Careers in Research
Research careers can take you down many paths including medicine, biology, and chemistry as well as politics and computers. Your career in research is practically unlimited with the right education.
If you have a thirst for knowledge, an inquiring mind and the skill to seek answers, then a research career may be for you. Research professionals are on the cutting edge of scientific and technological developments, and their work leads to new medicines, consumer products, industrial processes and numerous other developments. Research careers span virtually all areas of life, from business and economics to computer science and biotechnology.
Research activities comprise three broad categories: basic research, applied research and development. Basic and applied research and development careers exist across a broad spectrum of disciplines, including the physical and life sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics), engineering sciences (e.g., aerospace, computer science, automotive engineering), and education and the social sciences (economics, sociology, psychology, political science).
Most of the technologies and goods that consumers use every day, such as prescription drugs, cosmetics, contact lenses, digital cameras and laptop computers, among others, came into being as the result of research and development activities.
Research jobs in physical and life sciences include biological and medical scientists, who conduct research to develop new drugs and medical treatments. It also includes chemists, physicists and other materials scientists, who work in a broad range of settings to develop new products; and science technicians. The latter are responsible for maintaining lab equipment, monitoring experiments and interpreting data.
Researchers in business, education and social sciences include market researchers, education researchers, psychologists, economists, anthropologists and sociologists. Research careers in engineering and computer technology include engineers, engineering technicians, computer scientists and programmers.
Many researchers in the physical and life scientists work for pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies, while others work in universities or government-funded research laboratories. Many university researchers may also work as professors in their academic discipline. Researchers working in applied research and development often work for a specific company's research and development division, conducting research for new products and conducting development activities for existing ones.
Extensive education is often required for a career in research. A beginning research professional will need at least a bachelor's degree in an applicable field and often higher. Many beginning research positions require a doctoral degree, especially research jobs in universities or in the biological and medical sciences. In addition, research professionals must continually update their knowledge so as to remain on the cutting edge of developments in their field.
Research is a continually evolving field, as new technologies and other advances constantly open new research avenues and opportunities. Research professionals also must compete for research funding.
Compensation for research professionals is often rewarding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for researchers is much higher than average salaries across most jobs and industries. Earnings vary by occupation and industry, but the BLS found that the average weekly earnings for researchers in physical, life and engineering sciences was about $1,175 in 2006, while the average for social science researchers was about $818.