FAQ’s

Q. I am a Year 10 (S3) student and have always had an interest in science. How can I get work experience?

Usually your school (with the exception of Northern Ireland) will organise relevant work experience for you for the last part of the summer term of Year 10 (or Year 11 – S3 or S4 in Scotland). However, if you are responsible for organising your own, or if you want to arrange additional relevant work experience, there are various ways of going about it.

These two web pages will give you lots of advice and tips on how you could get work experience:

For more general information go to: work-experience.org.

Q. What advantages are there to studying science, technology, engineering or maths subjects after I’m 16?

As well as being very enjoyable, studying science, technology, engineering or maths subjects after you’re 16 will give you many skills that will be useful in a wide range of careers. You will develop problem solving, team working, numeracy and creativity skills, all of which can be used in a variety of different careers.

Q. I’m not particularly keen on doing A levels. Are there any routes I can take into a career in science that are more vocational?

There are a number of alternative qualifications that are equivalent to A levels including Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education (AVCE) Double Award = 12 units (worth two A levels), AVCE Single Award = 6 units (worth one A level) ASVCE = 3 units (worth one AS level) as well as Apprenticeships in England and Scotland.

Read more information on these and other courses and have a look at the Qualifications route table (at the bottom of that page), which shows the different options of qualification routes from school to employment or to further or higher education for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and for Scotland.

Q. Do I need a good grade in maths to study science?

Maths is important to understanding and studying most areas of science. Chemistry, physics and engineering subjects all use maths to some extent.

Read more information on how useful and important maths is at: Maths Careers.

Q. What is the best combination of subjects to study if I want to study a science subject at university?

It’s always best to check the entry requirements for different courses at universities. Details are available on the UCAS website or on individual university websites. In general if you are going on to study science at university it is best to do a combination of maths, physics, chemistry and biology. Some university entry requirements may be more flexible e.g. two sciences and a foreign language, but make sure you check first.

Q. I’ve heard there is a lot of competition for places on medical courses at university, how can I increase my chances of getting a place?

Very good grades in at least three sciences, or two sciences and maths at A level put you in the best position to get on to a medical degree course. Chemistry A level is considered to be very important, while, surprisingly, you don’t have to have biology A level. Maths and/or physics are also important. Relevant work experience will also greatly increase your chances of gaining a place on a medical degree course.

For the most current university entry requirements, go to the UCAS website.

Q. What do I need to become a vet?

The qualifications needed to become a vet are similar to those for becoming a doctor. Chemistry is required at A level (or equivalent), plus A levels (or equivalent) in one or two subjects chosen from biology, physics or mathematics. Since competition is high, relevant work experience will also greatly increase your chances of gaining a place in veterinary school.

For the most current university entry requirements, go to the UCAS website.

Q. What is the difference between chemistry and chemical engineering?

Chemical engineers take chemists’ laboratory discoveries and figure out how to use them to make a useful product safely and cost-effectively on a large scale. For example chemists might develop a new medicine, but a chemical engineer is responsible for designing a process to make millions of tablets of this medicine safely and cost effectively.

For more information on chemical engineering, go to the whynotchemeng website.

Q. I’d like to be an engineer when I get older. Do I need to be good at chemistry, physics and maths?

A good grounding in chemistry, physics and maths is important if you want to study to be an engineer, with the key subject being maths, as this is central to much of engineering. However, it will depend on which area of engineering you want go into. For example, if you want to be a chemical engineer, chemistry is essential, or if you want to be an aerospace engineer physics is very useful. Each of the science subjects will give you valuable skills that you will need as an engineer.

For more information go to the Tomorrow’s Engineers website.

Q. What are the minimum qualifications I need to become a crime scene investigator for the police force or another forensic agency?

Crime scene investigators (CSIs), also known as scenes of crime officers (SOCOs), attend crime scenes to record and examine evidence. The evidence they discover is then used to investigate crimes.

Individual forces set their own minimum requirements for entry. These may include:

  • GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) in English, maths and a science or technology subject
  • An interest in photography, with a GCSE, A level or HNC/ HND in the subject

To progress or to apply to become a forensic scientist you need a science degree with a grade of 2.2 or above. A growing number of universities now offer forensic science Foundation degrees and degrees, often combined with courses such as law, police studies and criminology. Entry requirements are usually two A levels/three H grades or equivalent, with at least one science subject. The Forensic Science Society (FSS) has accredited a number of university courses.

Bear in mind that this is a very popular area to go into and therefore the number of jobs may be limited. Make sure you talk to your careers adviser before opting for a specialist degree in forensic science.

For more information look at the Forensic Science Society website.

Q. Are there any careers where I can use both my interests in art and science?

There are various careers that combine both art and science. For example, art conservation preserves works of art and other objects and makes sure that they are looked after properly. You would need a relevant degree and then a postgraduate qualification in conservation. Degrees in conservation are available, but other subjects like fine art, ceramics and glass, textiles or science (particularly chemistry) are also useful.

For more information visit the Institute of Conservation.

There are also many other careers that combine art and science, such as textile design, photography, media and film production or even glass and jewellery making.

For more ideas why not explore the What might you be? game.