Research Scientist • Job Description, Salary & Benefits

The role of the research scientist is to set up and carry through experiments in order to broaden mankind’s scientific knowledge in a particular area. The range of areas in which research scientists work is huge and varied.

You could work for a number of organisations, including Universities, governments or businesses, but the options available to you would completely depend on your specialisms.

Your day to day work could entail putting together research proposals and making sure you had the funds needed to carry out the work, the actual experiments themselves, and the analysis of the data that was found in the research.

Many research scientists work in teams with a variety of support staff, and they are found in a variety of industries, from pharmaceuticals to marine exploration.

Salary & benefits

If you’re currently studying for a research PhD, you can be awarded around £14,000 per year whilst you study. Postdoctoral research fellows tend to earn between £30,000 and £35,000 a year, whilst lecturers and professors tend to earn salaries around the £60,000 mark.

If you’re working in industry, however, as a research scientist you would be looking at a salary starting around £24,000, but which could rise above £40,000 in time and with career progress.

Working hours

Hours are completely dependent on where you work, but in a University you would be expected to work 9-5 Monday to Friday, whereas within industry you could be expected to work in more of a shift pattern, which might include evenings and weekends.

Depending on your field and specialty, you might also be expected to travel nationally and internationally, for conferences or working in particular locations.


You’re going to have to do Uni for this one, there’s no other way. You’ll need at least a 2.1 in your chosen science subject to begin with, and then you’d be expected to go on towards postgraduate qualifications.

Most employers will expect you to be working towards PhD level, or have already completed it, in order to become a research scientist. It is however, possible to begin working and studying part-time within some parts of the industry.

Training & progression

Whilst your training is mostly done at Uni level, and given the research nature of the job, is often done by yourself, there are people who are there to guide you along.

You’ll need the advice of specialists in your field to keep up to date with the latest developments, and they’ll guide you through the hardest parts of your doctorate.

Your progression will very much depend on whether you choose an industrial or academic route, but there is plenty of room for development within both, whether you decide you want to be a Professor or an industry-leading scientist, and the nature of the job means you will always be in demand.

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