How do I start?

This week and old friend got in touch with a familiar question and I decided to share my answer here. Have a read and comment with your own thoughts and ideas at the bottom.

  • The main sections you'll find here are:

  • What I do

  • My Story

  • Getting Started

  • Getting Paid

  • Finding a Job


I didn’t reply right away just because I wanted to find a bit of time to reply properly, it’s a big question! I’m asked about getting started/getting paid/finding a job in science communication a lot so as well as sending this to you I’m going to post this response on my website (don’t worry I’ll not mention your name).

What I do

I’m not sure there is any “typical” science communicator. There are lots of different flavours: People who give talks to schools; TV & radio presenters; journalists; authors; science centre staff and many more. Most people have more than one string to their bow but will have just one or two specialisms.

I have three main strands, Trainer, Consultant and Communicator. My time is spent pretty equally between those three things – though science communication is by far the least profitable.

In terms of my Sci Comm I do a mix of things. I’ve just finished writing a book and I recorded a TV series a couple of weeks ago. Most of my work is on stage though, with people hiring me to give talks, normally science festivals or organisations which do large school events.

If you want to communicate science full time two things are key: Having a diversity of skill and knowing those skills. Also, when it comes to branding, you need a clear idea of self, who are you and what can you offer? I’m a trainer, consultant and communicator – who will you be?

My story

During my PhD I did some training courses on communication which I found super interesting. After these I wanted some practice, so at the weekends would go down to the local science centre and have a little table set up where I chatted to people – this taught me a lot!

Gradually I scaled up, moving from table-top activities to speaking to small audiences. I took every opportunity and as my experience grew so did the audiences. Next, I wanted to do something independently, so I applied to the Royal Academy of Engineering for funds to develop and tour a show. The external endorsement of a funder opened many doors and I was able to deliver my first solo show round the UK about a dozen times.

It was all very stepwise: I learnt about sci comm, I practiced it, then developed my own project. After each step I considered “what next” so I was always working towards something. It might have been to work in a certain place or produce something of a certain scale, but there was always an ambition.