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How to Get a Job in Science Education and Outreach

Submitted by Lori Conlan November 30, 2010
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Last 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?


...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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