Black female scientist in white coat and glasses, smiling, holding books in lab

4 Unexpected Skills You Need to Succeed in Science Majors and Careers

There’s a lot more to being a scientist than doing research and experiments. Here are four surprising skills you’ll need to excel in STEM majors and careers.

So you’re the scientific type: mathematically inclined and strictly factual. Though these are important facets of the sciences, this broad area of study heavily relies on other skills that don’t involve plugging in a formula or studying under a microscope. Some skills are honed through experience and, when combined with your specialty, certainly set you up for success. Let's discuss how to strengthen these unexpected skills regardless of your education level.

1. Motivation

Science majors and careers are notorious for being rigorous and demanding. With that in mind, it’s best to possess a strong sense of self-motivation. You are on this journey of growth and self-improvement, becoming capable of contributing to science and ultimately to the betterment of all society; therefore, it’s best to remind yourself why you started in the first place. Suppose you’re a visual person—make a vision board that reflects your aspirations for the semester or year. And most importantly, set it in a place where you can see it (i.e., on your lock screen or desk). Having this constant reminder can prevent feelings of discouragement and motivate you to achieve whatever it is you desire.

2. Writing

Though the thought of writing anything may seem daunting, it is quite indispensable when it comes to the sciences. From lab summaries to hypotheses, writing is imperative to the scientific process. To strengthen your writing, begin by broadening your vocabulary; learning and using colorful, descriptive words can make your writing more concise and appealing overall. If you want to take it a step further, join your school's newspaper staff and write about topics that excite you. Writing on a deadline or just for fun can not only improve your academic vitality but strengthen your writing skills, which can then be applied to college essays, future careers, or even a thoughtful birthday card. Becoming proficient in writing is a vital skill that is always valuable—even for science majors.

Related: 5 Helpful Ways to Improve Your Writing in College

3. Communication

Possibly one of the most important yet overlooked skills for scientists is communication. Being an active listener is the one of the most imperative skills that you must engage to communicate effectively. To improve your conversing skills, begin by strengthening your nonverbal skills—meaning proper posture and eye contact—and overall maintaining an open, inviting, and respectful stance. You may also want to consider the type of words you use based on your audience. Are you presenting to a room full of fellow classmates or coworkers, or patients and individuals who are not as familiar with certain topics or verbiage? If it's the latter, consider reducing the use of jargon and swapping lengthy words for simplistic synonyms. Being able to convey your thoughts and understanding of what is being communicated in return helps in a multitude of settings and contributes to productive conversations not only in the classroom and professional world but in your daily life as well.

4. Organization

Having all your assignments, research projects, labs, and extracurricular activities sorted and scheduled can make all the difference when you’re facing a hectic week at school or work. A few ways to stay on top of things include using a calendar (digital or paper), creating checklists, and color-coding or labeling activities and assignments. Employing one of these methods updates your active to-do list and frees up time to do something spontaneous or non-school related. Sometimes all you need is a little break, so be sure to add free time to your schedule as well. Future you will be so grateful! Also remember to prioritize things that might be more time consuming, require more research, and are due sooner. Once you’re organized, anything can be easily tackled. Additionally, get into a routine and stick with it, even during weekends or summer break. Allocating routine study time doesn't make the task seem like an obligation—it becomes part of your ordinary day.

Related: Video: Organization and Time Management Skills

These are just four skills among a plethora of others that science majors may not realize they need to succeed. Some are more mindset based, while others are learned skills. Though they each involve dedication and time to fully master, nothing is impossible!

Looking for colleges and universities equipped to help STEM students succeed? Check out our featured science college lists to find great schools to connect with!

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About Alyssa Montanez

Alyssa Montanez

Alyssa Montanez is a high school sophomore and student journalist. She has a passion for the sciences and anticipates continuing her education in the medical field. Alyssa loves learning and satisfies this feeling via her culinary creations and lived experiences. In her free time, she enjoys an ice-cold lemonade while gardening, reading, or watching vintage films.


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