Data & network

Research scientist

Research scientists plan and carry out experiments and investigations to broaden scientific knowledge.

Annual Salary

£14,000 to £60,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

35 to 40

Future employment

There will be 3% more Research scientist jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

As a research scientist you may work in industry research and development (R&D) for a university research department, in government labs or for defence 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)
  • medical research
  • physical sciences (chemistry, physics, mathematics, materials science, geoscience)
  • industrial science, like food and petrochemicals
  • research and development in the textiles industry

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 manufacturing production methods
  • testing products or materials
  • teaching or lecturing

You'll usually work in a team with other scientists, technicians and support staff.


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.

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.

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

Other Routes

There are several ways to get a postgraduate qualification, including:

Research Councils and industrial companies sometimes work together to offer CASE studentships (formerly Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering). This would allow you to work towards a PhD while getting practical research experience in industry.

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), which gives you the opportunity to run a research project together with an industrial organisation and a university or research body.

Experience of working in a research environment could also help you find employment.

£14,000 to £60,000

Starter salary: £14,000

Experienced salary: £23,000 to £42,000

These figures are a guide.

35 to 40

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.

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:

  • research and analytical skills
  • excellent communication and presentation skills
  • teaching ability
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