what is a research associate?

As a research associate, your job involves planning and conducting research projects or providing consultancy services to research teams during planning and execution. A research associate can be directly involved with research or focus on planning and organising research projects in various fields. For instance, your job could include writing proposals to win grants and research funding or contributing new research findings to studies led by other people.

A research associate aims to stay abreast of new research methodologies and provide novel insights on various research projects. After completing your PhD, that means you can expand your knowledge in your specialism or explore other areas of expertise. As a research associate, you will be likely to work in academic settings. Some research associates also work in the banking and investment industries. Your job in financial institutions is to investigate the performance of investments and advise organisations on strategies to avoid losses.

what do research associates do?

Research associates can employ theoretical research methods or conduct experiments. Theoretical researchers focus on concepts and use data analysis to test hypotheses, while experimental research associates perform experiments to determine the implications of the results.

Would working as a research associate suit your analytical skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a research associate role.

research associate jobs

research associate salary

According to ONS, the median salary of a research associate is £35,931 per year or £18.43 per hour. Entry-level research associates earn from £30,925 per year, and the amount increases as they gain experience and skills in the field. Experienced research associates earn up to £45,437 annually. Aside from your basic salary, you also receive various benefits. For instance, a full-time research associate is often given a medical and transport allowance. Some employers also provide pension benefits and paid holidays.

what factors affect a research associate's salary?

Your compensation package as a research associate depends on the employer and the project. You may earn less working in academic institutions than private research institutions or the finance industry. The project's funding and complexity also influence the compensation package. Some research fields require expert knowledge, which means your salary matches your specialised skills and experience. If the research project has minimal funding, you will earn less than major projects with huge funding.

Male and female talking at a table
Male and female talking at a table

types of research associates

Every scientific field has a research associate working alongside other scientists. Some common types of research associate include:

  • astronomer research associate: your job involves monitoring planetary movements by studying the stars, galaxies and planets. You track celestial and non-celestial objects in outer space and draw meaningful conclusions.
  • botanist research associate: as a research associate working in botany, you study plants and their environments. You discover new ways to use plants, such as creating products. You also conduct research to explain plants' structure, growth and evolution.
  • geologist research associate: your job is to study the states of matter constituting the earth. You also participate in studies that unveil how various earth processes and materials impacts human existence.
  • clinical research associate: your role is to conduct clinical trials for new drugs or treatment methods to assess their effectiveness. You also record the risks and side effects of the drugs and present your findings to the relevant stakeholders.

working as a research associate

As a research associate, your role involves planning and executing research projects and consulting with various stakeholders. Let's explore some of the duties and job expectations in the role.


education and skills

Research associates need the following qualifications:

  • university degree: as a research associate, you should first complete an undergraduate degree in your field of interest. For instance, if you want to pursue clinical research, a degree in epidemiology, environmental health sciences, or biostatistics is a great start. Other science courses are also relevant to research associate roles.
  • Master's and PhD: research associate roles require expert knowledge in a particular field. Therefore, you also need postgraduate qualifications like a Master's or a PhD in your preferred field of study. Postgraduate qualifications improve your research skills and expertise.
  • training and experience: as a research associate, you need on-the-job training and experience before conducting independent projects. Training will involve learning how to organise research data and operate laboratory equipment. Previous experience in a related field improves your job prospects. For instance, if you have worked as a medical assistant in the past, your experience is useful in clinical research.

skills and competencies

A research associate should have the following qualities:

  • communication skills: as a research associate, you need exceptional verbal and written communication skills. You have to communicate with your team members clearly and present your research findings to stakeholders and potential investors. Written communication skills are essential in proposal writing.
  • time management: as a research associate, you need to complete a project within the stipulated time frame. Since you have to juggle multiple tasks daily, you need time management skills to accomplish your duties on time.
  • problem-solving skills: research associates face multiple challenges during the research process. For instance, a study method may not produce the expected results, and you will find alternative methods to complete a project. Problem-solving skills help you find creative solutions to issues arising as part of the research process.
  • critical thinking skills: your role involves analysing information and making informed decisions. Critical thinking skills are useful when deciding on the research methods and the data to collect. These skills also help you choose the best course of action in different scenarios.
  • attention to detail: as a research associate, attention to detail is essential for accuracy. Being detail-oriented helps you produce accurate findings during research and analysis.
smiling female beside a bookshelf
smiling female beside a bookshelf


FAQs about working as a research associate

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