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10 Reasons NOT to be a Scientist

Posted in: Inspiring and Thought Provoking
10 Reasons NOT to be a Scientist

Ok, this week has been a bad week in the lab so far. A few weeks ago I wrote a post describing 15 reasons to be a scientist. Today I am in the mood to cross over to the dark side and give you 10 reasons NOT to be a scientist! Strangely I could only think of 10. If you have any more, please feel free to add them in the comments section below.

1. Egos. Science attracts some straaaange people – and you have to work with them.

2. You can spend weeks, months even, trying to clone a gene, grow a strain or whatever and end up with zero results in the end. Bench work is surely one of the most frustrating jobs in the world.

3. Career Structure. Mainly if you work in academia I suppose. There are plenty of post-doc posts, but what about the next step?

4. Coming last at Trivial Pursuits. I don’t know about you, but I have spent so long with my head in science books that my general knowledge is terrible.

5. Having to write grant proposals

6. Repetition. As is often said – a trained monkey could do 90% of your job.

7. None of your non-science friends have a clue what your job is really all about (maybe that’s a good thing)

8. Transience. You work somewhere for a few years and make lots of friends, then gradually everyone moves to new jobs all over the world and you never see each other again. Sniff.

9. Unless you are very lucky. No-one in the real world cares about, or will be affected by, what you do.

10. The following quote from Max in the comment section of the the sister post to this one sums it up beautifully:

Getting paid substandard wages while working days and nights while on tenure track, while your buddies drive BMWs and surf in Hawaii, while you wonder why your second wife has left you and why you still don’t have an office with a window???

Oh wait, that was my “inside” voice,

Ahhh, I feel better after that. Remember to add your own in the comments section and maybe you’ll feel better too!

Photo: Steenslag

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  1. Lena on February 16, 2011 at 6:47 am

    11. You have no life outside of lab. Science becomes your life.

    A friend asked me if I have any hobbies, and the only “hobby” I could come up with was collecting mini-Giant Microbes.

    Working with stem cells, they don’t really care if it’s the weekend or a holiday; they still need to be passaged, even if all your friends are going up for a camping trip out of town, or renting a lodge up in the mountains. You end up missing out on many things in life.

    • Venk on June 18, 2019 at 7:59 pm

      And you still earn less. Wow stem cell research – that is the only time you feel good

  2. than wu on August 8, 2010 at 3:34 am

    Reason number 9 couldn’t be closer to the truth. You have to read between the lines here. When you have a room full of Phds, they aren’t patting each other in the back. There is deep skepticism more than anything else.


    70% of the papers published in all hard science journals around the world from IEEE to obscure journals don’t make an impact. It’s probably more like 95% but I’m being gracious. What this means is that, these papers don’t really contribute to anything, they are just fluff work that is like a high school or college research paper; that is, it is just a summary of a dozen papers with a slightly new twist. (which is the minimum requirement to get a paper published)

    Even if your work is ground breaking, you still have to sell your idea. You have to prove it and someone will always call out one test you did not do or one exception that flaws your research. How would you like to be humiliated like this at your next conference paper or IEEE summit?

    Let’s face it, the spirit of single handed heroic inventions have long been put to bed after the 17th century and practically dead after the 50s. People aren’t interested in investigating science like Newton and Einstein anymore and if they are, they get ridiculed. It’s not easy to be a rock star scientist, those days are long, long gone.

    Big ideas come from multi billion dollar high tech corporations now, with today’s technology, only they can make an idea come into fruition.

    The best most people can hope for is to publish a few papers that no one will read.

    If you have a truly revolutionary idea and publish a paper and if you don’t start your own company, a company will use your idea and make billions. Remember you can’t patent an idea or theory, only a final product.

  3. Nick on February 16, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Tina. You are definitely not the only one! For some ideas on what you can do next in your career, check out this article:

  4. Tina on February 14, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Wow!!! it’s good to know I’m not the only one. I have a Ph.D. in the basic sciences and wish to leave science all together.

  5. Teresa on February 20, 2008 at 1:42 am

    MAX: 11. the biggest problem is that you still have Office and Windows, while all your friends are with Linux. always late?

    p.s. When you’re Pole, you need to find a new job, cause being a scientist/ university fighter, you might be a red neck with sth ab. 200$ salary per month… TRUTH…
    what do you think?

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