Education and Training: Education and training varies. Bachelor’s degree in research area preferred.
Average Salary: $44,000 per year
Job Outlook: Fair
Research assistants are found in several industries and sectors of the economy. Their main duties include researching statistics, collecting data, doing market research, analyzing, and organizing data. They also assist head researchers in creating reports. They also engage in general office work such as writing business correspondence, editing, and answering phones. Research assistants can be found working in academic fields such as social science, economics, marketing, medicine, and homeland security.
Their duties are far from glamorous and much of it is behind the scenes and can be classified as “grunt work.” Most research assistants have a deep passion for what they are researching.
Research assistants work under the direct authority of higher level researchers, administrators, professors, and other people who hold managerial positions of authority. Researcher assistants with more experience are often allowed to conduct higher level research and even make recommendations and hypothesis regarding research findings.
Education and Training Requirements
Education and training requirements vary greatly. Those who are conducting research within an academic setting typically have master’s and bachelor’s degrees while research assistants in the private sector may have a high school diploma. On the job training is very typical as research assistants learn proper methods of gathering and analyzing data. Courses in statistics are helpful. Those who possess strong word processing, spreadsheet, and database management skills are at an advantage.
Getting the Job
There are several paths leading to a position as a research assistant because of the broad nature of the position. People conducting higher level research need to have the academic credentials while others who perform minimal data collecting procedures through phone surveys and questionnaires require little experience or education. Positions are posted on internet job sites, academic campuses, classified newspaper advertisements, and industry publications.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
Overall job prospects are expected to be fair. Job growth is projected to be on par with all other occupations and increase at a rate of approximately 7% through 2018 according to the latest data released by the United States Labor Department. Factors such as research and development, local, state, and federal government budget allocations, higher education spending, consumer, and business spending all greatly factor into job expansion or reduction.
Most research assistants use the position as a stepping stone. Many go on to positions as head researchers, marketing professionals and collegiate level instructors. A large contingency also choose to continue with their post secondary education by earning an advanced degree.
Working Conditions and Environment
Working conditions vary from colleges and universities, to office buildings, research centers, and field research locations. People who conduct biological and zoological research work in wilderness locations while research assistants who perform market research may spend time in a retail location or an office building. The position is not considered high pressure and at times can even be classified as boring.
Salary and Benefits
The average salary for a research assistant is $44,000 per year. It is not a high paying field. Full-time research assistants generally have full benefit packages that include medical and dental. Not all positions have retirement benefits.
Where to Go for More Information
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
1150 Seventeenth St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
Association of Clinical Research Organizations
915 15th St., NW Second Fl.
Washington, DC 20005
1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036