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Science, Mathematics and Statistics

The Job Market

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  • There are an estimated 191,000 people employed in the Science related industry in Great Britain, which includes those involved in research and development with science qualifications, as well as those with other qualifications and job roles that are not science related but are essential to the business.
  • There are an estimated 6,490 companies.
  • The South East and East of England have the largest Science Industry (Bioscience) employment in the UK.
  • 91% of the pharmaceuticals workforce and 88% of the medical devices workforce is full‐time.
  • Around 6% of those is science occupations are self‐employed.
  • The workforce has a young age profile.
  • Currently, there are insufficient numbers pursuing technical courses, making it difficult for industry to recruit good quality technicians.

Data derived from Annual Business Inquiry, 2008, Northern Ireland Annual Business Inquiry, 2007 and Semta, 2006.


  • There are around 550 bioscience companies in the UK. They employ more than 40,000 people, many of whom are biochemists. There is a high demand for scientists and job prospects are good.
  • Biochemists work for a wide range of organisations, including government research establishments, hospitals and associated medical research units, food research associations, the Forensic Science Service and forensic laboratories.
  • In the industrial sector, biochemists work in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical, food and drink and consumer goods industries, as well as for manufacturers of chemicals, metals and materials, plastics and polymers.


  • The biotechnology industry is expanding rapidly and employs over 40,000 people.
  • Biotechnologists are employed throughout the UK, with clusters of biotechnology companies in London, the South East and Scotland.
  • There is a high demand for biotechnologists.
  • Employers include:
    • industrial companies - including companies in the chemical, metals and materials, plastics and polymers, petrochemical, cosmetics and toiletries industries
    • pharmaceutical and agri-chemical companies
    • food and drink manufacturers
    • government establishments and agencies
    • charity research institutes and hospitals
    • specialist biotechnology companies that are involved in a wide range of research and development
    • universities, where biotechnologists are mainly involved in research.
  • There are excellent opportunities to work abroad, particularly in Europe and the USA.


  • There are large numbers of chemists working throughout the UK. Job opportunities are good and are growing - for example in pharmaceutical research and work for environmental agencies.
  • Work for a wide range of employers:
    • In industry, most chemists work in research and development in, for example, chemical, pharmaceutical, agrochemical, food and drink, consumer goods, oil, water, paper, electrical equipment, metals, nuclear and biotechnology sectors
    • They may also be employed by contract research organisations, food research agencies and the NHS (National Health Service).
    • Chemists also work in universities, hospitals and government research establishments.

Clinical Scientists

  • There are over 4,300 registered clinical scientists in the UK.
  • Most are employed by the NHS (National Health Service). Other employers of clinical scientists include:
    • the diagnostics and pharmaceutical industries
    • private hospitals
    • research institutes
  • Clinical microbiologists also work for the Health Protection Agency. 
  • The NHS operates the Clinical Scientists Recruitment Centre for trainee clinical scientists in England and Wales. On average, between 130 and 150 new NHS clinical scientist trainees are recruited each year through this system.

Cosmetic Scientists

  • There are more than 200 UK-based companies that make cosmetic ingredients or products.
  • Most cosmetic scientists are employed by cosmetic companies, but others work for research companies and universities.
  • Some work as self-employed consultants.
  • Vacancies are advertised in journals such as Soap, Perfumery & Cosmetics and New Scientist and in the Society of Cosmetic Scientists' newsletter. They are also advertised on science recruitment websites.


  • A wide variety of jobs exist across the UK in a range of organisations in both urban and rural areas. However, competition for jobs is usually intense.
  • Employers include government and statutory bodies, industrial and business companies, environmental consultants, universities and colleges, publishing and broadcasting companies and non-governmental organisations. There are also jobs with wildlife bodies and campaign or pressure group organisations.
  • Experience as a research assistant, either paid or unpaid, and/or volunteering experience, is essential.

Food scientists and technologists

  • Between 8,000 and 10,000 people work as food scientists and technologists.
  • Most food scientists and technologists have a degree or an HND in a subject such as food sciences, food studies or food technology. Biology, microbiology, biochemistry, biotechnology and chemistry are also acceptable subjects. Some entrants have a postgraduate diploma or an MSc in food sciences.
  • Fewer people are currently graduating from food science and food technology degree courses, and the industry is keen to encourage more people.
  • There are opportunities throughout the UK. Employers include food manufacturers, retailers, supermarket chains, local and national government, universities and research and development organisations.

