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Question – Which work experiences should I take as an aspiring biologist?

Wondering where you should be looking to improve your CV before you jump into work as a biologist? Our career coach gives some top advice.

Question: What work experience opportunities could I look for to help my chances of getting a job as a biologist? I’m still in high school and I think there are restrictions on what lab work I can do at my age. – Neha, Delhi

It’s good that you’re thinking ahead at such an early stage in your career.

My overall take on this is to speak with people who are in the field and ask them what skills are important to work as a biologist.

They’ll probably talk a lot about lab skills, but see if you can push them to talk about soft skills as well. They might mention things like communication, teamwork, presentation skills, and so on. This will give you a list of things that you can work on outside the lab.

I did speak with some scientists I know and they suggested the following:

Be curious and explore the field. There are many areas of biology, so exploring widely at this stage will help you identify the area that interests you the most.

Many university science departments put on public engagement events where you can meet scientists and have a tour of the laboratory, try and attend some of these if you can to get familiar with the environment.

Read a lot about biology and get familiar with the main concepts and latest developments. Developing the skill of reading and interpreting scientific literature will pay dividends in the future.

In terms of experience, you should join any extracurricular clubs and societies at your school and participate in competitions and science fairs.

You could also look into volunteering opportunities in conservation groups, wildlife rehabilitation centres, and environmental organizations that can provide practical experience in fieldwork, data collection, and species identification.

Speak with your teachers and school advisors and see if it is possible to arrange some work shadowing or mentoring opportunities with scientists working in your area of interest.

Finally, there might also be citizen science projects you can get involved with that include collecting or analysing data for scientific research, giving you practical experience and a sense of contribution to real-world impact.

All of these activities will help you learn more about biology and decide if it is for you or not, which areas of biology you enjoy and which you don’t, and show universities and potential employers that you have a genuine interest in the field.