Career Resources for S&E Students

This listing is provided as a resource for Nakatani RIES U.S. Fellowship Alumni and other students, faculty and staff who are interested in learning more about career opportunities in science & engineering (S&E). This resource list is provided as a courtesy to our alumni and other students and does not imply endorsement by the Nakatani Foundation and/or Rice University. If you know of other helpful resources that you would like added to this page please email nakatani-ries@rice.edu.

Career Resources for S&E Students

Rice Center for Career Development: Student Guides 
For example, click the link above to see the PDF guides, handouts, and presentations available through the CCD at Rice. These are free and accessible to the public. Visit your home university's career services center to see what resources they may offer.  Some resources may be publicly available, and for other resources you may have to login or register to gain access. 

  • Graduate School Planning
  • Professional Communication 
    • See Resume Guides, in particular the Freshman Resume Guide and/or CVs & Resumes for Graduate Students
    • See Interview Guides 
    • See Academic Career Guide 
  • International Job Searches
  • LinkedIn
  • Presentations
    • Phone Interview Tips
    • Resume Writing
    • Interview Basics
I know that some jobs, graduate schools, or programs hold Skype interviews or meetings with prospective applicants. I haven't really used Skype much before and I'm nervous.  Do you have any advice? 
 
Skype is a very useful (free) tool that enables colleagues worldwide to meet virtually and talk/see each other to discuss research or collaborative projects.  If you plan to do international research, you will likely use Skype (or similar services) regularly.  If you plan to apply to graduate school in the U.S., Skype can also be a useful tool to set up meetings with faculty or students in the academic department/program you are interested in; particularly if you aren't able to travel to that school program to visit/meet in person.  Talking with someone via Skype could help you better understand the research topics available and which professor/s or program/s might be the best fit for your graduate study and research.  In short, Skype is a very useful tool! 
 
Here are some resources on how to prepare for Skype interviews/meetings but the #1 thing to keep in mind is that Skype is simply a tool for communication.  The person/s you are meeting with are interested in having a conversation with you, learning more about your background, and sharing information about their background/program.   Remember, just as you are curious about them, they are also curious about you too!  After all, that is why they agreed to interview/speak with you. Try not to be too nervous and enjoy the opportunity to talk to the person/s you are meeting with!
  • Do not write out a long, prepared speech/remarks.  Think of Skype as a phone call/conversation. Each side will ask questions and communicate back and forth. If you prepare a long, written speech/remarks and try to 'deliver' it via Skype you will miss out on the opportunity for discussion and engagement with the other speaker/s. 
  • Do prepare a list of 1 – 3 questions that you would like to ask or information you would like to know more about.  In all interviews/meetings there will usually be a point where the other person/s will ask "Do you have any questions?" or "Is there anything else you would like to know more about?".   Having a list of your top/key questions prepared will help ensure you don't forget to ask something important. 
  • Keep in mind how much time you have for the interview/meeting.  If the Skype call is only 15 minutes long, but you give a 10 minute response to the first question you will have used up almost all of your allotted time. For example, a common first question is "Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and why you applied to this program?".  Try to keep your answer to 1 – 3 minutes.  Then, the person/s you are speaking with will ask further follow-up questions.  Remember, the Skype interview/meeting is a conversation.  If you give a 10-minute response in a 15-minute interview that will be a very one-sided conversation.  
  • Ask one question at a time. Students often try to ask multi-part questions (3 questions in one).  These are difficult to fully respond to and take a long time to answer.  Ask your most important question first and always ask one question at a time. If you don't have time to ask an important question during the Skype interview, you can always send a follow-up email.  
  • 7 Tips for Nailing a Skype Interview (Forbes) 
  • 7 Essential Skype Interview Tips (Top Universities) 
  • Ace Your Video Interview (Science) 
  • Video: Tips for Skype Interviewing (Curry College Center for Career Development)

Fermilab: STEM Career Resources
You can research many science, technology, engineering and mathematics related careers through these sites. They include information on trends, education, salaries, nature of the work, tasks, knowledge and skills needed.

Nature Jobs.com 

Nature Career Articles & Toolkit

NOVA Labs: Career Exploration in STEM
Explore career options, find role models, and scope out colleges and majors that might lead you to the job of your dreams.

Science – Career Articles and Resources 

What Can I do with an Engineering Major in … (U of MN)
View PDF guides with information about career options for each major.

