A research scientist takes part in the planning and undertaking of experiments in a particular field. Employers of research scientists may be private or public institutions and areas of work can include medical research, industrial science or earth science, amongst others. It is common for research scientists to have a PhD along with transferable skills such as problem solving, patience and accuracy.

Here are some insights taken directly from graduates in the field of scientific research:

1. Day-to-day tasks

‘A typical day would involve carrying out a test / part of a test on either hair tresses or single hair fibres. I will check emails throughout the day and action these as necessary. I also write reports of any testing I have carried out.’ Application Scientist, Claims Team, Personal Care at CRODA
‘A typical day involves arriving in the office between 0700-0800, checking emails before heading off to the lab. I generally spend my day either in the lab conducting experimental work or in the office writing up lab notes and attending meetings. I interact with a large range of different people both within my team, inter-departmental and external customers.’ Analytical Microbiologist, at DSTL
‘I am on a 2 year graduate scheme (1 year roles). In my current role, I am responsible for data entry and statistical analysis, keeping up to date with current literature and research and disseminating this to the business, supporting clinical trials. I have also gained experience in cross border trading, ACBS applications and working on a clinical care line that provides advice to health care professionals and patients.’ Medical Affairs Assistant, Medical Nutrition (Nutricia) at Danone

2. Best and worst things about your job

‘The scope of opportunities and flexibility with work here is immense, one minute I can be working on a project, the next I can be lending a hand to help deliver another project. The people I work with are really friendly and I found people welcoming to new starters. Bureaucracy can sometimes get in the way of work being done, especially near the end of the year when budgets are tight.’ Analytical Microbiologist, at DSTL
‘Varied work, get to interact with many different departments, learn what you need on the job. The company looks after training necessary both for your job and personal development. Lots of repetitive work.’ Graduate Applications Scientist, Acrylic Polymers at CRODA
‘Real work and responsibility straight away, but with plenty of time to research and learn and ask questions along the way. Learning a lot of new skills. Lots of choice- some choice about which projects I work on, career options (to do a part time PhD, training available). Centralised bureaucracy takes up more time than it should. Sometimes too much responsibility and not enough guidance. Lots of sitting in front of a computer’. RF scientist, Accelerator Science and Technology at Science and Technology Facilities Council

3. Average working hours

8am – 5pm

4. Average graduate salary

£23,000 – £25,000

5. Interview tips

Application Advice: Apply if you genuinely want to be a part of the scientific community, and want to contribute. If money is a motivator for you, then science might not be the best option.
Interview Advice: Be honest.
Diagnostics Physicist, Particle Beam Diagnostics at Science and Technology Facilities Council
Application Advice: Be yourself and don’t lie. They will ask you things from your application.
Interview Advice: Relax and be confident. The questions they ask aren’t to trick you it’s to see how you work things out.
Graduate Research Scientist, at Johnson Matthey
Application Advice: Make sure that your answers both in the application form and during interviews are based around GSK values as this is what the company is looking for in candidates.
Interview Advice: Typical questions: ‘Tell me about a situation when you… – lead a team – worked with a client – had a difficult problem – missed a deadline and other standard situations. The interviewer is looking for full STAR answers.
Product Development Graduate, Spectroscopy at GlaxoSmithKline

Click here for the full range of job reviews for research scientist positions.

Take a look at this great video describing the work of a research scientist in the field of medical research.

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