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Research scientist

Alternative titles for this job include

Research scientists plan and lead experiments and investigations on a range of scientific topics.

Average salary (a year)

£27,000 Starter

to

£48,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

39 to 41 a week

You could work

evenings / weekends / bank holidays on shifts

Meet Jaz

Jaz is a research scientist at the Natural History Museum.

A person wearing a white lab coat stood in a laboratory setting.
BBC Bitesize logo

Their research involves studying cells and DNA, and has even included a trip to the Arctic.

Watch Jaz’s story on BBC Bitesize Careers

How to become

Explore the different ways to get into this role.

How to become a research scientist

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

University

You usually need a first or 2:1 (upper second class) degree in a science subject to become a research scientist. Most research scientists continue to study for a postgraduate qualification like a PhD.

You could study on an integrated postgraduate master's course. These courses include independent research and are designed to lead directly on to a PhD.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including a science, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More Information

Apprenticeship

You could apply to do a Research Scientist Level 7 Apprenticeship, which is equivalent to postgraduate study.

You could also join a degree apprenticeship if you want to work in a particular field of scientific research. 

Apprenticeships include:

  • Biomedical Scientist Level 6
  • Nuclear Scientist Level 6
  • Materials Science Technologist Level 6
  • Clinical Scientist Level 7

These apprenticeships can take around 3 years to complete.

Entry requirements

To get onto an apprenticeship, you'll find it useful to have:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship

More Information

Work

It may be possible to start as a research assistant or graduate industrial scientist. You would usually need to study part time for a PhD while you work.

UK Research and Innovation and industrial companies sometimes offer studentships. This would give you the opportunity to do a PhD while getting practical research experience.

More Information

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, 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 organisation and a university or research body.

Further information

You can get advice about research careers from the Science Council and professional bodies for particular scientific fields, such as:

What it takes

Find out what skills you’ll use in this role.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • science skills
  • maths knowledge
  • complex problem-solving skills
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • excellent written communication skills
  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently

What you’ll do

Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

As a research scientist you could:

  • write research proposals and apply for funding
  • plan, design and do experiments
  • record and analyse results
  • present findings in journals and at conferences
  • develop new products and ways to apply new discoveries
  • teach and supervise students' research projects

Possible green job

This job could help the environment.

For a research scientist to be a green job, you could:

  • carry out research which supports the environment like turning waste products into fuel
  • work with reusable or recyclable equipment
  • use materials from local suppliers to reduce emissions from shipping

Find out more about green careers

Working 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 and progression

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.

Career path and progression

As a scientist with a research council or organisation, you could move into 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 and lead your own research team.

You could open up further opportunities for career development by gaining Chartered Scientist status.

You can get more details about career development options through Vitae.

Current opportunities

Find apprenticeships, courses and jobs available near you.

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Applied Materials Science Degree Apprentice

  • Wage: £22,000.00 Annually
  • Location: Lymington

Degree Apprenticeship - Nuclear Engineer - Electrical Control & Instrumentation

  • Wage: £19,500.00 Annually
  • Location: Birchwood Park, Birchwood, Warrington

Courses In England

Access to HE: Science

  • Provider: SUFFOLK NEW COLLEGE
  • Start date: 09 September 2024
  • Location: Ipswich

Access to HE: Science

  • Provider: ACTIVATE LEARNING
  • Start date: 11 September 2024
  • Location: Guildford

Jobs In the United Kingdom

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