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Science Communication Careers: Job Options and Requirements

Students typically take science communication courses as part of an English, journalism or related degree program. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Science communication professionals can work for scientific organizations, research laboratories, nonprofit organizations, newspapers, television stations, online news sites, radio stations or magazines. These professionals work as science journalists or public information officers, and are required to have a bachelor's degree. Journalists typically study English or journalism, while public information officers may choose to study communications, journalism, public relations, English or business; completing some course in science is also beneficial to these professionals.

Essential Information

Careers in science communication include work for science writers and communication directors of scientific organizations. A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for this type of career. Professional work experience and graduate-level education are also helpful.

Career Titles Science Journalist Public Information Officer
Required Education Bachelor's in journalism or English with science coursework Bachelor's in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -8% for all reporters and correspondents 6% for all public relations specialists
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $36,360 for all reporters and correspondents $56,770 for all public relations specialists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Career options for those interested in working in science communication include science journalist and public information officer. Find overviews of these careers and their requirements in the sections below.

Science Journalist

Many journalists work on the science beat. There are such working science reporters at newspapers, TV, radio, websites and magazines. These journalists often cover a wide variety of scientific fields, including everything from medicine and geology to physics and rocket science or the environment. Others may focus on a specific scientific field or technology.

According to the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, science writing can be among the most interesting jobs in journalism. In the annals of journalism history, science reporters covered historic subjects such as the NASA missions to the moon, the explosion of the atomic bomb, the development of new miracle drugs and pioneering surgical procedures such as the first human heart transplant.

Science journalists explain the latest scientific findings and discoveries. They cover conferences, interview scientists and may be called upon to 'translate' articles written in technical lingo and mathematical jargon in academic journals into general English for mass consumption by non-scientists. Science writers may also become authors of books or freelance writers.

Requirements

Science writers should complete a bachelor's degree program in journalism, English or a related field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Science coursework is also advised. The most important criteria for employment as a science journalist are a working understanding of journalism, past work experience, clips of written articles and education.

Advanced graduate degrees may be helpful. Advanced study in science journalism and science writing can offer a potential advantage to job applicants in this field.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to BLS projections, employment of reporters and correspondents, including those who work in science journalism, is projected to decline by 8% from 2014 to 2024. The median salary for reporters and correspondents was $36,360 as of May 2015.

Public Information Officers

Others may work as communication information officers at scientific organizations, institutions, nonprofits and research laboratories. They write press releases and compose newsletter publications and online written materials for their employers. The National Association of Science Writers says public information officers should communicate effectively and honestly with reporters and avoid hype.

Requirements

For science communications officers, whose jobs require additional science and public relations experience, a degree in communication or public relations is often required.

Salary and Job Outlook

The field of public relations specialists, including public information officers at science organizations, is projected to grow by 6% from 2014 to 2024 according to the BLS. The median annual salary for this group of professionals was $56,770 in 2015.

Science journalists report on scientific studies and developments, and relay information about the studies in a way that people without a scientific background can understand. Public information officers produce newsletters, press releases and other written material for their employers. Although jobs for journalists are currently in decline, public information officers can expect an average rate of job growth from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS.

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