The U.S. educational and employment system is marked by a high degree of flexibility and mobility at all stages.  Job seekers can apply for jobs at any point in there career and there is no, one set/fixed hiring season in the U.S. In the U.S. there is no one 'standard' hiring season and it is easy, and expected, that U.S. workers will change jobs/companies multiple times and at multiple points in their careers. Companies hire workers at all levels (entry-level, mid-level management, and senior executives) and are always accepting applications for available positions. If you want to change jobs to pursue a new opportunity you can easily do this by simply searching for job openings online and submitting your resume and application at any time of the year.  Young employees often work in their first job for a period of between 1 – 3 years and then apply for promotions within the company or new jobs at other companies to 'grow' their careers.  For more see 'How Long Should an Employee Stay at a Job?'.

When changing jobs, you may get a promotion or a new position within the company you current work for or you may apply to work at a different company.  As long as you do not move jobs/companies too often (typically it is best to stay in the same job for a period of between 1 – 3 years) there is no stigma either way.  Lifetime employment is rare in the U.S. and people may work in academic for a time, then get an industry job, then go back to academia or maybe work for a non-profit/government agency.  There is not one fixed path in the U.S. Pay and promotion in the U.S. system is typically merit based and a new/younger employee may have a higher position or higher salary than their co-workers.  American job seekers typically negotiate pay with their potential employer during the hiring process and are advised to never take the first salary offered.  Always counter-offer with a higher salary rate or ask for other benefits/concessions such as increased paid-time off/leave or flexibility in the working schedule.  

Competition/Job Suitability: Companies doe not recruit or hire employees from just 'top' universities.  While they do hire recent graduates and have training programs for new employees the #1 concern a company has is "Is this job applicant a 'good fit' for the position they are applying to?". Companies in the U.S. expect new hires to come in with specific skill sets (outlined in the job application) and 'hit the ground running' or be able to start working in that position on day 1 (though there is usually on-the-job training from co-workers/supervisors).  It is not the university you attend that is most important. It is your academic, research, and professional skill sets that matter most.  These are demonstrated through your previous work/research experience on your resume.  This is why the resume is such an important document in the U.S. system and you will be asked to submit a resume for every job, program, school you apply to.    See the section above on Applications, Interviews, and Resumes for more information. 

Internships:  It is very common in the U.S. system for college students to seek out internships and work for a company or do a research internship experience during the long summer break from mid-May to mid-August.  Internships are short-term positions that are typically in the field or with a company/university that the students hopes to work or do research at in the future.  Some companies do recruit current or past interns and encourage them to apply for full-time positions after graduation; but often internships are just a short 1 – 3 month experience.  Internships enable students to gains hands-on, real-world work experience and are an important part of their resume. Students may do internships at any point in their undergraduate career, even as freshman.  Graduate students who want to pursue careers in industry will also often do internships during the summer with the approval of their host professor.  In science and engineering, most internships are paid but in other fields internships may be unpaid and/or offered only for academic credit.  

Entrepreneurship: There is also a strong culture of entrepreneurship in the U.S. and a rising number of Americans working as 'freelancers' or 'independent contractors' who are not employed by a company but who build their own career/business opportunities individually. Entrepreneurs in the U.S can even apply for start-up funding from investors and, in return, grant the investors a share in what (is hoped) will be a profitable business in the future. See 'Start-up Seed Funding on the Rise Across the U.S. and Around the World' (Forbes). Many universities, including Rice, offer Business Plan Competitions as a way to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.  Rice University's Business Plan Competition is actually the world's richest and largest graduate-level start-up competition, awarding up to $1.5 million annually, and is open applicants from around the world. 

Mobility: Americans tend to be highly mobile.  They will often move to a different city/town, different state, or move entirely across the country for educational and career options.  However, most Americans tend to seek jobs within the U.S.  It is not as common for Americans to work in a different country.  Some Americans prefer to stay living near their hometown/state or near family but many Americans will live away from home/family for a period of time. For example, it is quite common to move to a new city for college or your first job in your early 20s but then, in your early to mid-30s many Americans move back 'home' or near family when they start to have children.  Then, in your 40s/50s there is another wave of Americans that may move to be closer to elderly parents/relatives.  Even retirees in the U.S. may move to live closer to their adult children/grandchildren and/or to live in a more desirable climate.  For example, retirees who are 'snowbirds' that live in Minnesota in the summer and then move to a condo in Arizona or Florida during the winter. However, there are some Americans that live far from family or their hometowns their entire adult lives and typically just travel home for holidays/vacations.  For more on this see, 'Why Do Americans Move So Much More Often than Europeans? (The Atlantic). 

