I studied biology at a college where, for most people, medicine and research were the only imaginable ways forward. By my second year, I realized that neither of those were for me. I wanted to expand the reach of scientific research, and I wanted to do so through science communication.
That, however, is easier said than done. Finding an entry-level science communication position is difficult. It is even more so without much guidance and during a pandemic that has disproportionately harmed such positions.
After many months, many applications, and some interviews, I was finally offered a fellowship that I’m quite excited about.* However, being able to take so long without having to do work that I’m not excited about is a huge privilege. Whether you needed work yesterday or you have more time to look for one, I hope this post is helpful.
“Science communication” is a vague phrase that includes lots of organizations and lots of positions. Developing a better understanding of which organizations and positions it includes and, more importantly, which ones you're interested in is essential. For now, I think of media outlets, museums, non-profits, professional associations, research institutes, and universities as the main types of organizations. I think of informal education, technical writing, grant writing, and medical writing as more science communication-adjacent, but they’re for sure worth looking into! I created a document with lists of such organizations’ careers pages, and I regularly checked those pages. This takes some upfront work, but I recommend it because organizations don’t always widely publicize their openings (and the openings that aren’t widely publicized are likely less competitive).
I honestly didn’t find many entry-level science communication positions on the biggest jobs boards (i.e. Google Jobs, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.). When I did search such job boards, the following key words, paired with “science” (or something more specific within science), were the most helpful: “communicator,” “digital,” “editor,” “media,” “news,” “public affairs,” “reporter,” and “writer.”
More specific job boards and newsletters were by far the most useful. I’m interested in communicating ecology and environmental studies, so some of the following job boards are more specific to that. These are my favorites: Conservation Job Board, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Job Board, HigherEdJobs, NPR SciCommers Slack (you have to join the community to access this), NASW Job/Assignment Archive (you have to become a NASW member to access this), North American Association for Environmental Education, and Seven Seas Media Ocean Jobs. I browsed through all of the openings because sometimes relevant jobs have unexpected titles, but using the aforementioned keywords is likely more efficient. If you’re up for writing (and adjusting to each position) a federal resume (which is five pages minimum), USAJOBS has some exciting positions too. They're often titled “Public Affairs Specialist,” and entry-level positions normally have a pay scale or grade of GS 07. As for newsletters, SciJournr and Science Writing News Roundup are excellent. Twitter can also be helpful. Jobs are often tagged with #scicommjob or #scicommjobs.
I wish you luck in finding a position,** and I wish organizations luck in find you! Searching for and applying to positions needs a lot of hope, which I found only action inspires. In addition to the searching and applying itself, it was so helpful for me to do things during this time that made me a better science communicator. For example, I went to NASW’s Science Writing Conference, attended lectures and discussions, read about science communication, read long and short form articles, and did lots of informational interviews. I also did science and environmental writing on this blog and on Handbuilt City. All of this is to say that finding an entry-level science communication position can be a great opportunity for growth. But it also just sucks.
* The fellowship is a communications position at a college and is not science specific. However, most of the positions I applied to were science or environment specific. Those positions are the focus of this post.
** (I’m sorry I don’t have more advice on getting a position.)