Research careers in science

Most people’s definition of a scientific career would be research (see Do I need a postgraduate degree for a career in science?). Scientific research takes place in a number of settings: academic institutions, private companies, governmental organisations (although many of these have become either private companies or have been absorbed into universities) and charities. These sectors can overlap. For example, a private company may do collaborative research with a university, or an innovation from university research may lead to a spin-off company.

Academic research
Universities often concentrate on what is called ‘basic research’. The aim of this research is to add to fundamental knowledge of the world around us. The most well-known research degrees are the MA or MSc in research and the PhD.

The next step after completing a PhD is one or more short-term post-doctoral research jobs. As well as producing high quality publications, you need to develop the ability to apply for research funding and will often engage in teaching alongside your research.

Remember that you have great access to more tips about academic research through your contact with lecturers, tutors and research staff.

Industrial research
Industrial research feeds into developing a new service or product – research and development – in order to make a profit.

Postgraduate study is not essential to getting into industrial research but it is an increasingly common requirement. There is an emphasis on having practical laboratory experience. There may be opportunities to complete a postgraduate degree in industry, this would often be part-time therefore longer, relevant to the employer and often based in a university.

There are also opportunities in business roles which support research like granting research licences, patent services for new technologies and consultancy. Such roles still value practical laboratory experience in their candidates.

For more information, Careers & Enterprise has resources about research careers in our information library, so why not visit us in WG3, Queens’ Building.


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