After studying for a Microbiology degree, there are many options available to you. Many graduates choose to stay in education and complete a masters or PhD, while others decide that other options are better suited to them. Whichever path you choose, making the most of the opportunities available at university will help to make you more attractive to employers or prospective research supervisors.
Whether you decide to enter the job market straight after graduation or opt to study further, there is a wealth of information and guidance available to help with your decision-making. Your university careers service should be your first port of call – they can help you with tailored advice and often run careers fairs and have many contacts with firms likely to employ graduates.
If you decide you want a complete change, you will find that you have developed a range of employer-friendly transferable skills that you can use in any graduate career, such as publishing, law, accountancy and the civil service.
If you decide to go onto further study, you need to decide which route you would like to take: taught master's (MSc) or research degrees (MRes, MPhil or PhD). Masters courses are advertised in university prospectuses and on their websites. You can also search using www.findamasters.com or www.findaphd.com to find master's courses and PhD positions – these sites also have a section with helpful advice and information.
Throughout your undergraduate degree you will have many opportunities to enhance your CV, making you very attractive to prospective employers and postgraduate research supervisors. This could be writing for the university newspaper, joining a student society or sports club and becoming a committee member, or taking advantage of part-time work opportunities. The experience gained in these activities will enhance your CV as much as taking up a summer studentship to gain scientific experience, by improving your transferable skills.
Joining a learned Society also has many benefits; for example, joining the Society for General Microbiology makes you eligible for a host of grants and free or discounted conference attendance.
Work experience gives you an opportunity to find out if a particular job is suited to you, sometimes while earning some money at the same time. There are many ways to get work experience, whether it is shadowing someone, volunteering, or undertaking a summer studentship. If your course offers the option of a year in industry/research, do consider the benefits to your career against the time (and subsequent cost) taken to complete your degree. It is a great way to experience working life during your degree, decide if a career path is for you, and many positions are paid.
If you cannot take an entire year out of your degree, another option could be undertaking a research project over the summer. While this does not contribute to your final degree, the experience gained working closely with established researchers is very useful when considering your career options, particularly if you wish to go into a career in research. The Society for General Microbiology offers grants to support summer studentships for students in their second year of study: see the Harry Smith Vacation Studentships page for details.