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Research scientist

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

Annual Salary

£17,688 to £43,000

Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

39 to 41 a week

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; on shifts

Future employment

There will be 2.4% more Research scientist jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

What you do will depend on the area of science you specialise in.

You could:

  • create research proposals and apply for funding
  • plan and carry out experiments
  • record and analyse results
  • present findings in journals, books or at conferences
  • develop new products or ways of applying new discoveries
  • teach and supervise student research projects

Working environment

You may need to wear protective clothing.

You could work in a laboratory or at a university.

Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time.

You can get into this job through:

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

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

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information

You could do a level 7 research scientist degree apprenticeship.

This apprenticeship typically takes 2 years and 6 months to complete.

It may give you some of the skills you need to become a research scientist.

Entry requirements

Employers will set their own entry requirements.

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

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

UK Research and Innovation and other 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 find out more about a career in scientific research through the Science Council.

You can learn more about careers as a researcher and find useful resources at Vitae.

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As a scientist with research councils or organisations, you could progress to 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. This involves leading your own team.

You could demonstrate your commitment to professional development and work towards professional recognition like Chartered Scientist.

You can find out more about a career in scientific research through the Science Council.

Research Scientists might work with the space sector to develop new sensors and technology that enhance the quality of the earth observation imaging and data that is generated from satellites.  They also work to develop new fuels and materials that will decrease the impact of rocket launch on the environment. 

Examples of post-16 courses you could study at a local school or college

A-level Geography, Computing or Environmental Science

Find a local provider

Examples of post-18 courses you could study at a local provider in the South West

BSc (Hons) Environmental Geoscience at Plymouth University

BSc (Hons) Biology at University of Bath

Search for a degree course

Apprenticeships you may be able to take with local employers

Level 7 research scientist degree apprenticeship.

Search for apprenticeship vacancies

Employers in the South West 

  • Thales Alenia Space
  • Universities of Bristol, Bath and West of England (UWE)
  • Rolls Royce
  • GKN

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of biology
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • the ability to read English
  • analytical thinking skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • knowledge of English language
  • maths knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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