While it is not always clear where a BSc-degree in the biological, mathematical or physical sciences can take you while you are still studying, it does open the door to a wide range of career opportunities – from the monitoring and management of groundwater sources to the development of green technologies for major companies such as SASOL.
This was the main message from a range of industry representatives during the Faculty of Science's Science Careers Fair in August 2022. During this week BSc-students were exposed to presentations from and discussion with companies such as GEOSS South Africa, SASOL, Reutech, Distell, Inizio Medical, Axiology Labs, Carl Zeiss Pty Ltd, the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the South African Police Services' Forensic Science Laboratory.
Riyaadh Adams, a software developer, explained how he as a mathematics graduate plays an important role at an engineering company such as Reutech. He is part of the data-processing team, where they make sense of the digitized data from tracking and search radar systems.
From SAPS, Lieutenant Colonel Johan Kock explained how science students majoring in microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, botany, human physiology and even entomology can apply their knowledge in fields such as forensic anthropology, forensic entomology, DNA analysis and the newly established Disaster Victim Identification Centre.
In all instances, he said, at least a BScHonours and an advanced degree in any of the specialised fields are required.
And who would have guessed that in 2018, there were 418 000 biodiversity-related jobs in the world. At SANBI, science graduates follow careers such as a climate change adaptation officer or a biodiversity information and policy advisor. SANBI's Biosystematics and Collections Division, for example, employs taxonomists and geneticists.
At Distell, there is scope for BSc-graduates with majors in analytical chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry and horticulture. According to Mare-Loe Prinsloo and Marelize Scheepers, some of the extra-curricular skills companies such as Distell are looking for include technical knowledge, communication skills, self-awareness, the ability to collaborate, strong networking skills, the ability to organise, prioritise and make decisions, flexibility, and a commitment to your work. Most importantly, critical and independent thinking and a willingness to learn and grow, they concluded.
Gideon Burger, the CEO of Axiology Labs, says he became a serial entrepreneur after completing a three-year BSc-degree, followed by an MBA. Over the last three years he has established five new companies – all in the field of microbiology and laboratory equipment. His advice for those students with the entrepreneurial spirit was to jump in and create jobs instead of looking for one: “Science never stops, because the world will always need unique solutions," he added.
Dr Ascentia Seboko from Inizio Medical talked about the growing field of medical communication, especially for those scientists who want to leave the bench, while Ania Henning from Zeiss talked about the company's plans to develop microscopy in Africa.
Ms Maambele Khosa, recruitment officer for the Faculty of Science and host of the event, said students can now rest assured that there are a range of career options in science.
As one BSc-student remarked: “I didn't know one can do so many things with a BSc-degree!"