But How do U.S. Students Find a Job?

American job-seekers must be highly motivated and individually seek out job descriptions and announcements from companies who are hiring. Companies do not come to you – you must seek out the companies and job you would like to apply for. Job seekers  of all ages/levels in the U.S. find jobs in a few key ways.  See the following topics on this page for more: 

  • Networking
  • Professional Organizations
  • LinkedIn and ResearchGate
  • University Career Office
  • Searching Online 

 

Networking:  Often, Americans will find out about job openings from friends/colleagues within their field who work at that company or who have heard about the open position. It is not uncommon in the U.S. for someone to see a job description that they think would be a 'perfect fit' for someone they know and forward it to them in case they want to apply.  Conversely, people who would like to find a new job/change jobs may, quietly, let people n the industry that they are 'looking'.  You typically would't tell your supervisor or co-workers at your current company that you are looking for a new job, but can speak with others you know outside of your company in confidence and ask if they know if any job openings that could be a 'good fit.'.  Then, only after you have a job offer and have accepted the position, you would 'give notice' to your current employer (typically 2 weeks to 1 month) that you will be leaving.  Your current company would then post a job announcement for your old job and try to hire a new employee and may even ask you to recommend people that you may know who could be a 'good fit.'  Networks, typically within your industry but also personal, can be very helpful in your job search in the U.S. 

Your professors and current/past research advisors are also part of your network so don't forget to let them know that you are looking for a job too! Be sure you ask them and/or your academic department if they can put you in contact with alumni of their group/program who may be working in industries, companies, or positions you are interested in. 

Professional Organizations: Many professionals in the U.S. also are members of professional organizations in their industry/field and these organizations may have job boards or networking events/mixers where you can meet other people working in the same industry/field.  Professional organization also sponsor annual conferences or meetings where people may post jobs, hold interviews, or connect with potential companies/employees they would like to recruit.  For example, the American Physics Society hosts the annual APS March Meeting where faculty, researchers, graduate students, government funding agencies, and industry representative all attend that that is a great opportunity for people to network and find out about new or soon to be open jobs in their field.  See the list of professional organization in STEM on this page. 

Consult the Career and Job Board pages of these websites to find information specific to your chosen field.

LinkedIn and ResearchGate:  There are also some online, social media based networking options. Primary among these is LinkedIn which is very important for people seek job opportunities in industry.  Recruiters and human resources staff may review someone's LinkedIn profile when they are considering hiring a job applicant.  Within academia, ResearchGate has become a popular platform to share research interests, recent publications, and connect with other researchers and scholars in  your area. 

University Career Services Office:  All universities in the U.S. have a career services center that is open to undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, and alumni.   Career services centers offer a wide array of services such as resume review, interview workshops, searchable job databases, and typically organize at least 1 career fair per year on campus.  At these career fairs, companies who are interested in having students apply for available positions attend and host tables where they provide information on their company, available job opportunities, and benefits. Students typically attending in formal/business attire and bring copies of their resume with them to hand out to the recruiters of the companies they are most interested in applying for.  At these events, students may  be seeking internship opportunities or part-time jobs if they are still in school or full-time jobs for after graduation. 

Undergraduate and graduate students should visit their university career services center or website early in their degree, either in the spring semester of their freshman year or spring semester of their first year in graduate school, to learn more about what workshops, seminars, and services are available to you. For example, the Rice University Center for Career Development has a section specifically for graduate students and post-docs, resources for students, a calendar of upcoming workshops/seminars, and a login to RiceLink: Powered by Handshake where current students/alumni can search through an available job database.  If you haven't visited your career services center website do so today! See below for some of the free PDF guides available through Rice University too. 

Rice Center for Career Development: Student Guides 
For example, click the link above to see the PDF guides, handouts, and presentations available through the CCD at Rice. These are free and accessible to the public. Visit your home university's career services center to see what resources they may offer.  Some resources may be publicly available, and for other resources you may have to login or register to gain access. 

