Read our COVID-19 research and news.

Preparing for a Career in Industrial Research

If you haven't taken the time to study the issue, you might believe that research is research, regardless of where it is done. Yet each institutional setting--university, government, or industry--has its own special skill set and its own particular ways of doing science. Understanding those ways, and the requirements for each work environment, is essential to having a successful and fulfilling career as a scientist.

Industrial researchers, for example, must adhere to strict standards when it comes to issues like data integrity and documentation (including the maintenance of lab notebooks); whereas in the academic world, control is less centralized and enforcement more relaxed, even if sound documentation is no less important, ultimately.

That's just one example among many. Other examples include "soft" skills such as effective communication and teamwork, which industry prizes but academic scientists often thrive without.

We believe that learning what it's like to work in industrial research, and acquiring the special skills the work requires, can give Next Wave readers an advantage in choosing and building successful and fulfilling careers in industrial research. In this feature, Science's Next Wave explores how to have a successful career in industrial research and delves into topics that will help readers transition into highly competitive but rewarding jobs in industry.

Neither the "hands-on" technical skills prized by industry nor the equally essential "soft" interpersonal skills are often taught in traditional science-training programs. So how can industry bound scientists find out what skills they need and where can they acquire them? Next Wave contributing writer Dave Jensen examines the options in Training and Transitions.

In A Step Inside Industry, European Editor Anne Forde investigates a U.K. Ph.D. studentship program known as the Industrial CASE Awards. These projects are collaborative efforts between industrial and academic researchers and give doctoral candidates both a taste of industry and experience that can be valuable later in pursuing a career in industry.

Postdoctoral fellowships in industry also provide experience in the field. Canadian correspondent Andrew Fazekas finds out about the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Industrial Research Fellowship (IRF) Program, which provides financial support for fellows to do a two-year postdoc at research facilities in Canada's private sector. But he also asks a program participant, Anna Moraitis, about her experiences as an NSERC Industrial Research Fellow.

It is common for universities and companies to work together to do research and train a workforce that will benefit both institutions. Even governments get in on the act, with funding programs for scientists working in industry. But Luigi Ceccaroni, an Italian scientist working in Barcelona, Spain, combines all three sectors in a unique way. Ceccaroni splits his time between two part-time jobs, one as a project leader within a small company and the other as an assistant professor within a university. Contributing European Editor Elisabeth Pain tells the story.

And in More Than Skin Deep, contributing writer Jim Kling looks at an unusual arrangement between Johns Hopkins University's engineering department and a company called Integument that benefits both institutions while giving students a glimpse of life in the corporate fast lane.

Both Next Wave and Science magazine provide unique perspectives on jobs in industry from the workers themselves. MiSciNet Editor Robin Arnette profiles the career of Michael King, associate director of clinical drug evaluation at Johnson & Johnson, while Science's Jeffrey Mervis examines the careers of five industrial scientists in The Changing World of Drug Research: Five Perspectives (subscription required).

Follow Science Careers

Search Jobs

Enter keywords, locations or job types to start searching for your new science career.

Top articles in Careers