Taking a short course and tailoring your CV could really help you to break into a new field, says Caroline Tolond

Taking a short course and tailoring your CV could really help you to break into a new field, says Caroline Tolond

Q: I’ve got some experience within the toxicology field but no qualifications backing it up. Are there any courses - mainly distance learning, if possible - that I could take to prove my expertise? Also, are there any companies in my area that are involved in toxicology?


Caroline Tolond is the RSC’s careers adviser

A:  Part of the solution could be to tailor your CV more towards the toxicology sector, as it’s currently a mix of specialist areas. By giving specific examples of your experience in toxicology - which could include on-the-job activities, workshops you might have given, and conferences that you have attended - it should help to increase a recruiter’s focus on this aspect of your work.  

However, it is also worth considering courses that could strengthen the toxicology experience on your CV. You can search for UK-based postgraduate courses in toxicology on www.prospects.ac.uk. My own search brought up an MSc in Applied Toxicology at Surrey University, which is a modular course designed for those in full time employment. It provides a mix of home study and short residential courses, so could fit around your current employment. There is also a short, four-day course covering toxicology, exposure and health at Cranfield University which might also bolster your CV. 

It’s also worth finding out more about specialist toxicology professional bodies, as they’re likely to offer training and conferences which would provide more short term methods of developing your knowledge. These also double as good networking opportunities, which could help you to identify possible organisations to move to if you are considering changing jobs. The British Toxicology Society could help; so too could Eurotox in Europe, and the American Board of Toxicology. There are others, and if you are looking to move to a specific country then it’s worth searching for their own networks.  

Networking also becomes increasingly important as your role becomes more senior or specialist. Many jobs at this level are not advertised and positions are filled by companies using recruitment agencies, head-hunters or simply contacting people that they already know. Therefore building up your own list of contacts could be crucial in finding your next post.  

Most professional bodies will also list job vacancies. Looking at job specifications and the selection criteria should give you a global perspective on what training and experience would be required if you are considering 

If you have more advice you’d like to share about this month’s question - or have your own career conundrum for Caroline - please write to ChemistryWorld Jobs.


  • Try to be specific about what you want to gain from a course, whether updating knowledge you already have or re-training in a totally new area.  
  • Look for job adverts that describe the type of role you want to move to and see what experience and qualifications they are looking for. This should guide your choices to make sure you get the maximum return for your career from the course.  
  • Does the structure and content of the course meet your needs, and where do people graduating from the course go? If it’s a short course, who has previously attended? If you’re planning to take a vocational course, find out if there are opportunities for placements with employers or speakers from the sector contributing to the course. 
  • If you want to pick up skills or knowledge relating to your current role within a year then a short course might be suitable, such as those offered by the RSC’s ’Training for Industry’ or ’4 Chemists’ courses. However, if you are planning a career change in a few years time, you could take a part-time course and see if it is right for you before committing to that path.  
  • If you are embarking on a course to enhance your career prospects, consider how much the course or training will cost - including loss of any earnings, courses fees and living expenses - and what benefits you think it will bring. Be realistic about how much the course will add value to your CV compared to ’on the job’ experience.