“Can I do science jobs without a degree?” If you’ve ever asked yourself that, there are plenty of alternative career routes that can take you where you want to be. There's more than one way to get into a STEM career.
(STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)
HNDs and HNCs
These are both vocational courses. An HND is considered to be the same as two years of degree study. One way of doing it is to complete an NVQ first, then work your way up to an HNC or HND. Example science-based courses of this kind include forensic science, biodmedical sciences and applied biology.
If you want to do a degree later on, you may be able to skip a year of the course (if you did an HNC) or even two years (if you did an HND).
What is an NVQ? It’s a vocational or work-based qualification which shows you how to learn a particular job. You can do an NVQ if you’ve got a job or if you’re studying at college with a work placement or access to a part-time job. You can take a science NVQ at level 2 or 3 as part of an apprenticeship. Just as an example, you can get science NVQs in pharmaceutical science or laboratory work. There are no time limits to complete these, but people often take about a year to complete an NVQ at levels 1 or 2, and about two years to complete a level 3 NVQ.
There are lots of engineering apprenticeships these days, and a few science apprenticeships like chemical sciences and life sciences. You can apply for higher apprenticeships too, depending on how much study and work-based training you’ve done so far. You can also check out the new degree apprenticeships which are suitable for both school leavers and apprentices. These help you get trained as you work while studying for a degree-level qualification at the same time. There are a number of new degree apprenticeships being rolled out across the UK including nuclear systems, lab science, power and aerospace.
Get stuck in with lab work
You won’t get to do serious science research and world-changing experiments without a university degree or some form of further learning. However, you can still do incredibly useful work around the lab. With an HND or HNC you can become a lab assistant who checks equipment, sets up solutions and checks data. Sometimes you can get a lab assistant or technician role as a school leaver without any vocational qualifications, because you’ll get fully trained on the job! As an example, if you leave school with GCSEs you can become an NHS assistant technical officer, working with doctors and biomedical scientists in the pathology lab! Once you’ve got yourself a laboratory job of any kind, you’re in a great position to do further learning and boost your career.