By Grant Jacobs 12/02/2016

What kind of scientist you are at heart, or want to be? Compare yourself to the chart below based on a study by the Science Council who found there were are 10 main types of science and technology jobs. Share in the comments below – perhaps also tell us how it compares with your current job.

The Science Council link gives a drier take on this, with a few more details. There’s also a quiz you can take. (Report back here! Some may prefer to just think about the options, as I do.)



I’ve previously suggested that students consider the ‘fit’ of the type of work they want to do, and what each type of job offers. There’s more to science and technology than universities and academia. This is taken from a poster at Ada Lovelace Day. It’s built on the results of a study by the Science Council, who identified ten types of scientists.

Some may find that they are a blend of more than one. (I do!)

There’s lots more at the Ada Lovelace Day resource page. They also have ‘The Amazingly Enormous Careers Poster’, for example, and classroom exercises. You can also support their work.


The original is in two-column format: I’ve presented it as a two one-column images to make it more readable, especially for those using smaller screens.

I should really write ‘STEM worker’ rather than ‘scientist’. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

All images are from Ada Lovelace Day. My feature image is their ‘icon’ image.

Other articles on Code for life:

Science PhD career preferences surveyed

Advice for students heading to university

Study of where academic careers lead

From science PhD to careers outside academia: what might help?

On alternatives to academic careers and ’letting go’

Career paths, redux — the academic research career is the exception

Universities and (lack of) showcasing use of science degrees

More inclusive re-entry to encourage departure to businesses?

0 Responses to “What kind of scientist are you?”

  • The only one I don’t understand is “The Professional”! Why is this different to the other 9 kinds of scientist, and what is it??

    • ‘Professionals’ = business people.

      (As I wrote, the 10 types are based on the Science Council study. If you checked you’d have found it’s counterpart there is ‘Business scientist’: “underpins excellent management and business skills with scientific knowledge, supporting evidence-led decision-making within companies and other enterprises”)

  • Seems to me that the term gets used in all sorts of odd senses! Literally, it simply means someone who works in a given field for money, as opposed to a volunteer, enthusiast, etc. It often gets used in another way, i.e. “a high degree of professionalism”, which is really just meaningless rhetoric.

  • I’d love to hear what type of scientist people think they are, and their thoughts on different ways a science background can be put to good use.

    In my case, I’ve used aspects of most the ten ways of working at one time or other.

    I run a small computational biology (bioinformatics*) consultancy, with science communication as an interest I‘ve developed over several years.

    Bioinformatics is often seen as mostly prescriptive – service provision rather than also investigative, or similar. Certainly it is one way the larger players operate, and understandably – they’re service businesses. Given the choice I prefer work is approached as a research project, which makes better use of my skills. There I’m more employed as ‘researcher-for-hire’, an extension of someone’s investigative work, than something purely prescriptive. (Seeing I’m writing about this: I’m available internationally – offers welcome!)

    Although I wouldn’t usually consider myself a teacher, science communication has an element of teaching to it. Similarly, advisory work has an element of teaching too.

    Running a consultancy requires some basic understanding of business, accounting, etc — including taxes! no-one said it would all be fun…! It’s not the same as for larger businesses, but you do get a feel for the issues they face. (Or should, if you’re doing it right.)

    I haven’t been employed to work on policy or regulation, but have investigated both when trying to understand the full landscape of GMO regulation that I written about elsewhere on this blog. I sometimes feel as if I’m one of the few who have read the entire reports!

    As for ‘Entrepreneur’, the original aim for what became my consultancy was to develop products to sell. There are several very different types of elements to entrepreneurship – fund raising, product development, marketing/sales, customer support (if you’re lucky enough to succeed!, etc).

    (* I prefer computational biology for reasons I’ve written elsewhere, mainly as a reminder that I’m biologist who uses computational tools, not “just” ‘some computer guy’!)

  • I’m not sure it is “what type of scientist do you WANT to be?” but what type of scientific position are you able to find!
    I would suspect from my conversations with a range of scientifically trained people that many people enter science wanting to be the “explorer” or “investigator” but find those sorts of positions are very few and far between.

    • The practical realities of life, eh? The list was originally for kids, to encourage them to think about STEM careers.

      I agree that many (most) find themselves moved from the explorer/investigator work to other things in part from limitations of what jobs are available and whatnot.

      Perhaps the list of alternatives should be used in the sense of these are the things you can move between in STEM careers, rather than give the impression you’ll settle on one for life?

  • According to the (rather simplistic) online quiz I’m a developer. Not a bad match but certainly not what I am currently doing. My current job uses some of the skills I developed as a scientist and is in a number of ways an attempt to “make the world a better place”.

    With regards to science communication – when I was more heavily involved in this it wasn’t a case of something I wanted to do, it was a case of something I felt I HAD to do to counter the misinformation I was seeing being put into the public arena.

    • I agree the quiz is rather simplistic – I added a link to it as an after-thought, and still am not sure if I ought to have! I find it better to simply mull over the list of ways of working.

      I know what you mean about the obligation to correct misinformation via science communication. My posts in that ilk feel like a “public service” obligation. I would (and should) really write more about science the simply interest me, or ideally a mix of the two. In a way there’s an ‘public service’ element to that, too – clarifying things about topical issues. Not necessarily misinformation, but just helping people understand what’s going on.

      • Grant, definitely think it was interesting for you to post the quiz. Good to think about things like this.

  • I think reality forces me to be somewhere between a ‘policy maker’ and ‘investigator’

    But what I’d really like to do is be an ‘investigator’.