  • Graduate School Planning
  • Professional Communication 
    • See Resume Guides, in particular the Freshman Resume Guide and/or CVs & Resumes for Graduate Students
    • See Interview Guides 
    • See Academic Career Guide 
  • International Job Searches
  • LinkedIn
  • Presentations
    • Phone Interview Tips
    • Resume Writing
    • Interview Basics

 

Searching for Jobs Online: Many job-seekers find job openings by consulting Google-sensei and searching various online job databases for positions in their field. These job databases often have tens of thousands of job openings and it can take a long time to find job openings that best align with your skill sets and interests.  Searching for jobs online can be a time-consuming process but it is one of the most common ways that people may find out about new positions.  This is particularly true for people who are looking for a job in a different industry or different region of the country where they may not have close contacts who they can network with to find out about job openings. If there is a particular company, organization, non-profit, or government agency that you would like to work with you can also go directly to that company's website and search for their 'Career Opportunities', 'Employment Opportunities', or 'Job Opportunities' page.  Almost all companies and organizations in the U.S. post available job opportunities on their websites. 

In Japan, there is one, set job-hunting season and companies tend to only recruit new, entry-level hires from among that year's graduating class. Called “shūkatsu” in Japanese (abbreviation of “shūshoku [finding employment] katsudō” [activities]), it indicates a specific timeframe dedicated to job-hunting activities–and its many selection steps–, a process whose style greatly differs from that of western countries. The Federation of Economic Organizations (一般社団法人 日本経済団体連合会) establishes the beginning of the employment screening period every year. The hiring season for third-year university students opened on March 1 and major firms will formalize their recruitment decisions by handing out certificates at ceremonies held on Oct. 1. Most major employers will only take on recruits in April immediately after graduation — there are no post-college "gap years" and few second chances.

If students are not in Japan for 'job-hunting season' they may have a difficult time finding a job.  Companies tend to want to hire young, recent graduates into entry-level jobs where they will be trained in the 'company way' and then, over time, progress up through the ranks.  Lifetime employment is still the ideal.  This means that employees typically stay at the same company their entire career, but may have different roles/jobs within that company over their careers.  Pay in Japanese companies is also, typically, based most heavily on seniority and this is also a reason for the strong preference for lifetime employment in Japan.  However, the declining population has led to a situation where there are now often more jobs than Japanese applicants graduating each year.  This means that small-to-midsize Japanese companies sometimes struggle to recruit students as most students would prefer to work for a larger/big-name company.  

Internships are not as common in the Japanese system and, when they do exist, tend to be much shorter in duration; typically between 1 – 4 weeks.  This is because, in Japan, the academic calendar is different and there are two, shorter breaks per year instead of one longer break.  Exact dates vary by university but typically the academic calendar is: 

  • Term 1: April to Early to Mid-August
  • Summer Break: Early to Mid-August to Late September
  • Term 2: October to Early to Mid-February 
  • Spring Break: Early to Mid-February to Late March 

For more on Job-Hunting in Japan see: 

Teaching English in Japan: Many foreigners come to Japan to teach English.  Here are a few resources on finding a teaching job and being an English teacher in Japan.  

For more on the Japanese Employment System see the Work Ethic and Work Culture section below.  

Students who have had international study, work, or research experience have a unique opportunity to capitalize on this experience in their job search. Even if you were not doing anything science or engineering related while abroad, you liked learned a number of highly transferable skills such as, but not limited to: 

  • Adaptability
  • Acceptance of Different Perspectives/Ways of Being and Doing Things 
  • Dealing with Ambiguity
  • Experience Working in a Diverse or Interdisciplinary Team 
  • Flexibility 
  • Intercultural Communication 
  • Living and Working Independently ('Adulting') 
  • Problem Solving 
  • Self-Confidence

 

These are often call 'soft' or 'interpersonal' skills. Here are some other resources that may be helpful to you as you consider how to best highlight your international experience on your resume and/or in an interview.  Consult your campus career services office or international programs/study abroad office as they may have special workshops/programming on integrating your international experience into your career search. 

 

 

 

Science: Career Resources 

From How-To Series to booklets and multimedia, Science provides a wide range of career resources for science & engineering students.

