New opportunities for scientists in professional life

The proportion of scientists in the services sector has increased by 30 percent in five years, according to a new labour market report.
“The demand for qualified scientists to have the ability to solve problems and carry out analysis is on the increase,” says Marita Teräs, a strategist at Naturvetarna.

In October, the union organisation Naturvetarna (the Swedish Association of Professional Scientists) published its labour market report entitled New Opportunities in a Changing World.  The report was based on salary statistics drawn from Association members and also on interviews with sector representatives and other kinds of sector-specific reports and articles.
“It is extremely important for us to be knowledgeable about all our member groups and at the same raise their profile in society. We also want to provide information about the labour market for scientists to the scientists themselves so as to support them,” Marita Teräs says.

Just over 60 percent of scientists work in the public sector, where 36 percent work for government and 26 percent for municipal authorities and county councils. One out of four is a postgraduate, and many of these work in research and development both within and without academia. The biggest labour market for scientists is in life science, followed by the environment and nature conservation and different kinds of jobs as inspectors. The report also shows that the proportion of scientists working in the services sector has increased by 30 percent over the past five years, at the same time that the proportion of scientists in life science in the private sector has shrunk by 10 percent.
The results were pretty much expected by the Association.

“There is not a lot that surprises us, but it was rather unexpected that there are so many working in different kinds of roles as inspectors. It is also heartening that the number of those working in research and development is not smaller than this; the figure is a stable one despite the cutbacks in life science which is the sector where most of the scientists are,” says Marita Teräs.
Most of the scientists who lost their jobs when the major pharmaceutical companies cut back on their operations have made a swift entry back in the labour market again, either by starting up new businesses or by finding employment in government and county councils. However, according to the report, many new graduates in science are finding it hard to get a job in the life science sector.

Of those who have recently graduated, an even larger proportion work for municipal authorities and county councils. For understandable reasons, there are also significantly more new graduates who have given research as their current job. It is also possible to see that different roles of inspector and environmental consultant seem to be the common type of subsidised employment scheme, whereas it is less common for new graduates to work in administrative roles.

As regards unemployment among scientists, there is no mention made of this in the report. That said, the Association are soon producing a new report which looks at the set up for those who graduated in 2010 and 2011.
“We have chosen not to talk specifically about unemployment in this report because the statistics we have are based on our members, and naturally the risk exists that those who are unemployed or change sector will leave the Association. Also, our view on what scientists are differs from that of the Swedish Public Employment Service,” says Marita Teräs, and points to the fact that Public Employment Service forecasts are based on all those who studied science for the equivalent of two years at higher education level, whereas the Association believes that a minimum of three years of study is needed if one is to be considered a scientist.

According to the Swedish Public Employment Service, a balance exists within most professional fields in science between the number of jobs and that of qualified scientists, and in some quarters the forecast is for a shortage of qualified scientists.  Those having the greatest difficulty entering the labour market are new biology graduates.

“For our part as a University, we would like to develop certain aspects of the study programme to increase graduate employability and to help students to build networks. One example of this is job experience in the workplace, but one could also make more use of bringing in mentors from outside and encourage students to carry out their independent work outside the University. But naturally this would have to be weighed up against the rest of the programme content since no course of education can contain everything,” says Stefan Hulth, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Science.