What Is a Research Scientist and How to Become One
Planning to pursue becoming a research scientist? There’s a lot to know about the prestigious profession. With its promising career growth opportunities, someone who’s innately invested in research will find fulfillment in this job. And in this article, we’ll break down the job responsibilities of a research scientist and how you can become one.
What is a Research Scientist?
Research scientists design, undertake and analyze information from laboratory-based experiments, trials, and investigations. They work in various fields, which makes the scope of responsibilities differ from case to case. Some of these fields include medicine, biology, chemistry, pharmacology, environmental science, political science, and computer science.
Research specialists most often work on a specialized topic. Say a research scientist works in the field of biology, they could be specializing in stem cell biology.
Job responsibilities of a research scientist
Here are the primary responsibilities of a research scientist:
- Plan, design, and conduct experiments in investigating and analyzing a specific scientific phenomenon
- Write research papers and reports
- Gather samples and carry out necessary fieldwork activities
- Closely monitor trials and experimentation to record and analyze data
- Present results to seniors or other members of the research team
- Demonstrate procedures
- Ensure quality standards are met
- Oversee junior staff members
- Keep abreast with the latest technology, innovations, and new development in scientific research
Types of research scientists
Here are some of the particular fields that need the help of research scientists:
- Plant sciences
- Stem cell research
With these fields, you can almost guess which sectors hire them. Typically, these are the employers of research scientists:
- Government laboratories
- Environmental agencies
- Utility providers
- Research organizations
- Public funded research institutes
- Food companies
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Chemical producers
- Consumer product companies
How to become a research scientist
To qualify as a research assistant, you’ll need to meet its educational requirements and the necessary background.
1. Complete a bachelor’s degree.
A bachelor’s degree is the first educational requirement for a research scientist. Any degree that’s relevant to the field you want to specialize in is good enough. If you are still undecided, the general degree that can help you get the fundamentals right is a degree in clinical research.
If your specialty is medicine, biology, or chemistry, the best bachelor’s degree for you are pre-med programs like biochemistry, pharmacology, biology, and more. On the other hand, if you want to pursue computer and information research, any IT-related program is a good option.
2. Obtain a master’s degree.
Research scientists typically have a master’s degree to specialize in their chosen field of expertise. A master’s degree typically lasts for two to three years. The program includes the essential coursework for the specialty selected.
Some schools combine the bachelor’s and master’s degrees to allow students to start with graduate coursework almost immediately after completing a bachelor’s degree. But if your university doesn’t offer this, you will have to pass the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) first before you can apply for a master’s degree.
It is essential to obtain your master’s degree as this will teach you advanced research topics and help you hone important skills. Some of these include teaching skills, writing skills, and public speaking.
3. Acquire experience
A research scientist position is an advanced role, so you may need substantial experience to qualify. Also, having at least two years of related experience allows you to pursue a Ph.D. program. When you have experience, you have an edge in proving your knowledge and skills when applying for a research scientist position.
4. Get certifications
Certifications in your specialty always give you the advantage to demonstrate your level of expertise. These come in handy when you want to impress potential employers during the job application process. You may pursue these certifications from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP). Some of these standard certifications include:
- Certified Clinical Research Associate
- Certified Principal Investigator
- ACRP Certified Professional designations
4. Consider getting a doctorate degree
A doctorate degree isn’t a strict requirement in becoming a research scientist. But if you desire to be a lead research scientist in the future, a doctorate degree will be advantageous to you. It usually takes about four to five years to complete a degree in your chosen field. If you are genuinely invested in gearing up your credentials for more advanced research scientist opportunities, give a doctorate degree a go.
Necessary skills of a research scientist
To know how you can become a thriving research scientist, here is a list of the essential skills you need in being a research scientist:
The work environment of a research scientist requires good communication skills as you are bound to work with other research staff. You need stellar written skills for writing your research and good verbal communication when presenting your research and working with coworkers.
Keen attention to detail
Research requires the utmost attention to detail. This is because any small error might cause a significant impact on the results of the experimentation. This can result in the inaccuracy of the research conclusion. Thus, you need to be observant and have an eye, even for minor details.
Research requires a great deal of data analysis. Data analysis is necessary when conducting the experiments and research, gathering data, and analyzing the results.
Critical thinking skills
Critical thinking skills always come hand in hand with data analysis. This skill is helpful when solving problems in the research. It also helps research scientists to think of the best approach to research and curate the best possible questions when interviewing subjects.
Ability to work independently
Often, you’ll initiate and conduct research on your own. This means that you need to be independent. While you’ll also be collaborating with others, it’s essential to know how to work on your own since most of the time, you’ll conduct research alone and even publish it alone.
Research is a tedious process. It includes several phases that you need to go through in arriving at a conclusion. You can’t afford to lose patience over time as sometimes timelines are unpredictable.