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Research Assistant: Career Profile

Sep 13, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a research assistant. Read on to explore the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties, and career and salary information to find out if this is the career for you.

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Research assistants can find work in a number of industries, including the economic, medical and scientific fields. A bachelor's degree related to a specific field of study is required for a career as a research assistant. Continue reading to learn about a few degree programs that are favorable for a career in research, and find out about salary information as well.

Essential Information

Research assistants collect and analyze data, maintain records and prepare reports in a variety of fields. Behind many researchers are assistants who work in laboratories or analyze survey data. Research assistants are employed in a variety of environments. Some work with chemicals in laboratories, for example, while others work in engineering firms where they track statistics. The unifying factor is that they work anywhere research takes place. They may also assist in the publication of the results of their work. Potential research assistants hold bachelor's degrees in their particular fields of study.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in specific research field
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 9% (for social science research assistants)*
Median Salary $46,640 (for social science research assistants, 2018)*;
$38,902 (for medical research assistants, 2019)**;
$38,125 (for clinical research assistants, 2019)**; $43,304 (for health policy research assistants, 2019)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

Education Requirements for Research Assistants

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the minimum educational requirement for research assistants is a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov). The type of research that interests students usually dictates their major. Some examples include social, medical, scientific, legal or economic fields of study.

Bachelor's Degree in Sociology

Some sociology degree programs offer concentrations in applied social research. General sociology degrees in this focus cover the various research methods used in sociology, such as field research, experiments and analysis of existing data. Students usually must complete an internship to gain experience in the field. Other required courses include the study of power and politics in society and social stratification. Some research assisting jobs graduates might qualify for include marketing, public policy and transportation.

Bachelor's Degree in Economics

Students can take courses in micro- and macroeconomics, quantitative techniques, statistics for social research and economics on a global scale within an economics major. Economics students look at public policy, price theory and the way society is organized to deliver products and services. These degree programs explore commercial activity and its effects on society. Graduates of these programs might work in entry-level research jobs in city or regional planning, finance, insurance or business.

Bachelor's Degree in Biology

A biology major could apply to several areas of research, including pathology, environmental science or biotechnology. Many bachelor's degree programs offer concentrations that allow students to focus on a particular area. Biological theory and principles are common core courses, and many biology majors include studies in chemistry, anatomy, neurobiology, ecology and ethics. Lab work is generally a common requirement, and biology faculty frequently offer research opportunities to students. Graduates with broad or niche biology education might find research assistant jobs in medical, biotechnical, pharmaceutical or environmental industries.

Research Assistant Salary Information

The type of research an individual participates in could influence possible earnings. In 2018, the BLS reported that social science research assistants earned a median salary of $46,650 annually. The predicted growth rate for this field in the decade between 2018 and 2028 is 9%, per the BLS. According to salary figures reported by PayScale.com, medical research assistants made a median of $38,902 annually, clinical research assistants earned a median of $38,125 per year, and health policy research assistants took home a median of $43,304 annually as of 2019.

Obtaining a bachelor's degree in a field of study that interests you, such as biology, economics or sociology, is a good first step in beginning a career as a research assistant. It is important to understand the range of salaries and expected job growth in the various industries that hire research professionals.

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