Like it or not, each of us has only 168 hours a week to spend in whatever way we see fit, and most of us apply at least one-fourth of those hours—about half of our waking hours—engaged in some type of gainful employment.
The selection of a doctoral program: it's not quite marriage, but it's a long-term commitment that could turn into a lifetime relationship, perhaps impacting—positively or negatively—the rest of your research career.
Collectively, the US government is the largest single employer in America, filling approximately 1.6 million full-time, permanent positions; however, in reality, the US government consists of several hundred smaller employers, each of which has its own individual function and culture. As a result, the opportunities offered by government jobs are wide ranging, and the needs are diverse.
In the idealized career path, a scientist goes straight from earning an undergraduate degree to graduate school, and then on to a postdoc and eventual employment, without breaks between positions. For various reasons, however, not all scientists' career paths are nearly so linear.
The number of women embarking on science careers has been increasing steadily during the past several decades. Although women scientists continue to be underrepresented at the faculty level, many women have established rewarding and successful careers in science—thanks in part to having had role models and mentors whose paths they could follow.