entry system, with first years courses including chemical sciences, physics and astrophysics, and genetics, among other options; DCU offers both common entry and specialised entry science courses.
Science is, of course, exceptionally broad and despite the tentative move towards general entry, there are a huge number of more specialised interest courses, many geared towards employment prospects.