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Thread: Science journalism as a career (midlife career change)

  1. #1 Science journalism as a career (midlife career change) 
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Hello everyone. Im new to the forum and as I browse through all of the great info in different forum areas, I wanted to get some feedback on some thoughts I have regarding a mid-life career change for myself.

    im 37 years old, have been an auto-technician my whole life and can honestly say that I have lost, or more truthfully, never really had any interest in it at all. I have decided to go to my local community college to start taking courses toward a degree.

    I have always had a passionate interest in science. When I was in high school my main interests were in archaeology and anthropolgy. However, I never pursued it for various reasons. I remember the guidance counselor at the time tried to steer me away from it, telling me how people in those fields didnt make much money and I would most likely end up as a teacher for a university after I spent years getting a PHD. No one in my family had ever gone to college, and no one ever expected me to go.

    If I think about what my life will continue to be like in the coming years if I dont try to make a change, it gets me deeply depressed. I HAVE to make a change. So I want to get some sort of basic college education and move on to something different. My dream would be to become a paleoanthropologist. However, I am a realist, and know from some research that this may not be a very practical choice for me now. There are other areas of science that interest me, and I have, and still am, looking into some of them. I did come across something recently that sparked my interest. Science journalism.

    Could this be a career I can actually pursue? Are there job opportunities out there? Is it on the upswing or downswing?

    The thought of writing about topics that interest me, and sharing my passion for them sounds appealing. At this point in my life, I am more interested in a career that I love to do, instead of a career I do to earn a paycheck. Of course I still need to make a living, but I am willing to start over even if it means, which I'm sure it will, that I have to earn much less. I can only imagine what it must be like for someone to have a career they honestly enjoy. I have never felt that, and would like to someday. A person who truly loves there job will never work a day in there life.

    Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

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  3. #2  
    Forum Junior JennLonhon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Under the Sun, Moon and Stars
    Well, there's Matt Ridley.... He got where he is by writing scientific books/novels.... But yeah, he's a scientific journalist. So, no mater how old you are, if you think your up to it, go for it....

    "Be the change you want to see in the world"
    Mahatma Gandhi

    "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace"
    Jimmy Hendrix
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  4. #3 Writing science 
    Forum Freshman Clyde's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    There is a great need to convey information to people about what the world is like. One of the nice things about science is that it is still being discovered, and so you are reporting on a "changing environment", and therefore it is okay if you don't know everything. Just explain what you do know to those who know less than you.

    The top astronomers and cosmologists are putting out models of the universe which will be tossed aside ten or twenty years from now, as more powerful imaging and processing techniques come on line. So the best astronomer in the world is on the verge of being out-of-date.

    Same goes for the biologists, chemists, physicists, etc. Their universe is changing, and they have to run like hell just to keep up.

    Therefore, my counsel is do not despair on how much you don't know, or how old you are or what you were doing before. Just find something you are passionate about, and go for it. Like I said, you can provide utility (and possibly obtain renumeration) if you find somebody who knows less than you, and share what insights you've gained.

    Two more points: one is that this is the information age, unfolding. The capacity you have to gain access to the 'cutting edge' is amazing compared to twenty years ago. Between the internet and the local university and the public library (Interlibrary Loan is a godsend!!!) you can get your hands on just about anything. The only limitation is your capacity to absorb it all, which I believe is directly related to your enthusiasm. Enthusiasm produces consistent effort, and passion breeds discipline.

    The second (and last) point is my own experience. I wasn't into science much as a high schooler, nor college. So we evolved from apes, and before that tree shrews? Big deal. So an electron orbits a nucleus? So what.

    Then, five years ago, I was studying management in the local university (I work in health care) and they brought up this analytical and problem-solving approach called, variously, 'cybernetics', 'complex adaptive systems', and 'chaos theory'. Basically they were trying to figure out how everything in the universe fits together (including human social constructions like corporations). So suddenly chemistry, biology, physics, evolution (change over time), thermodynamics, etc. became salient.

    But I was waaaaaay behind. I started taking math courses in my local college and went forward. Five years later, I am still doing the same job, still have not earned any renumeration for my efforts, etc. But I have so much fun!!! I am still like a kid in a candy store.

    I quite a bit older than you, and may be further from making a "career" out of my new passion than I want to admit. But I feel that some of my ideas have value, and eventually I will figure out how to present them such that they give benefits to others, and (big stretch here) maybe I will at some point get paid.

    But every day I have fun. Every day I discover new things and my universe unfolds and reconfigures itself.

    Anyway, enough beating the drum. My website is called "" if you want to see.

    PM me if you want more encouragement, or specific advice.
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