Forensic scientists

  • This is a small, specialised field and competition for entry is fierce.
  • Some forensic scientists work in forensic science units for local police services.
  • Most work for commercial forensic science service providers, including the Forensic Science Service (FSS), which provides forensic services to the police and other organisations, such as HM Revenue and Customs and the Crown Prosecution Service.
  • Forensic scientists also work in government agencies and universities. Many work as self-employed consultants.
  • The FSS operates a trainee forensic science (reporting officer) scheme. Applicants need a minimum of a good honours degree (at least a 2:2), or equivalent professional qualification, in a scientific subject, preferably in a biology or chemistry-related subject. As the competition to enter this field is so fierce, many applicants have also gained a postgraduate qualification, eg a relevant MSc or postgraduate diploma in forensic science. It is also an advantage to have relevant laboratory-based work experience.
  • Due to the increasing popularity of forensic science as a career choice, the number of courses on offer has grown hugely in recent year. So do check a course's accreditation if you are keen to enter this work area. The Forensic Science Society (FSSoc) accredits degree and postgraduate courses and those that are currently accredited are listed on its website. Forensic Skillsmark, developed by Skills for Justice and the FSSoc, is another accreditation programme for organisations offering forensic science.

Laboratory technicians

  • There are over 80,000 laboratory technicians working in the UK.
  • There may be competition for jobs, but there is an overall shortage of experienced technicians.
  • Employers include national and local government, manufacturing and service industries, research laboratories, charitable organisations, universities, colleges and schools, forensic science laboratories and the National Health Service (NHS), where they are often referred to as clinical support workers or assistant technical officers.
  • There are over 5,000 secondary schools and colleges employing lab technicians, and over 300 universities, institutes and colleges of higher education. Overall, there are around 20,000 Education based laboratory technicians employed in the UK. Jobs can be found throughout the country.
  • Approximately 40 per cent of lab technicians have a Higher National Diploma/Certificate (HND/HNC), a foundation degree or degree in a science or technology subject

Material scientists

  • There are nearly 20,000 members of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).
  • Materials scientists work in a wide range of areas such as manufacturing, construction, medical science, metal and mineral extraction and research. They also work for universities and government agencies.
  • Jobs are mainly in larger towns and cities throughout the country.
  • Scientists can be self-employed as consultants, working on projects on a contract basis.

Metallurgists (material scientists working with metals)

  • The UK metals sector is made up of around 15,000 companies employing over 400,000 people, including about 7,000 metallurgists.
  • Organisations employing metallurgists are located throughout the UK and overseas, especially in areas of specific industry activity such as steel manufacturing.
  • There is a shortage of metallurgists entering the industry.


  • Physicists work in many different sectors throughout the UK and are currently in demand. However they may need to gain relevant work experience through volunteer work or paid placements before applying for their first job in industry.
  • Job areas physicists work in include:
    • research and development - working for government research establishments, such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, National Physical Laboratory, Science and Technology Facilities Council and other research organisations
    • scientific analysis and investigation - working for hospitals and government laboratories, in industry and the field of meteorology, and with computer technology
    • process and production - being employed by manufacturing and production companies, from aerospace to food and drink businesses
    • education and the media - working for schools, colleges, universities, media companies and museums.

In addition because some physics courses such as Theoretical Physics have such a high maths content they can often apply for jobs that mathematicians apply for - see below.


  • People with maths degrees and postgraduate qualifications are currently in short supply. While opportunities are wide-ranging, competition for specific vacancies can be keen. Work experience is helpful for finding work including through unpaid placements or internships - as can show more generic employability people based skills in addition to mathematical skills.
  • Mathematicians are employed across the UK and overseas in:
    • education and research
    • finance
    • insurance
    • banking
    • engineering
    • ICT
    • architecture
    • design
    • political research
    • medicine
    • the creative industries
    • the public sector
    • defence

Operational researchers

  • There are opportunities for operational researchers throughout the UK, although the majority of employers are based in large cities.
  • The national government employs operational researchers in the Government Operational Research Service (GORS), which recruits around 80 candidates each year, and in the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
  • There are also opportunities in other sectors, including financial services, the NHS, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), manufacturing, retail, oil and transport.
  • Some operational researchers work for management consultancies, universities and research institutions.


  • There are opportunities for statisticians in a wide range of organisations and employment sectors, in a wide range of different applications.
  • Job sectors statisticians work in include:
    • government
    • medical and pharmaceutical research
    • industry
    • business and commerce
    • finance
    • environmental science
    • social sciences
    • life sciences.
  • The main employers are the Government Statistical Service (GSS), which employs over 1,000 statisticians, and the pharmaceutical industry.  Details of the application process for the GSS are available on their website. Three-month summer placements and one-year student placements may be available in the Civil Service and in other sectors including the pharmaceutical sector.
  • Other employers include the NHS, manufacturing and service industries, research councils and institutes, universities, local government and the financial sector. There are opportunities in cities and towns throughout the UK.
  • There are opportunities for statisticians to become self-employed working as freelance consultants, and they can also work abroad, for example with Eurostat.