A science technician apprenticeship is a good career and education option whether you’ve left school, want to change careers, or want to be promoted in your current job. While most science technicians work in the laboratory, this experience will also enable you to work in a range of fields, from archaeological digs to underwater exploration.
In this post:
Earn While You Learn
Undertaking a science technician apprenticeship is the ideal choice for those wanting to earn money while they learn on the job.
During this type of chemistry apprenticeship, you’ll be paid a regular wage while being formally trained on the job. At the end of the programme, and if you successfully complete all the necessary requirements, you’ll be formally certified as a professional science technician.
This can open up career opportunities in either the company who provided your apprenticeship, or in other companies and industries. A science technician apprenticeship can also lead to a degree in science if that’s something you’d like to pursue.
Different Levels of Apprenticeship
You can become a science technician by either taking a formal academic course or through a science technician apprenticeship. The years that you’ll spend on the programme and the subjects that you’ll study will depend on the apprenticeship level you pursue. Each level has an equivalent academic credit as follows:
Level 2 – Intermediate Apprenticeship
This is equivalent to GCSE and there are no eligibility criteria for you to apply for this level of apprenticeship. You don’t even need to have completed secondary education to apply. In fact, you’ll earn a secondary education equivalent credential if you finish this apprenticeship level. You must be at least 16 years of age to apply and you need to have the right aptitude to take on a science technician apprenticeship.
Level 3 – Advanced Apprenticeship
Completing this level is equivalent to passing two A levels. Companies or institutions that offer level 3 apprenticeships would normally look for someone who has at least a level 2 apprenticeship, which is equivalent to five passes at GCSE, as a prerequisite. Finishing this level will make you eligible for an RSciTech (Registered Science Technician) recognition.
Level 4 – Higher Apprenticeship
This level is equivalent to a foundation degree, an HNC, or a first year undergraduate degree. In order to qualify for a level 4 apprenticeship, you need to have higher credentials. You’ll be required to have:
- Completed an advanced apprenticeship
- A level 3 NVQ/SVQ qualification
- A BTEC National qualification
- Two passes at A level
Level 5 – Higher Apprenticeship
If you complete a level 5 apprenticeship, you’ll earn a degree level qualification. Many science technicians have degrees or level 5 equivalent apprenticeships. The entry requirements are similar to level 4 apprenticeships, but there will be some additional requirements specific to the position or specialisation you’re pursuing.
Levels 6 & 7 – Degree Apprenticeship
Degree apprenticeships are new types of programmes offered by universities. They give you the opportunity to earn a full bachelor’s degree in your chosen field of specialisation. At level 7, you can even earn a Master’s degree in your field. These programmes are structured so that your time is split between a workplace and the university.
Below is a summary of all the apprenticeship brackets:
What You Will Learn
A science technician apprenticeship is classified as a level 3 advanced apprenticeship. This is equivalent to two A Level passes in terms of academic competency. After finishing this apprenticeship, you could earn a formal RSciTech recognition.
Unlike laboratory technicians, science technicians are more specialised. As support staff for scientists, science technicians must study the theoretical basis, techniques, and methodologies specific to a particular field. They’re usually focussed on practical problems that are part of a particular scientific discipline.
With this in mind, the things that you’ll study as a science technician apprentice will be focussed on your particular field of discipline. For instance, if you’re a science technician apprentice for a natural history museum, you’ll study geology, paleontology, and radiometric dating. Similarly, if you’re a nuclear technician, you’ll study particle physics, nuclear power generation, and nuclear plant operations.
That said, the fundamental subjects you’ll study during most science technician apprenticeships will include:
- Mathematics and statistics
- Computer science
- Laboratory science and safety
In terms of fundamental science technician skills, you need to learn and gain some level of mastery in the following:
- Laboratory skills, like preparing experimental set ups
- Compliance with quality standards, including safety standards
- Ability to explain the main theoretical concepts and scientific principles of the discipline
- Develop innovative processes and methodologies for implementing scientific investigations
- Be able to work with minimum supervision in terms of producing and analysing scientific data
- Computer skills, such as using spreadsheets, databases, and computer modeling
- Efficient time management in terms of prioritising tasks based on the project objectives and plans
- Ability to anticipate and solve problems related to the workflows, both routine and non-routine, based on root cause analysis
- Be able to recommend improvements on the workflows in response to internal and external requirements, including customer demand
- Communicate effectively in verbal and written forms, both for scientific and non-scientific audiences
Course Entry Requirements
Since a science technician apprenticeship is classified as a level 3, you’ll need to have five passes at GCSE as a prerequisite to apply. You also need to be at least 16 years of age, and you must have a good aptitude for both science and maths.
Career Options When You’ve Completed Your Apprenticeship
Science technicians in the UK are able to join professional scientific organisations related to their field of specialisations. For example, if you’re a chemistry technician, you could be accepted to the Royal Society of Chemistry. You can also apply to become a member of the Institute of Physics or the Institute of Science and Technology.
As a science technician, you can also gain professional recognition by registering with the Science Council as a Registered Science Technician (RSciTech). If you pursue higher qualifications, you can also register as a chartered scientist (CSci) or a Registered Scientist (RSci).
Depending on your specialisation as a science technician, you can apply to various industries and institutions, including government agencies. Here are some of the best science career options that follow a science technician apprenticeship:
- Nuclear power plant technician
- Particle physics research technician
- Forensic technicians
- Biomedical research technician
- Environmental science technician
- Forest and conservation technician
- Geological and petroleum technician
- Agricultural and food science technician
How to Apply
You can apply for an apprenticeship by either going straight to the source and applying to companies that offer them, or you can apply through a partner school, college, or university.
You can also apply online based on where you want to work. Here are some useful links:
- Apprenticeships in England
- Apprenticeships in Wales
- Apprenticeships in Scotland
- Apprenticeships in Northern Ireland
The blog on chemicals.co.uk and everything published on it is provided as an information resource only. The blog, its authors and affiliates accept no responsibility for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from following the information provided on this website. We do not recommend using any chemical without first consulting the Material Safety Data Sheet which can be obtained from the manufacturer and following the safety advice and precautions on the product label. If you are in any doubt about health and safety issues please consult the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).