what is a researcher?

As a researcher, you will work for businesses or academic institutions to improve their decision-making process or enrich scholarly literature. If you work in a marketing company, your job is to collect information throughout the project life cycle. 

Gathering data is only the beginning since you have to analyse the information and report the findings to relevant decision-makers. In scientific research, your work may include field surveys and laboratory work to test your findings. 

Researchers pursue their preferred field of study using specialised skills to learn new things and solve problems. For example, scientific researchers assist in developing medical products through scientific experiments, while television researchers help entertainers determine favourite shows. 

As a researcher, your skills, expertise, and specialism can boost your career prospects.

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

researcher roles

average salary of a researcher

Becoming a researcher provides unlimited opportunities for growing your career and earnings. According to ONS, the average researcher salary is £44,691 per year in the UK, with entry-level positions earning as low as £32,280 annually.

As you gain more experience and prowess in data collection and analysis, your benefits will increase. Senior-level researchers earn an average salary of £54,968, and the benefits can include unlimited research budgets, transport allowances and healthcare benefits.

what factors affect the salary of a researcher?

Your salary as a researcher depends on your responsibilities and level of experience. Your salary will reflect the workload if your job entails securing funding, administrative duties and supervisory roles. Sometimes, researchers in academic institutions also take up teaching positions. 

Aside from your responsibilities, the employer type also determines your benefits package. For example, private companies pay more than public institutions, and research institutions with unlimited grants for projects also provide better benefits and salaries. 

Your specialism and skillset also determine your salary; for instance, experts in statistical models are likely to earn more due to the mastery of the craft.



types of researchers

If you want to be a successful researcher, explore jobs in various specialisms, including the following:

  • academic researcher: when you are an academic researcher, your job is to conduct high-level research in educational institutions. Most of your work is published in peer-reviewed journals or books in your field of study. You are likely to teach university students, supervise students' projects and speak in conferences concerning your research papers.
  • social researcher: as a social researcher, you will use data to examine behaviours, experiences and gauge opinions of specific focus groups. Your findings influence policy or evaluate the effectiveness of particular decisions within a company or government institution.
  • scientific researcher: if you enjoy conducting experiments and testing hypotheses, scientific research can be an exciting career. You will study the relationship between living things and the environment or develop new production processes or products.
  • medical researcher: if you are passionate about medicine and developing treatments for terminal illnesses, you should become a medical researcher. Your job will entail researching medical diagnosis, developing drugs and testing the effectiveness of treatment plans.


working as a researcher

Are you wondering how a day in the life of a researcher looks? Let's explore the daily tasks, responsibilities and work schedule of a researcher.

Female working on laptop on a table at home
Female working on laptop on a table at home

education and skills

Having an inquisitive mind is not enough to land you a job as a researcher; you need educational qualifications and certifications including:

  • bachelor's degree: as an aspiring researcher, you should pursue a degree course relevant to the field of study you are interested in undertaking. If you want to focus on scientific research, a degree in biochemistry, pharmacology, and chemistry is a great start. If you are interested in social research, a degree in sociology, economics and psychology will be useful. A degree in any subject can get you started, but you need knowledge in a specific field of study to branch out into different specialisms.
  • master's and PhD: a bachelor's degree will get you an entry-level position in research, and to progress to senior roles, you need a master's or doctorate. A master's degree equips you with knowledge in data analysis and writing research papers or proposals for grants. To become the lead researcher in your field, you need a doctorate that often involves completing an original research project.
  • apprenticeship: some research specialisms provide apprentice opportunities for aspiring researchers. For instance, research scientists can start with a level 7 degree apprenticeship, which takes 30 months. The apprenticeship equips you with the entry requirements to become a chartered research scientist.

skills and competencies

Aside from educational qualifications, you need a number of technical skills and soft skills to help you excel in your career as a researcher. Some of these skills include:

  • data analysis: as a researcher, you need analytical skills to help you utilise the tools available for data analysis. That means you should be proficient in data analysis using excel or other data visualisation techniques to aid interpretation and decision-making.
  • critical thinking: in research, your job involves solving specific problems. Therefore, it is important to have critical thinking abilities to help you identify the best research methods to gather relevant data. Your problem-solving ability also enables you to recommend solutions to clients from your findings and research conclusions.
  • communication skills: you need strong communications skills to write research papers and articulate your observations to other researchers or clients. Exceptional communication skills will help you secure funding and gain recognition from journals.
  • project management skills: every research project requires high-quality planning for efficient management of resources and achievement of milestones. If you have project management skills, you can organise your resources and achieve your objectives within the stipulated budget.
  • accounting and budgeting skills: if you are a senior researcher or manage your project, you need to keep track of cash flow. Budgeting skills help you match your research goals to the funding, and accounting skills are crucial in keeping accurate records of the transactions through the project.



FAQs about working as a researcher.

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