student life

So You Got a STEM Degree: How to Start a Career in Business

It is helpful, as a scientist, to adapt an elevator pitch to your research and know how to follow market trends.

This was first published at the Thomas Edison State University blog. You can check it out here!


I’ve recently begun studying for a PhD, and, with that, I’ve attended lectures lately from various accomplished and ambitious people. One of them was a scientist currently working on a post-doctorate and heavily engaged in science communication. As he told us about his time during his own PhD, he casually dropped that he spent a semester taking business classes so that he could obtain a certificate in Scientific Business Management – before graduating.

Even though he is not working in the business sector right now, he told us it was a highly recommended experience. “It will set you apart,” he added, listing how helpful it is, as a scientist, to hone in on communication skills, adapt an ‘elevator pitch’ to your own research, and have your thumb on market trends.

Business skills are very impactful for scientists, whether they move into the business world or not. I’ve met my fair share of scientists who’ve earned certification such as this, as well as scientists who’ve gone back to school for the complete MBA experience. It is also possible to transition to the business department without official training; career tracks are flexible here.

Let’s take a look at what STEM majors can bring to the conference table.

Market Research

The business department at a biotech company has to scope out potential programs for the company. What sorts of projects are profitable now? But also – what projects are technologically feasible? By understanding the language of science, your STEM major will give you an edge as you research possibilities for the company to explore.

Client Relations

If your company is hired to do scientific research for others, the business department will also be in charge of client-company relations. Working out a contract (with scientifically reasonable expectations), keeping the client informed and communicating any hiccups along the way (this is science, after all, and may not go as expected) might all be included in the job description.

What Education is Required?

At a tech company, scientific literacy is a hot commodity. Business majors and MBAs may be able to get the job done, but without a STEM background, the worst case scenario is writing up a contract impossible to complete in a lab (or impossible to complete within the negotiated deadline). Anyone who knows the science and has worked at the bench – and is ready and eager to enter the business world – is often very welcome. So technical experience matters a lot here.

Does Education Play a Role?

From the professionals I’ve talked to, I’ve learned that you do not need a degree in business to transfer into this field. A PhD may give you a higher ranking and salary than a BS, but any science degree is just fine. Consistent feedback from my professional friends is that you can learn business skills more easily from a STEM background, than STEM skills from a business background.

That said, there are a lot of people who prepared for a career change (or educated themselves, on the job, after the career change) with a certificate in business, an MBA, PMP certification or even a few online classes in finances or accounting. Whether you’re considering a career transition or have already started, there are a lot of options available to assist your career.

And, of course, your online degree at TESU is just the sort of thing to prepare you for online business classes, diverse communication skills (scientific and otherwise) and work-school combinations if you decide to pursue that MBA on the job.

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