What Is a Research Assistant?

Research assistants use their subject knowledge to help project managers perform research, analyze materials, and complete reports. Read on to discover the education and experience you need to become a research assistant, as well as job duties for this career. Schools offering Business degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

If you work as a research assistant, your duties will depend on where you work and the discipline in which you conduct research. For example, if you work in medical research, you may be required to handle specimens, while if you work in economic research, you may spend most of your time at a computer analyzing data. Research assistants can work in a wide variety of disciplines, including social and physical sciences.

Important Facts About Research Assisting

Similar Careers Assistant Professor, Clinical Research Coordinator, Research Scientist, Business Analyst, Registered Nurse
Key Skills Technical writing, Microsoft Excel, and the ability to set up and maintain equipment
Work Environment Professional office settings, cooperative and collaborative research
Professional Certification Available through the Society of Clinical Research Associates' Certification Program
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 4% growth (for all social science research assistants)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Opportunities

Research assistant jobs are often entry-level opportunities in government agencies, research organizations, and corporations. Jobs may be in statistical research, clinical trials, or laboratory research. Generally, you work with a team of researchers on projects designated by your supervisor. According to job listings found on Monster.com in 2019, your responsibilities may include:

  • Handling physical specimens
  • Preparing documents and reports
  • Conducting subject-specific literature searches
  • Recording and processing data
  • Maintaining electronic databases

Academic Opportunities

If you're in graduate school, you could be hired to work as a graduate research assistant (GRA), helping professors with their research while working on your graduate degree. Instead of a salary as a GRA, you receive a stipend or a grant. This type of monetary assistance often helps graduate students fund their education. In order to keep a GRA position, you must be in good academic standing.

You'll probably work at a college, university, or other research center. A laboratory manager, professor, or project manager will supervise you. PayScale.com reported in June 2019 that the median annual salary for graduate research assistants was $28,376. In comparison, medical research assistants earned a median of $38,759 a year, while clinical research assistants earned a median of $38,114 in 2019, per PayScale.com.

Job Requirements

There are various requirements to become a successful research assistant. Professional abilities, the right education and work experience will all help you to achieve and advance in the field.


You'll need to have at least a bachelor's degree in your research area or a closely related field in order to work as a research assistant. Some positions may require you to have a graduate degree. Research disciplines that often require a master's or doctoral degree are economics and the physical sciences.


Regardless of your research discipline, you need to be accurate and attentive to detail. You also need to be able to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, and you'll need to be knowledgeable about the subject you're researching. Many research assistant job listings stated the following skills were required:

  • Computer expertise
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Critical thinking and independent problem-solving skills
  • Data entry and tracking


Depending on your discipline and your workplace, you may also be required to have previous research experience. Research assistant job listings require anywhere from zero to five years of previous research experience. If you're pursuing a supervisory role, you'll generally need three to five years of previous experience.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. Next »