Students in STEM majors face a demanding field that requires you to have certain skills to be successful in your future career. Having writing and researching skills comes with the territory of wanting to work in a science field. Every day, I use those skills in my current position which has helped me be more successful. In addition to having proper research and writing skills, science majors must be able to communicate effectively and have good math skills. Start today on developing your writing, research, communication, and math skills to give you the advantage in working internships, volunteer opportunities, and your future careers.
Your research skills
You’ll find in your college courses that research is a major part of understanding the concepts you use as you work in your future career. The ability to conduct research, determine the results, and be able to communicate your findings to others is essential for success in your field. Take the following action steps:
- Become very familiar with the library and staff:Depending on the subject, you may be unsure of how to start your research project. Don’t hesitate to ask the librarians for assistance. They’ve been trained in finding information and can give you ideas for how to organize your research.
- Stay on topic:You may be overwhelmed with all the information you find about your research topic. You’ll need to figure out a method to get rid of the data points that aren’t important to your central ideas.
- Use more than one source for your research:Don’t rely on one source for your project. Be sure to check online sources, books, interviews, and audio recordings for example. Most importantly, you want to confirm that your sources are reliable and accurate.
Your writing skills
You‘ll be required to write reports or articles in your career—and you’ll receive many chances to practice your writing skills in your college courses. You must be able to communicate information using the appropriate words in a way that’s understandable to the reader. Having good writing skills requires you to organize your thoughts so the reader has a good grasp on the information you presented by the end of it. Take the following action steps:
- Organize your thoughts:It’s very important that you spend at least 15 minutes organizing your thoughts. You can write an outline or put a short paragraph together of the topics you want cover in your paper.
- Practice:Find ways to get more practice at developing your writing skills such as joining the school newspaper, blogging, or keeping a journal.
- Keep your reader’s interest:No one wants to read a boring paper. Keep your paper interesting by using synonyms to cut down on repetition and vary the length of your sentences.
- Read your paper out loud: While you’re writing, you may not notice your grammar or spelling mistakes. So, when you’re finished, read your paper out loud so that you can catch mistakes and make changes, if necessary. Also, have your friend or parent read your paper to catch any corrections you need to make as well.
- Avoid plagiarism in your research writing:If the information didn’t originate from you, cite the source of that data. If you don’t cite the source, this is considered plagiarism and has serious consequences such as failing grades and suspension.
Related: 7 Tips to Boost Your Writing for Homework and Essays
Your communication skills
I remember several assignments in my undergraduate science courses that involved presenting an experiment or concept. Many colleges make this a requirement because you’ll have to make presentations in your future science careers. Your employer will expect you to know how to discuss your findings in a way that connects with your audience. Take the following action steps:
- Keep it simple: When you are preparing your presentation, consider your audience. You want to give adequate information but not overwhelm them.
- Use appropriate language: Make sure your choice of words is suitable for the audience. The goal is to make sure that you share information in a way with the audience that’s attainable.
- Speak clearly and slowly: Practice speaking clearly so you hold your audience’s attention the entire time.
- Be prepared for questions: Someone in the audience may have questions, so prepare questions you think someone may ask you. However, if you don’t know something, it’s better to admit you don’t have the information than to lie or make up something
Your math skills
Math can cause anxiety for many students pursuing science majors due to gaps in learning or a bad experience with a teacher in high school math courses. You’ll be expected to use formulas and equations in your future careers. I use math every day to assess the safety of consumer products. Take the following action steps:
- Keep practicing:When your teacher assigns homework, do the work. Often, teachers will pull test or quiz questions from the homework or create very similar problems. Don’t wait until the night before to study, instead practice a few problems every day.
- Ask for help: As soon as you notice you’re having a hard time keeping up with the work, ask for help. Your teachers are there for a reason. Also, you can hire a tutor or study with other people in your class if you feel more comfortable with that option.
- Focus on the approach to calculating math problems:Understanding why you must use a certain formula is more helpful than just writing an answer down on a test. This is helpful for when you get stuck. Thinking through the process of the problem will give you a better chance of getting the problem right.
- Get organized: For math classes, feel free to write out pictures, graphs, or diagrams to help you solve problems and organize your notes well. Once you know what pieces of information you have, you can begin to figure out what you need to solve the problem.
Related: Math in the Real World: A Look at Experts in the Field
While there are a lot of skills that are similarly required for a variety of majors, all the science fields are demanding in hard skills. Start practicing these skills in high school and putting in the effort beyond your assigned studies to help you thrive in a future science career. Good luck in your skill-building endeavors!
You can find more advice on what skills you need for a life in science in our Science and Engineering section or for your future career in general in our Internships and Careers section.