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Careers in Science & Healthcare Q4 2023

Scoping out a science career: fellowship programmes and support available

Modern Medical Research Laboratory
Modern Medical Research Laboratory
iStock / Getty Images Plus / gorodenkoff

Dr Ruth Freeman

Director, Science for Society, SFI

Demand for STEM professionals and associate professionals is expected to grow by around 8% between now and 2025 — much higher than the average 3% growth forecast for all occupations.

Employment in STEM-related sectors is also expected to rise by around 6.5% between now and 2025. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is keen to foster awareness of science careers among people of all ages and backgrounds. It also offers various initiatives enabling those interested to participate.

Promoting careers in science

Each November, Science Week hosts numerous events nationwide — from the bespoke to the broad — signposting people towards STEM careers. Additionally, collaboration with the Department of Education helps ensure that young people and teachers receive a range of support to engage with STEM and, by extension, encourages consideration of science as a fulfilling career.

Postgraduate support

Last year, Ireland ranked sixth globally for university-industry R&D collaboration. Our organisation supported 2,301 postgraduate research students, and 32% of PhD graduates and postdoctoral staff departing SFI teams went to industry as a first destination.

Responding to the increased demand and rapidly evolving need for a highly skilled, adaptable workforce, Centres for Research Training bring together the higher education sector and industry to deliver innovative programmes of research and training, undertaken by cohorts of postgraduates and developing critical capacity in data and ICT skills.

We want researchers to experience diverse career opportunities — be that within industry, research funding/administration or public administration/government affairs.

Last year, Ireland ranked sixth globally for
university-industry R&D collaboration.

Navigating the academic-industry axis

Our Industry RD&I (research, development and innovation) Fellowship Programmesupports academia-industry interactions that address industry-informed challenges. Participating researchers at the faculty and postdoctoral level can spend up to a year working full-time (or two years part-time) in industry worldwide. This is a mutually beneficial, deep immersion in knowledge exchange and helps forge impactful relationships. 

Public service secondments

Similarly, the Public Service Fellowship Programme offers researchers secondments to government departments and agencies. The 2023 call featured projects (STEM and non-STEM) and partnerships with government departments and agencies across Dublin, Cork, Mayo, Offaly and Kildare. Embedding researchers in our public service helps inform new policies and improve public services. 

Gaining an agency perspective

For postdoctoral researchers seeking career development within a funding agency, our Fellowship Programme provides the opportunity for an in-house placement. A firsthand experience of a funding agency from the inside, this programme comes with a comprehensive training plan and mentorship. In terms of career outcomes, alumni of our funded research teams are in high demand, nationally and internationally, and 61% of researchers have taken up positions outside academia after working in SFI-funded teams.

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