What is a research assistant?

Research assistants provide support to professionals who are conducting experiments or gathering and analyzing information and data. The role of a research assistant is to keep the project on track by helping to collect and analyze data, prepare reports and materials, help to write and edit papers.

How to become a research assistant?

To become a Researcher, you will need to have completed a related degree ideally in the field of research you’d like to enter e.g. social sciences, business and economics, or science. Although many research assistant posts require a good undergraduate degree in a subject relevant to the subject to be studied, it would normally be expected that your degree incorporated modules on theoretical and practical aspects of research, including a dissertation based on some original research you conducted. 

Employers are usually looking for a particular set of skills gained doing similar sorts of research, for example using certain statistical methods. Prior work experience isn’t always needed to be a research assistant, but for scientific research, prior experience working in a laboratory, even during school, is often required.

Research assistant duties

Research assistant duties are diverse and depend on the employer and specialty, but some responsibilities are common to most:

  • Collect and analyze data
  • Prepares figures and diagrams for presentations and publications
  • Prepare materials for submission to granting agencies and foundations
  • Generates hypotheses and designs and performs experiments to test them
  • Review print and online resources to gather information
  • Travel to field sites to collect and record data and/or samples as appropriate to the specific objectives of the study
  • Based on results, independently suggests and tests modifications to protocols
  • Prepare interview questions

Research assistant skills

To be an effective research assistant, you’ll need certain skills and competencies. The following are often cited in job vacancies:

  • Proven ability to manage large and complex databases and develop summary analysis, including summary tables and charts
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills including a knowledge of statistical applications and techniques
  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Sound organizational and data management skills, and ability to handle several responsibilities and work under tight time constraints
  • Ability to maintain quality, safety and/or infection control standards

How to find a research assistant job

These jobs are advertised online, in local newspapers and at your local jobcentre. To find all the research assistant jobs near you, you need to:

  • Search for research assistant jobs on popular job websites such as; Indeed, Total Jobs and CV Library
  • Use the DWP’s Find A Job Service
  • Check local newspapers and local Facebook groups, especially groups dedicated to local jobs

Research Assistant Job Titles

When you search for research assistant jobs online, be aware that the jobs might be advertised using a different job title. Popular job titles for research assistant jobs include;

  • Researcher
  • Research associate
  • Research coordinator

What does a research assistant do?

The job of a research assistant varies depending on the job role and the company you’re working for. Check the duties and responsibilities of research assistant job advertisements to find jobs that best suit your skills and experience. 

The day-to-day tasks of a research assistant include;

  • Preparing materials to support grant applications
  • Reviewing published literature and producing literature reviews
  • Data collection and storage
  • Assist in lab work, ordering of materials, inventory management and preparation of samples
  • Conduct analysis of data
  • Prepare interview questions
  • Maintain accurate records of interviews, safeguarding the confidentiality of subjects, as necessary