You'll usually need at least a 2:1 degree in a relevant science subject. Most research scientists also have a postgraduate qualification like an MSc, an MSci or MBiol. Many employers prefer you to have, or be working towards, a PhD.
Experience of working in a research environment could also help you find employment.
- research and analytical skills
- excellent communication and presentation skills
- teaching ability
As a research scientist you may work in industry research and development (R&D) for a university research department, in government labs or for private companies.
You'll work in one of the subject areas covered by scientific research, including:
- life sciences (physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, plant sciences)
- Earth sciences (geology, meteorology, oceanography)
- industrial science, like food and petrochemicals
The nature of your work will depend on your specialism, but may include:
- drawing up research proposals and applying for funding
- planning and carrying out experiments
- keeping accurate records of results
- analysing results and data
- presenting findings in scientific journals, books or at conferences
- carrying out fieldwork (collecting samples and monitoring environmental factors)
- developing new products or ways of applying new discoveries
- improving farming or food production methods
- testing products or materials
- teaching or lecturing
You'll usually work in a team with other scientists, technicians and support staff.
Working Hours, Patterns and Environment
In a university research department you'll normally work 35 hours a week, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. In industry you may need to fit in with shift patterns. This could include working in the evening, at the weekend or on public holidays.
You may be based in a laboratory or an industrial plant, with outdoor work collecting samples or doing fieldwork.
You may work with hazardous or toxic materials, or with animals and animal-based products. You would need to know health and safety regulations and may wear protective clothing and equipment.
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.