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Research scientist

Research scientists plan, lead and carry out experiments and investigations in a wide range of industries.

Annual Salary

£15,285 to £40,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(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 3% more Research scientist jobs in 2026.
In your local area

Day to day tasks

The nature of your work will depend on your specialism, but you could:

  • draw up research proposals and apply for funding
  • plan and carry out experiments
  • keep accurate records of results
  • analyse results and data
  • present findings in scientific journals, books or at conferences
  • carry out fieldwork (collecting samples and monitoring environmental factors)
  • develop new products or ways of applying new discoveries
  • improve manufacturing production methods
  • test products or materials
  • 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'll need a good honours degree, usually first class or upper second, in a science subject related to your area of interest. Most research scientists then go on to study for a postgraduate qualification like a PhD.

Integrated postgraduate master's qualifications, like an MSci, MBiol, MPhys and MChem, can also be studied at university. These courses combine independent research and are designed to lead directly onto further study at PhD level.

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 30 months to complete.

It may give you some of the requirements you need to become a chartered scientist in your scientific field.

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 and study part-time for a PhD.

UK Research and Innovation and industrial companies sometimes work together to offer Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering studentships. This would give you the opportunity to do a PhD while getting practical research experience in industry.

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 industrial 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 and institutes or in industry, 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, leading your own team.

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

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

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

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