How Do I Become a Research Scientist?

K. Kinsella

Research scientists are tasked with investigating existing entities and processes as well as engineering new types of compounds, vaccines and other substances. Anyone wishing to become a research scientist must successfully graduate from high school and complete a college degree. Many researchers spend some time working as laboratory assistants before moving into full-time researcher roles.

Research scientists have usually worked as lab assistants while in college.
Research scientists have usually worked as lab assistants while in college.

Pharmaceutical companies, universities, non-profit groups and government agencies employ large number of college graduates as research scientists. Typically, someone wishing to become a research scientist must complete a science degree and many employers prefer researchers to have completed advanced degrees. Generally, the researcher's degree should be somehow related to the research role which means that someone involved in developing chemical compounds should have a chemistry degree, while someone involved in studying animal cells may need to have completed a biology degree. In most instances, a researcher's postgraduate degree relates directly to their research, since postgraduate degree programs are normally focused on a very specific topic.

At many colleges, research scientists are responsible for teaching or tutoring undergraduate students.
At many colleges, research scientists are responsible for teaching or tutoring undergraduate students.

At many colleges, researchers are responsible for teaching or tutoring undergraduate students. Consequently, someone wishing to become a research scientist may benefit from enrolling in classes that are taught by faculty members engaged in current research. In such classes, the students are often tasked with preparing reports or conducting tests that provide the data that can be used by the researcher. Some colleges pay stipends to postgraduate students to assist researchers while other colleges offer discounted tuition or free accommodation to students who take on laboratory assistant roles.

While research at colleges often involves students, non-profit entities and commercial enterprises normally have to hire laboratory assistants to work alongside researchers. These individuals normally need to have completed a science degree that relates to the research they are undertaking. In some instances, these individuals are promoted into research scientist roles and are eventually assigned their own projects. Pharmaceutical firms and other companies engaged in research normally recruit new scientists on college campuses and competition for such roles is often intense. Therefore, someone wishing to become a research scientist employed by one of these entities should have above average grades.

Like many employers, some research companies offer internships to college students. Typically, interns are not paid but they do gain valuable experience while working alongside established scientists. Some internships lead to offers of permanent employment, while in other instances former interns obtain references from the researchers they worked with; these references enable these individuals to more easily land work as scientific researchers once they have graduated from college.

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