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How Do I Become a Government Scientist?

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  • Written By: Kenneth W. Michael Wills
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Government scientists work within governments of all levels, usually in a research or an advisory capacity. Candidates seeking to become a government scientist will need an education in the scientific discipline for which the position requires. Also, they will need to demonstrate the required experience and articulate any specialized knowledge or experience crucial to fulfilling the vacancy with competence. Not all government scientists, however, need to have a PhD, as there are entry-level scientist positions available for those with a solid undergraduate degree. Landing such a job is competitive and will usually require a detailed application submission, along with meeting additional requirements inherent to sensitive government operations.

Minimum educational requirements to become a government scientist usually mean graduating with a four-year degree in a scientific discipline. Many advertised positions will require the applicant to specify this degree on his or her resume and list those core courses taken in the scientific discipline. Required courses taken are often 24 semester hours in the discipline relevant to the position. Performance in college is just as important, and most job vacancies will require candidates to list their graduated GPA as well as their grades in specific science courses relevant to the job. This is a minimum requirement for an entry-level scientist position, though high-level positions or promotions will often require a PhD or occasionally a master's degree.

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Experience is a requirement as well for most positions advertised. Again, most jobs at the entry-level often have consistent requirements regardless of scientific studies and often will ask for one-year of experience to become a government scientist. Documentation of such experience usually must meet the requirement in a research capacity, relevant to the fulfillment of job duties. Students, therefore, should complete an internship either while in college or immediately thereafter to gain that experience. Some positions, although entry-level, will need candidates with specialized knowledge or experience, and candidates must demonstrate meeting those requirements on their resumes.

Aside from education and professional experience, candidates will also need to meet some additional specialized requirements in order to become a government scientist. Security clearances are an important part of both the hiring process and retaining a position once hired. Applicants will normally need to have a clean criminal background and a solid credit history as well as demonstrate ethical professional conduct. Drug screening is also an inherent part of working with the government, and its scientists are usually of no exception. Conditional to accepting a position and retaining the job, candidates must submit to and pass all drug screenings.

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