(This page is intended particularly for school pupils and young undergraduates).
For most scientists, the career path looks like this:
1) A-levels/ Highers including maths and some sciences
2) BSc (Honours) degree, 3-4 years ideally from a research-intensive university.
3) MSc, 1 year, useful for Research Assistant jobs, useful but not necessary for PhD study.
4) PhD, 3-4 years, usually supported by a reasonably generous studentship
5) Academic post-doctoral fellowship, 3-5yr or job in industrial / government science
6) Academic independent fellowhship, or move to industrial / government science
7) University faculty position ('permanent staff') or senior industrial position.
While some degree of intelligence is needed for science, you do not have to be super-brainy: the geneticist Steve Jones once said that science is the one area in which people with mediocre intelligence can still do world-changing work. Strong motivation and a capacity to "try, try and try again" in the face of difficulty are very important. Making new discoveries is very rewarding, but most of every scientist's time is spent solving frustrating problems that get in the way.
This page was last updated Feb 2014