This is the first of a series of careers articles written by biology graduates who are, or have been, working overseas. In this short account, Simon Aellen [BSc Biological Sciences (1994)] shares some tips for anyone considering teaching biology overseas.
I am not sure I had thought of teaching when I started my Biological Sciences degree but as I approached graduation in 1994 it seemed a good combination of being interested in Biology and wanting to interact with people. It turns out teaching Biology is a very exportable skill and I have worked overseas in 3 different cities:
- Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei (extra points if you can find this on a map),
- Shanghai in China, and
- Frankfurt in Germany.
Friends have made a permanent career out of international teaching and have spanned all the continents. Living in a different culture is very enriching, the opportunities to travel almost limitless and the money can be better than the UK.
Most countries you can think of have an international school and if you head to Asia, Eastern Europe or the Middle East you will get accommodation and a good package. If you head to parts of Africa or the South America the accommodation is still included but the money may not be so good.
Many schools use the UK curriculum so the job of teaching is similar but with smaller classes, more engaged students and usually good facilities.
When looking for somewhere to work, bear the following in mind:
- Do look for a school that is accredited and in a place you fancy living.
- Do work in the UK for at least 2 years first, as most good schools expect this.
- Don’t expect a UK standard of professionalism in every area, there are no unions in most of Asia and Heads can act as they wish in many circumstances.
- Do expect most staff to be open and willing to help the newbie.
- Don’t expect every school in the UK to value your overseas experience, I have always found work on return but the ratio of applications to interviews is much lower on the way back.
- Do expect a better work life balance than in the UK.
I am now back in the UK working as Head of Biology in an independent day school. I have certainly enjoyed and benefitted from my time working overseas. I can get by badly in Chinese and have seen places and met people I otherwise would not have done so. Teaching Ecology is certainly helped when you have been to the best panda research centre in the world.
The Society of Biology, with the support of several of the other learned societies, organises a series of careers events. The programme for each day tends to follow a fairly standard pattern. Resources from their 2012 series of conferences have recently been made available on their website, including:
Advice on planning your careers (Amy Horne, University of Birmingham)
Planning your careers (Mark Gallagher, Queen’s University Belfast)
Planning your career (Jess Henderson, University of Leeds)
Pathways into academic research (Simon Cutler, BBSRC)
Pathways in academic research (Elizabeth Ashton, Queen’s University Belfast)
Pathways into academic research (Robert Hardwick, BBSRC)
Career pathways in industry (Mark Christie, Kings College London)
Career pathways in industry (Keeva McCelland, Almac Discovery)
Careers in the environmental sector (Graham Hopkins, Ecology Consultancy)
Careers in the environmental sector (Patricia Mackey, Sustainable NI)
Biomedical and Clinical Science
Biomedical and clinical science careers (Mike Carter, Health Protection Agency)
Careers in patent law (Robert Andrews, Mewburn Ellis)
Careers in patent law (Alan Wallace, FRKelly)
Careers in patent law (Fran Salisbury, Mewburn Ellis)
Careers in science communication (Sarah Blackford, SEB)
Careers in science communication (Eva Sharpe, Society of Biology)
Careers in science communication (Rachel Lambert-Forsyth, Society of Biology)
CVs and job applications
CV workshop (Carl Jukes, University of Birmingham)
CV and job applications workshop (Mark Gallagher, QUB and Lauren Donaghy, Randox Laboratories)
CV workshop (Jess Henderson, University of Leeds)
This year’s New Scientist Graduate Careers Special is now available online
Steve Holloway [(BSc(Hons) Medical Physiology 2009] is a market analyst for InMedica, a division of IMS Research. Steve specialises in the medical devices sector, specifically medical healthcare electronics. In this talk, given as part of the 2012 season of Careers After Biological Sciences talks, Steve describes the work of the company, his role and how he got there. He also offers some generic advice on applying for jobs and discusses the value of taking a year abroad on the Erasmus programme.
The slides from Steve’s talk (with a linked audio file lasting 30 mins available) can be seen below (or via this link)
After a short time filling in as a shop assistant, Gwen Nightingale [BSc(hons) Biological Sciences (Genetics), 2001] joined the home civil service via the FAST stream, and was allocated to the Department of Health. Gwen spoke about working in the civil service in general, before illustrating this by reference to the variety of different roles she has played during the last ten years. This has included looking at strategies to retain doctors in the health system (via introduction of flexible working practices) and on the drafting of four Acts of Parliament.
Although there is no obvious correlation between a degree in Biology and many aspects of her work, Gwen argues that many of the generic skills picked up via practical work, for example, served her in good stead for the job. At other times this background has been of direct relevance, for example in her role with the Human Genetics Commission and as a Bioethics lead.
The slides and an audio recording of Gwen’s talk are available below (or via this link).
Selina Lock [BSc(Hons) Molecular Biology, 1996] gave a talk at the 2008 series of CABS talks on her role on Librarianship and Information Management. In her talk, Selina tried to dispel some of the stereotypes of librarians – both as dowdy shelf-stackers and as the side-kick of vampire slayers. She emphasised the diversity of librarian roles and the personal attributes and formal qualifications that are required.
In September 2012 Selina becomes a Research Information Advisor, supporting academics in the Colleges of Medicine, Biology & Psychology and Science & Engineering.
There has been much recent debate about the potential value of conducting an “internship”. The controversy is fuelled by the apparent rise in unemployed graduates who have decided to work for a company for free to bolster their chances of subsequently securing a job (see, for example, this BBC video Alvin Hall: Are graduate interns being exploited?).
There is no doubt that some firms are taking advantage of the current economic climate to secure the services of talented and enthusiastic young workers without having to pay them even the minimum wage. It is, however, important not to be unduly jaundiced about the whole notion of “internships”.
The top definition of Intern at an online dictionary is “A student or a recent graduate undergoing supervised practical training“.
Notice that the definition does not include “for free”. Many of the summer vacation awards on offer from Learned Societies would classify as internships (indeed, some have started to rebrand them as such). The same is true of the University of Leicester’s own graduate internship programme.
In addition to this, New Scientist magazine recently compiled a very helpful list of other science-related internships, many of which are paid positions. The list includes several opportunities to work within areas of science writing and journalism including for Nature, the British Medical Journal and New Scientist itself.