Research Scientist

Job Description:

Research scientists plan, lead and carry out experiments and investigations in a wide range of industries.

Job Category:
Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences

What you will do:

The nature of your work will depend on your specialism, but you could:

  • draw up research proposals and apply for funding
  • plan and carry out experiments
  • keep accurate records of results
  • analyse results and data
  • present findings in scientific journals, books or at conferences
  • carry out fieldwork (collecting samples and monitoring environmental factors)
  • develop new products or ways of applying new discoveries
  • improve manufacturing production methods
  • test products or materials
  • teach and supervise student research projects


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of biology
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to use your initiative (drive)
  • analytical thinking skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • organisational skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Research Scientist, you’ll typically need a strong educational background in the sciences. Here’s a list of subjects that can be beneficial:

  1. Mathematics: A strong foundation in mathematics is essential for research in various scientific disciplines. This includes algebra, geometry, calculus, and statistics.
  2. Sciences: Subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics are fundamental for a research scientist. These subjects provide the knowledge and skills needed to understand scientific principles and conduct experiments.
  3. English: Good communication skills, including written and verbal communication, are crucial for documenting research findings, writing research papers, and presenting your work.
  4. Computer Science or IT: Many research projects involve data analysis and modeling, which require proficiency in using software and programming languages. Basic IT skills are essential for data management and analysis.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • 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 could do a research scientist degree apprenticeship (level 7 in the UK).

This apprenticeship typically takes 30 months to complete.

It may give you some of the requirements you need to become a chartered scientist in your scientific field.

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.

Career tips
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 in the UK, 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.

Working Hours and Environment:

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 & 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.