How to Become a Research Assistant?

Are you thinking of becoming a Research Assistant or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Research Assistant, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Research Assistant job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.

Steps to Become a Research Assistant

If you thrive in an environment where you can spend your days collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, consider a career as a research assistant. Pursue this position by following these steps:

Determine your area of expertise.

There are many types of research assistants and a slew of employers. You'll choose from just about any field, from medical research centers and universities to think tank corporations. Therefore, your first step is to focus your pursuit on a specific area of expertise.

Start by narrowing down your choices to the fields that you're most interested in and qualified for, based on your previous undergraduate study. For example, a person in this role can find work in:

  • Engineering.
  • Economics.
  • Education.
  • Law.
  • Marketing
  • Health care.
  • Other sciences, like psychology and sociology

Identify your necessary soft skills.

There are some soft skills that all successful research assistants possess, including:

  • Capability to follow instructions.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Aptitude for critical thinking.
  • Ability to work with numerous personality types.
  • Planning, scheduling, and time management skills.
  • Strong reading comprehension skills.
  • Computer and technology savvy.
  • Highly self-motivated.
  • Ability to work independently.

Secure an academic research position.

Academic research assistant positions offer eligible high school and graduate degree students the opportunity to assist senior educators in their work. Secure an academic research position by:

  • Speaking to your professors or school administrators.
  • Contacting other schools in your area.
  • Using job boards to search for research assistant openings.
  • Utilizing social media to expand your hunt.

This role comes with a variety of benefits, including:

  • Help to get into a good college.
  • The chance to earn college credits.
  • The potential to collect a small salary.
  • A big boost in your employable skill set.
  • Networking opportunities with head hunters, industry professionals, and other decisions makers.
  • A focused career path in education.

Continue your education.

Most employers require research assistant candidates to obtain their graduate degrees or enroll in an advanced academic program. In addition to any educational qualifications, firms may require you to demonstrate a thorough understanding of your chosen subject and research skills, like:

  • Data collection and analysis.
  • Understanding of quality and safety control standards.
  • Effective interviewing skills.
  • Data entry experience.
  • Ability to prepare accurate reports and express findings.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Research Assistant?

86% of people working as a Research Assistant earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Research Assistant?

  • Typing
  • Degree IN Psychology
  • Dexterity
  • GOOD Communication
  • Keystrokes
  • Meet Deadlines
  • DOD 8570
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Research Assistant in the United States.

Prepare to enter the professional realm.

A professional research assistant is a far different role than your student position while in school. A for-profit environment is more results-oriented, driven, and competitive than academic research. Once you grow in this role, your path may lead to management positions where you'll oversee your own projects or other operations roles in your particular research field. First, however, prepare to spend the majority of your time:

  • Doing clerical work.
  • Researching related materials.
  • Serving as a professional assistant.

Research Assistant Career Path

Research Assistant

0 - 1Years of Experience
$42K - $70K /yrMost Likely Range
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45% advanced to

Senior Research Assistant

2 - 4Years of Experience
$65K - $98K /yrMost Likely Range
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Research Assistant IV

5 - 7Years of Experience
$72K - $103K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Research Assistant Career Path

Summer Research Assistant
Research Assistant
Senior Research Assistant
Research Assistant IV
Principal Research Assistant
Senior Principal Research Assistant
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Related Careers in the Research & Science Industry

Interested in other Research & Science careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Research Assistant skills. Discover some of the most common Research Assistant career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Sales Representative
0% skills overlap
27% transitioned to Sales Representative