I consider myself lucky to have completed two paid internships in the last year and slightly unlucky that I was applying for internships this summer as fervently as last summer. The point being so I could gain more experience so I might qualify for a job so I wouldn’t be applying for internships for Summer 2014.
Internships are great opportunities to gain experience, but how many internships must an aspiring science writer complete before they can obtain a full-time job? The answer obviously depends, but there seems to be a growing pattern where young writers are simply hopping from one internship to the next with no permanent job in sight.
This is because many entry-level science writing positions – be it at a magazine or press information office – require at least three to five years of experience. That’s 12 internships that last for three months each. That’s an insane amount of internships. Not to mention what little pay interns receive compared to permanent jobs and relocation costs since valuable science-writing internships exist across the country, and the globe.
Not all internships are three months. Some are six months, but that’s about as long as you’re going to find.
Ten years ago, when the science writing field was less congested, many interns could procure a job after a single internship – often times at the place they interned. All of those positions are now filled, however, which means interns are left to fend for themselves after their time is up.
Many turn to freelancing – a valuable experience in itself with a very unstable paycheck. Especially for beginners who may not know how to find and pitch good stories, freelancing will be even less lucrative than an internship. So, although a good skill to have, it’s probably not the best option for beginners. But then what other options are there besides summer internships and the occasional fall and spring internship? Not much along the lines of career advancement.
So, yes, I’d say it’s getting harder to find a full-time job in science writing and it’s also getting harder to find an internship if you don’t already have a few under your belt. It’s the classic Catch-22 scenario and it’s a long road for those lucky enough to find and follow it.