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Science Career without being a Scientist

  1. Oct 28, 2015 #1
    Is it possible to start a career in science without technical skills in science. e.g Degree, Phd etc.

    I ask this as someone that is currently working in industrial automation with a great interest in science (particularly astronomy) and wanting to actively contribute to advances in the field. I.e. work in a field that has meaning to me.

    Not sure if this is just simply to much of a "pie in the sky" idea (not practical or to far out of reach) to think that I could achieve this and would be happy to hear peoples thoughts, opinions and experiences in this regard even if they are that this is not acheivable.
     
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  3. Oct 28, 2015 #2

    ZapperZ

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    The probability of that happening is either extremely small, or non-existent. So would you put your eggs in that basket?

    BTW, you need to define what you mean by "science career". There are many engineers, technicians, etc.. who work in science projects, not as the PI (principal investigators), but as part of the support teams (i.e. those high energy physicists can't physically build the LHC by themselves). Is this a "science career"?

    Doing scientific research requires knowledge of existing science in that area. If you are ignorant of what is known, how are you to know when something new comes up and bites you?

    Zz.
     
  4. Oct 29, 2015 #3
    Thank you for your reply!

    Sorry I didn't make myself clear, I would be looking for those support roles that you are talking about. I realise that I would not be able to contribute directly to research as I would not have the skills or knowledge. However I would like to know if I could put my existing skills and knowledge or start building on my existing skills and knowledge in a direction that would allow me to start a new career in the industry.
     
  5. Oct 29, 2015 #4

    ZapperZ

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    The problem here, and this applies to many other threads on here where members are looking for not only a specific career, but also a specific type of jobs with certain employers, is that you are constricting your "employability". Rather than, say, be a good mechanical engineer, and hopefully, find a job, you are narrowing it down even more by wanting a particular type of job that doesn't occur very often.

    I see people posting wanting to know how to get a job with NASA, etc., i.e. trying to handicap their job search and opportunities even more! It is difficult enough to find a job as an engineer, let's say. Why would you narrow it down even more by focusing on a particular type of employment or employee? That's crazy!

    Research groups hire engineers, technicians, etc. based on (i) how good of an engineer/technician that person is; (ii) whether that person has the relevant knowledge of the area that will be worked on; (iii) whether they have the funds. You may be able to control (i), but you have no way of knowing in advanced or controlling (ii) and (iii). There are varied knowledge, skills, requirements etc for many different types of research projects. One research group may want someone who knows vacuum system and components. Another may want someone who knows RF systems. Another may need structural engineer to figure out how to build something, etc... etc. How can you prepare or know what will be needed?

    Zz.
     
  6. Oct 29, 2015 #5

    russ_watters

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    I would think industrial automation (though that's a broad field) would have good applicability toward construction of complicated scientific systems. You could help build a telescope drive and pointing system or work in aerospace as ZZ suggests.
     
  7. Oct 29, 2015 #6

    e.bar.goum

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    Good technical staff are essential to good science. Some of the technical staff I've worked with started off as apprentice welders -- you don't need a degree to contribute to science. Technical staff can be anything from RF engineers, welders, fitters, machinists, computer control experts, vacuum specialists, etc. etc. My advice would be to look at job advertisements -- what interests you, and what do you need to do to be qualified for the job?
     
  8. Oct 30, 2015 #7
    Machinists especially always impressed me. Many are true artists and capable of incredible things.
     
  9. Nov 13, 2015 #8
    I once heard (although I do not know how true it is (was)) about half the discoveries in observational astronomy are found by non-professionals. Scientific writing and possibly scientific illustrating may be less mathematically demanding than many fields. I am not sure meteorology is as mathematically demanding as a lot of physics disciplines, although I presume it requires a strong array of analytical skills map interpretation, instrumentation, and other hard to acquire expertise that is more "art" than science. I have met a few military meteorologists and they found their field challenging and rewarding.
    (Meteorology does require a professional degree, Usually, MS, and sometimes PhD. (two of the four, that I met) however).
     
  10. Nov 14, 2015 #9

    ZapperZ

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    Being an amateur astronomer is significantly different than having a career as an astronomer. Since the OP is asking about a science career, rather than doing science as a hobby or haphazardly, I don't think this point is relevant to his/her question.

    Coming back to the OP, having an "active interest" in science may be a necessary criteria to have a career in science, but it is not a sufficient criteria. This is because one needs (i) knowledge in that area (and not just a superficial knowledge) and (ii) the understanding of the "culture and practice" of that field. There are many things involved in being a scientist that are not contained in the standard curriculum of a school. My "So You Want To Be A Physicist" essay lists many aspects that one needs to learn that are not contained within the pages of a school text or inside a lecture room. So here, one needs to not just learn the science, but one must also learn how to DO or practice the science.

    Zz.
     
  11. Nov 14, 2015 #10

    HallsofIvy

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    Does this include washing the glassware in a chemistry laboratory? I might be able to do that!
     
  12. Nov 15, 2015 #11
    Thank you everyone for posting. This has given me a real (unbiased) look into what it really does take. I think I need to do some serious thinking about this (along with how far I am willing to go to achieve this change) and it helps so much that you have given me a real world look at aspects that I need to consider. Thank you so much.
     
  13. Nov 15, 2015 #12
    As long as you have a masters degree, 3-5 years experience and connections in the lab - you're in!
     
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