If the term ‘research scientist’ sounds quite broad, that’s because it is – indeed, research scientists are active in almost every area of science. Nonetheless, whether you are interested in a career in geosciences, meteorology, pharmacology or something different altogether, it’s helpful to know something about what life as a research scientist generally involves.

Working in a lab is more exciting than it sounds

Before we go any further – yes, life as a research scientist very much lives up to the stereotype of being based almost entirely in a laboratory, although of course, that may be music to your ears rather than something to dread!

In any case, the range of employers of research scientists is extremely diverse, encompassing the likes of government laboratories, utilities providers, environmental agencies, pharmaceuticals companies, public funded research councils and specialist research organisations and consultancies.

Much the same can be said of the many responsibilities – as a research scientist, you could find yourself taking on tasks ranging from the planning and conducting of experiments and recording and analysing data, to the carrying out of fieldwork and the presentation of results to senior or other research staff.

What other aspects of the job do you need to know about?

If you are thinking of aiming for a career as a research scientist, it’s helpful to know what personal qualities and professional qualifications will serve you best in your quest. It should go without saying that research and analytical skills are vital, but you will also need to possess excellent communication and presentation skills and an ability to teach.

As for more formal qualifications, as outlined by the National Careers Service, a 2:1 degree in a relevant science subject is usually expected for entry. In practice, you will almost certainly need a relevant postgraduate qualification as well, such as a PhD or research-based MSc, particularly for permanent roles. Experience of working in a research setting could also aid your search for such science jobs.

Your working patterns, hours and environment will depend on the kind of employer for which you are employed as a research scientist. Those working in a university research department can usually expect a 35-hour, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday working week. If you work in industry, however, there may be a greater expectation that you fit in with shift patterns, such as in the evening, at the weekend or on public holidays.

Research scientists can look forward to good progression opportunities

There’s a good level of scope for career advancement as a research scientist. While salaries start at an average of about £14,000 a year, they can go up to as much as £60,000, such as if you progress from a scientist with research councils and institutes to senior research or laboratory management positions.

Research scientists in academic roles who are more experienced and have published original research often rise to the status of senior research fellow or professor, leading their own teams.

There’s a lot to learn about what it’s like to be a research scientist, as well as about how we can help you to effectively compete for science jobs. Get in touch with Hyper Recruitment Solutions today about the work that we do to assist talented graduates and professionals into rewarding science roles, or explore the National Careers Service’s guides to some of the most exciting related jobs in science and research
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