How to Get a Job in Science Education and Outreach

Apples and ChallkboardLast week, OITE launched a new “How-to” series to share information with trainees about what it takes to get a job in a particular field. The inaugural session of the series was on how to find a job in science education and outreach. What kinds of jobs exist in this broad field, and what does it take to find a job in science education & outreach?
If you are considering a job in this diverse field, it is important to know what the job entails so you can connect required skills to those you have developed through your graduate education and/or postdoctoral training.
In these positions, you may be asked to:

  • Offer demonstrations (as at a science museum)
  • Teach, either in a classroom setting, one-on-one, or to small groups on-site
  • Develop curriculum
  • Assemble educational materials (LOTS of writing)
  • Leverage diversity (of science, of groups, etc.)
  • Manage programs (science fairs, exhibitions, etc.)

Where do these jobs exist? In lots of places, depending on your geographic preferences. Some include:

  • Public and private schools (K-12, both traditional classroom teaching and, at a more global level, in education policy)
  • Colleges and universities (both traditional faculty positions and leadership positions within outreach offices)
  • Zoos
  • Museums
  • Industry (divisions focused on outreach, community involvement, e.g. science fair judging, providing resources to schools, etc.)
  • Extension (land-grant universities often have large community extension programs, some focused on agriculture, nutrition; office-based jobs)
  • Non-profits (educational programs for children and/or adults)
  • Entrepreneurial (build your own business in this field)

What job titles might you see?

  • Program/Projects: Director/Manager OR Analyst/Coordinator/Specialist
  • Career Development and Outreach Specialist
  • Education and Community Involvement Specialist
  • Curriculum Development Specialist
  • Educator
  • Exhibit Developer
  • Grants Program Manager
  • Outreach Coordinator

What are the requirements for these types of positions?
Scientific Knowledge (need to be able to talk broadly about science in general, what topics are hot, newsworthy, etc.)

  • Consider mentoring a summer student to talk about your science on a different level
  • Give as many presentations as you can
  • Volunteer to host a speaker
  • Read broadly about science

Knowledge of Education/Outreach

  • Mentor graduate or summer student
  • Consider taking a course on pedagogy (Scientists Teaching Science at the NIH)
  • Volunteer to teach a course–or even a lecture–in an undergraduate classroom, volunteer through FAES
  • Conduct outreach (judge science fairs, join speakers bureau, volunteer for National Lab Day)
  • Volunteer to develop materials for a K-12 school/grade
  • Consider getting certified to teach (some counties/states pay for university teacher certification programs for people who commit to teach)

People Skills

  • Join committees to learn how to lead meetings and manage volunteers
  • Seek collaborations within and outside of your lab
  • Take leadership and management courses through OITE (see Events)

Communication Skills, Written and Verbal

  • Talk about your work to outside audiences, other scientists
  • Join Toastmasters (meetings on the Bethesda campus on Thursday nights, but meetings also happen nationwide) to work on your public speaking skills
  • Teach or volunteer
  • Write as often as you can (papers, grants, reviews)
  • Write non-technical articles (NIH Catalyst, professional association newsletters, etc.)
  • Practice proper business correspondence and email etiquette
  • Join NIH Fellows Editorial Board
  • Consider taking science writing courses (offered via the NIH)
  • Volunteer to write promotional materials for your IC or the NIH
  • Write a grant for a school or teacher

Analytical Skills
These skills may seem most directly transferable from science-based experience and education, but you will need to demonstrate that you can:

  • Gather, analyze, and organize information
  • Find and test solutions to problems
  • Formulate plans

Project/Time Management Skills

  • Manage someone else’s work
  • Set short-term and long-term goals for your science
  • Join/volunteer with groups that require you to organize people or projects

Computer Skills

  • NIH Library offers many courses

Where are these jobs listed?

  • www.chronicle.com
  • www.usajobs.gov
  • www.higheredjobs.com

…Among many others. More resources, including sample job descriptions for science education and outreach positions, can be found here.
Good luck!

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