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Special Feature: Science Careers for Undergrads

Traditionally, Science Careers has focused on providing career information and advice to scientists working beyond the undergraduate level. Young professionals--in academia, government, and industry--postdocs, and graduate students have always been our bread and butter. For reasons too boring to mention, we rarely have offered even token advice to undergraduates who aspire to a science career (except on Minority Scientists Network, which focuses on diversity issues in the scientific workforce).

But at Science Careers, we're committed to the idea that creating a rewarding career requires care and craftsmanship, which is just as true at the undergraduate level as it is at any other level. Undergraduate science majors make decisions all the time, decisions that have implications that may not become apparent until years later, when they start applying for faculty positions or corporate research jobs, seeking gigs as a medical writer, or whatever. The lucky ones have faculty mentors backing them up and giving good advice on career-related decisions--but we've been there, so we know how rare that is. Anyway, at Science Careers we also believe in a level playing field, so we're not inclined to leave such things to chance.

So, if you're an undergraduate science major, pay attention. If you're a faculty member, administrator, parent, or anyone else with a connection to undergraduate scientists, try to get the ones you know to pay attention. Starting this week, Science Careers starts offering advice-filled articles, approximately each month, to assist undergraduates interested in a career in, or closely related to, science. Specifically, we'll help you decide …

  • Whether and where to go to graduate school and how to get in.

  • How to leverage that bachelor's degree to get a good job and what kind of job you can expect to find with those qualifications.

  • Whether you need to do research as an undergraduate to get into a good graduate program or to get the kind of job you want. We're starting on this one this week.

  • Whether you should go straight to graduate school or work for a while first--the so-called postbac.

… and other issues we haven't even thought of yet.

This week, we inaugurate this new focus with two articles on some of these very questions, along with one very useful information resource.

First, Sarah Webb takes on the undergraduate-research question : In an era when more undergraduates are doing research than ever before--and many are getting their names high up on high-profile papers--has undergraduate research become a de facto requirement for graduate school admission and for getting a good job?

In recent years, Europe's science-policy community has focused on the "mobility" issue--Euro-speak for going abroad to work or train. Hillary Marshall asks--and answers --"Should you go abroad to do your Ph.D.?"

Finally, managing editor Alan Kotok and GrantsNet program manager José Fernández have assembled a guide to science-funding programs for undergraduates that, because it is linked to the GrantsNet database, remains as fresh as any freshman.

By the way, this special feature is a part of Science Magazine's special issue on undergraduate education. As we focus on the students, they will focus on the faculty end of things. It's a good read no matter which side of the lectern you're on.

Join Science Careers and AAAS on Facebook

To keep up on career issues for undergraduates, join Science Careers’ José Fernández and the Science Careers crew on Facebook. If you have a Facebook account, you can ask questions and share experiences with other science students, search for jobs and funding opportunities, read about managing your money and making the transition to graduate school, listen to the latest Science podcast, and discover more resources on our site.

To connect with even more student scientists, join the AAAS group on Facebook. The AAAS Ambassador to Facebook, Alison Chandler, posts the latest news and events from AAAS and offers a welcoming wall --also known as a discussion board in Facebook lingo--for visitors. (Facebook registration is required to access these links.)

Jim Austin is the editor of Science Careers .

Comments, suggestions? Please send your feedback to our editor.

Photos: Top, credit M. Stute. Middle, courtesy Chris Burge.

DOI: 10.1126/science.caredit.a0700094

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