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  1. Consumer scientists work on behalf of companies of all sizes, advising on the latest consumer trends as well as on health and safety matters
  2. Alternatively, you could be working on behalf of consumers, ensuring their rights are being upheld at all times
  3. The work can be extremely varied, though the bulk of it will involve carrying out research and writing up reports
  4. There is no single route to becoming a consumer scientist, though employers are increasingly looking for specialist training
  5. Several UK universities offer degrees in subjects such as consumer psychology and behaviour which may give you an early career boost
  6. Alternatively, you may get into this line of work following time in the marketing, manufacturing or public relations industries
  7. Consumer scientists' pay tends to start at below £20,000 a year, though senior staff can earn more than double this

What Do Consumer Scientists Do?

Consumer scientists test and assess a wide range of everyday products, ensuring that consumers are being kept safe and getting good value for money. At the same time, many consumer scientists work for companies big and small, analysing what consumers want and advising their employers on what will sell.

As might be imagined, the work can be extremely varied, though, generally speaking, you can expect to work in a laboratory, in an office or on a shop floor and follow a standard working week. As a consumer scientists, some of your everyday responsibilities may include:

  • Carrying out extensive market research, spotting potential gaps in the market and predicting trends before they happen
  • Writing up accurate and objective reports summing up your findings
  • Carrying out in-depth analysis of products to ensure they meet strict health and safety rules as well as in-house quality standards
  • Advising industry bodies, as well as public sector bodies including central government departments on issues such as healthy living and consumer safety
  • Sticking up for consumer rights and, on occasion, presenting evidence to tribunals and even to courts of law

Skills and Qualifications

There is no single route to becoming a consumer scientist. In fact, people from all walks of life and with a wide range of backgrounds end up in this line of work, though, as a rule, employers are becoming increasingly demanding and may require you to have some relevant qualifications.

To stand out from the job-hunting crowd, if you want to work as a consumer scientist you should consider taking a BTEC HND or degree course in a relevant subject. Just some of the options available to you include:

  • University of Ulster: BSc (Hons) Consumer Studies: On this three-year programme you can choose to work in industry or else specialise in subjects such as consumer health
  • Queen Margaret University: BA (Hons) Marketing, Retail and Consumer Studies: At this Edinburgh institution, you can gain a valuable insight into the links between consumers and the business world, gaining practical experience alongside your classroom learning

As well as a good secondary and university education, some big-name employers may also ask that you have a specialist postgraduate qualification, such as an MSc or even a PhD in consumer psychology. However, at the lower-end of the job market, you could make a move into consumer science if you have a background in marketing, marketing research or even manufacturing.

Training and Development

Once you have your foot in the door, there should be plenty of scope for career progression, particularly if you work for a large employer such as a government department or major company. For the most part, this will be possible through gaining more on-the-job experience, though you may want to look into taking a part-time postgraduate course in order to boost your career prospects.

Pay and Benefits

Pay for consumer scientists varies considerably. For instance, if you are working in an entry-level position for a manufacturing company, you can expect to earn between £17,000 and £20,000 a year.

At the other end of the scale, the National Careers Service advises that senior consumer scientists, can earn up to £30,000 a year, with department managers anywhere up to £50,000 a year.

Aside from the financial rewards, benefits of working as a consumer scientist include the satisfaction that comes with knowing your work is helping keep people safe, or at least, making sure they are getting value for their money. The work usually also involves working with a variety of people and taking on new projects almost all the time.

Possible Downsides

If you've studied through to postgraduate level, then the salaries on offer for newcomers to consumer science are relatively low, though, of course, these tend to rise with time. As such, the main drawbacks include the possibility of having to work in the same location, often on your own, for most of your working week, while, depending on the products you are researching, the work may be far from glamorous.

Finding Work

As a suitably-qualified and experienced consumer scientist, you may be able to find work in a variety of sectors. For instance, you could work in a government department, in the manufacturing sector, in journalism or in public relations and marketing.

Good places to look for openings include the jobs pages of the Guardian newspaper (www.guardian.co.uk/jobs), as well as the public sector jobs site LG Jobs (http://www.lgjobs.com/)

Further Reading  

Search for postgraduate training opportunities in the field of consumer science here: http://www.findamasters.com/

 


 
 
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