5 Ways International Students Can Transition to Industry Careers in the U.S. (Cheeky Scientist)

5 Visa Options International Students Must Know to Work in the U.S. (Cheeky Scientist) 

10 Simple Rules for Choosing Between Industry and Academia (Plos) 

From Academia to Industry: A Short Guide (Nature Jobs Blog)

Global Mobility: Science on the Move (Nature) 

How to Successfully Work Across Countries, Languages, and Culture (HBR) 

Jobs are Scarce for PhDs (The Atlantic) 

Many Junior Scientists Need to Take  Hard Look At their Job Prospects (Nature) 

So Many Research Scientists, So Few Openings as Professors (NY Times) 

The Job Market: Picking Apart Your Application 

The Post-Doc Series (NatureJobs Blog) 

Too Many PhD Graduates or Too Few Academic Job Openings? (Systems Research and Behavioral Science) 

Why It's Better to be a Research Scientist in Industry than Academia (Cheeky Scientist) 

 

See also the sections on Women in STEM on our Doing Research page: 

11 Career Resources for Women in STEM
If you're a woman who works (or wants to work) in STEM, here are 11 education and career resources to help you build your skills, network with other STEM professionals and find new career-related opportunities.

40 Important Online Resources for Women in STEM 

NASA Women of STEM

Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

Women in Physics (APS Physics) 

White House Office of Science & Technology Policy: Women in STEM 

Nakatani RIES Fellows will receive an orientation to cultural differences between the U.S. and Japan as part of our orientation programs, but it may also be helpful to review the following resources online which are written both from the perspective of foreigners who have worked in Japan and Japanese who have worked in the U.S.  

It is important to recognize that academic research labs are a different type of workplace than a company or the business world. Each lab/group may have its own culture which could be a hybrid of the many different cultures that make up the members of a lab. The only 100% guaranteed thing that all research labs will have in common is that they will all be different – even in Japan

Japanese Employment System

Working in Japan 

Entrepreneurship in Japan 

Women in Workforce and Economy in Japan
In 2014, Japan ranked 104 out of 142 countries in terms of gender equality, and just 63% of working-age Japanese women participated in the labor force, compared to an estimated 84% of men

Gender Gap & Pay Inequality in Japan 

Childcare in Japan and Impact on Working Parents

How Hard/Long do Americans Work? 

Working Style and Culture in the U.S.

On Seeking Work-Life Balance in the U.S. 

Women in the Workforce in the U.S. 

Working Families in the U.S.

Paid Leave in the U.S. 

In the U.S., there is no federal paid leave policy for vacations, illness/sickness, maternity/paternity leave. Paid leave policies are set by each individual employer and can very widely even within the same company depending on what classification of employee you are. Some states do require employers to give paid leave, but this is still rare. To be eligible to receive paid leave (for vacation or illness) you must typically be a benefits eligible employee.  The definition of who is benefits eligible varies by company.  For example, at Rice University all faculty (tenured and tenure-track) are benefits eligible and staff members who work 20 or more hours per week are benefits eligible. Employees who do not meet this classification including consultants, contractors, and those who work less than 20 hours per week are not eligible for any paid time off or other benefits.  

Students often ask about parental/maternity/paternity leaves and if these are paid in the U.S.  This also varies widely by company and even can vary depending on the classification of an employee within the same company.  For example, at Rice University faculty (tenured or tenure-track professors) can take some types of leave with pay.  A faculty member who is the primary caregiver for a child qualifies for one semester of fully paid leave for a child under the age of 1.  In contrast, staff members who are benefits eligible (including non-tenure track teaching staff) do not qualify for any paid parental leave.  Staff must use their accrued/saved Paid Time Off/Vacation days if they would like to receive their full salary for time they take off for parental leave. There are also specialized short-term disability policies that faculty and staff can combine with to get additional, partial not full, financial support for time beyond the one semester or accrued/saved PTO says.  All faculty and staff qualify for up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave for medical issues, including pregnancy, through the Family Medical Leave Act.  Graduate students are a separate classification and if they are taking parental leave for the birth or adoption of a baby they qualify for up to six-weeks of paid leave if they are currently doing research. 

As you can see by this example, paid and unpaid leave policies are very complex and can vary by company and even within the same company depending on the type of employee you are.  For this reason, many employees with meet with a Human Resources professional to discuss options for paid/unpaid leave prior to or during a major life event or if they need to take an extended medical leave from work. 

 

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