- Plan and carry out experiments and investigations
- Use research and analytical skills & excellent communication skills
- You could progress to a senior research or laboratory management position
As a research scientist you may work in industry research and development (R&D) for a university research department, in government labs or for defence companies. You'll work in one of the subject areas covered by scientific research, including: life sciences (physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, plant sciences), Earth sciences (geology, meteorology, oceanography), medical research, physical sciences (chemistry, physics, mathematics, materials science, geoscience), industrial science, like food and petrochemicals, or research and development in the textiles industry.
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'll usually work in a team with other scientists, technicians and support staff.
In a university research department you'll normally work 35 hours a week, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. In industry you may need to fit in with shift patterns. This could include working in the evening, at the weekend or on public holidays. You may be based in a laboratory or an industrial plant, with outdoor work collecting samples or doing fieldwork. You may work with hazardous or toxic materials, or with animals and animal-based products. You would need to know health and safety regulations and may wear protective clothing and equipment.
This role would be ideal for someone with research and analytical skills, excellent communication and presentation skills, and teaching ability.
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.
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.
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.