Scientific research is invaluable in society, but it’s also incredibly expensive. Over the past several years, research universities have seen slashes to their access to federal grant money, even though surveys have suggested that 7 out of 10 American adults believe that funding scientific research studies will ultimately pay off in the long-run. So, where does this leave our scientific community?


The most predictable career path for someone who has an advanced degree in science would be to work at a research lab or university, performing experiments, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions from the results of the tests. While this is undoubtedly the career goal of many scientists, cuts to federal research budgets and an insecure job market have many scientists moving toward the more nontraditional role of sales and marketing.


While this transition may seem unnatural, these scientific professionals, specifically in the life sciences and chemistry disciplines, are more than capable of taking on a sales role and excelling. Those who have career experience in academia will likely have spent time teaching others or training new staff. Their years before academia, while working toward their education or working at a part-time job in retail, all help prepare them for a possible role in sales.


As the sales industry becomes more sophisticated due to ever-changing technological advances and the need for a knowledgeable sales manager increases, these former scientists could take on their new roles and shine because they already have a high baseline of knowledge about products used in life sciences.


Where academia relies on grants and funding, sales industry jobs’ availability is dependent upon the success of the company. A life scientist can increase awareness of life science products and show their mastery of the industry to their prospective clients. Universities across the country are beginning to recognize this shift that some science professionals are making and have added curriculum to facilitate this transition. North Carolina State University’s Graduate School will introduce their program called Accelerate to Industry program next summer that will help those with advanced degrees to translate their knowledge into industry success.


Changing careers from academia to sales and marketing require the scientist to shift gears on their resume to show their capabilities but also their personality. Working in sales is all about connecting with people on a personal level, whereas in scientific fields, knowledge and experience always take precedence. Social and communication skills are the backbone of the position, and hiring managers are more interested in seeing hobbies and other interests outside of an applicant’s career. Once in an interview, making a personal connection to the hiring manager and showing off a great personality is imperative.


For scientists looking to change careers and move into a sales role, they need to be able to take an inventory of their experience and knowledge in life science products and pursue the companies that are in line with their expertise.