Research scientists plan and carry out experiments and investigations to broaden scientific knowledge.
Salary range: £15,000 to £60,000
How to become a research scientist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- working towards this role
You’ll need a good honours degree, usually first class or upper second, in a science subject related to your area of interest. Most research scientists then go on to study for a postgraduate qualification like a PhD.
Integrated postgraduate master’s qualifications, like an MSci, MBiol, MPhys and MChem, can also be studied at university. These courses combine independent research and are designed to lead directly onto further study at PhD level.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
It may be possible to start as a research assistant or graduate industrial scientist and study part-time for a PhD.
UK Research and Innovation and industrial companies sometimes work together to offer Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering studentships. This would give you the opportunity to do a PhD while getting practical research experience in industry.
It may improve your chances of finding work if you’ve got work experience in a research department or your degree included a placement in a research environment.
As a graduate you could look for postgraduate training opportunities offered through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP). In a KTP you would get the opportunity to run a research project together with an industrial organisation and a university or research body.
You can find out more about a career in scientific research through the Science Council.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- science skills
- thinking and reasoning skills
- excellent verbal communication skills
- the ability to use your initiative
- excellent written communication skills
- analytical thinking skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- the ability to read English
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
What you’ll do
The nature of your work will depend on your specialism, but may include:
- drawing up research proposals and applying for funding
- planning and carrying out experiments
- keeping accurate records of results
- analysing results and data
- presenting findings in scientific journals, books or at conferences
- carrying out fieldwork (collecting samples and monitoring environmental factors)
- developing new products or ways of applying new discoveries
- improving manufacturing production methods
- testing products or materials
- teaching or lecturing
You could work in a laboratory or at a university.
Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
Career path and progression
As a scientist with research councils and institutes or in industry, you could progress to a senior research or laboratory management position.
In an academic post, once you’ve gained experience and published original research, you could progress to senior research fellow or professor, leading your own team.
You could demonstrate your commitment to professional development and work towards professional recognition like Chartered Scientist status.