Jobs for Astronomers

Navigating the waters of EU bureaucracy

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This article is relevant only for natives of EU member states! Apologies to all non-EU JfA members.

Recently a JfA member, Matteo, brought to my attention the whole span of jobs that are offered by European Union institutions. First of all, let me say that although I have included some useful (or not? You will be the judge of that!) links in the JfA website, to really get acquainted with the way EU institutions work and are interrelated is, to say the least, a challenge. If you have ever tried to apply for a Marie Curie Fellowship, you have an idea what I mean. Even websites seem to be convoluted, the jargon is confusing, more often than not using big words and long sentences to let you know something as simple as "this is a managerial job".

So if you want to work for the EU, my first piece of advice is: don't get spooked by strange lingo. You'll get used to it.

There seem to be many job openings with the EU at all times. Job types span from traineeships in various fields, which open up opportunities for the youngest among us, to permanent official jobs at the European Commission, for which anyone with a university degree can apply. The main gateway to permanent jobs within the EU is the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). If you clicked on the first of the links I provided above, you might have seen that the permanent official jobs at the EU include various degrees of expertise and pay, and they are assigned after competitions - which, as Matteo informs me, are very, well, competitive, since those administrator jobs are very sought after. For example, look at the page for the 2013 Administrators competitions. (Unfortunately, in 2013 there will be no generalist Adminisrator competition for the two entry-level grades, i.e. AD5, recent graduates and AD7, graduates with some working experience. This is related to a legal dispute regarding the Administrator 2010 competition. Therefore this year's EPSO generalist AD competition is not very appealing for scientists, since the other AD sectors typically require a specific degree (law, economics, IT etc). Further information will be published during March.)

Another institution that might seem attractive to scientists is the European Research Council, the main body which funds European research projects. This means that if you work for the ERC you don't work in research, however being close to the selection processes or dealing with the managerial side of european research projects might be attractive to a scientist. You'll find their vacancies here.

An area that looks interesting is the one of (scientific) translation. It seems that there are many competitions for translator jobs in the EU (here are the search results at EPSO). Although I assume that these positions are manned mostly by professional translators, the multiplicity of languages in the EU might make you a viable candidate, if you are a native speaker of a rare language. In any case, scientific translation is a surer bet, and I have added this field to the "Careers" section of the JfA website (please feel free to forward me more information on this field if you are a scientific translator!). An advantage is that as a scientific translator you can work as a freelancer, therefore managing your own time, something that for many of us looks indeed very attractive.

Finally, for completeness I would like to mention the possibility of working as an independent expert for the European Commission. This is not a permanent job, but is rather based on assignments such as the evaluation of Marie Curie proposals and the monitoring and reviewing of research projects. From my experience, independent experts are almost always people who hold permanent academic posts, so this is probably not a career opportunity for someone wanting to leave academia early on. However, if you are an expert in your field and you are flexible in that you can be away from home for short periods of time, you can register with the CORDIS system and make yourself available for assignments of this kind.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to forward me any information that you think is relevant to the JfA cause!