Research Assistant Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Research Assistant, or Research Associate, is responsible for gathering accurate, credible information on a subject and summarizing their findings to support senior research staff in scientific and academic fields. Their duties include browsing archives for information, completing literature reviews and conducting research interviews.

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Research Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

Research Assistants perform a variety of duties to help with the publication of work. While the overall goal is to collect and interpret data, a Research Assistant’s work can be broken down into several small duties. A few things that they are responsible for include:

  • Maintaining quality controls standards to preserve the integrity of data and findings
  • Scheduling and conducting interviews
  • Selecting a place to conduct interviews and getting permission from all participants
  • Analyzing data using various statistical methods
  • Writing reports to summarize data and the implications of the results
  • Researching information

What Does a Research Assistant Do?

Research Assistants often work at laboratories, universities and research centers to study various topics selected by a Professor or Scientist interested in a certain subject. They help brainstorm research topics and use initial guidance to find relevant resources in libraries and archives. This involves developing research questions based on a primary Researcher’s area of study.

Research Assistants work to validate a certain hypothesis or understand the reason behind contradictory findings. They review current publications to determine what information already exists on a topic, processing large amounts of text, technical writing and primary resources. They also help conduct original research, gathering data, administering surveys and supervising experiments based on instruction from their supervisor.

Research Assistant Skills and Qualifications

Research Assistants need a wide set of skills to perform their work well. For example, they need exceptional communication skills since they need to lead interviews and communicate complex technical information in the simplest way possible. Other essential skills and qualifications include:

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • The ability to stay calm under pressure
  • Extensive knowledge in the area being researched
  • Time-management skills
  • The ability to empathize with others
  • The ability to commit to lengthy, complex projects

Research Assistant Salary Expectations

The average salary for a Research Assistant is $16.69 an hour. Depending on the role and factors like the candidate’s experience level, education requirements and the job location, pay can vary.

Research Assistant Education and Training Requirements

Research Assistants need relevant education and training in the field they’re studying. For example, a person conducting research for a social studies project will likely be a sociology student or someone with a degree in that field.

Additional qualifications are needed depending on the specific job. For example, if the study involves lab work, the candidate will need experience handing and safely storing samples and sending materials off for analysis. Lab work also typically requires a background in a field like biology or chemistry, or at least some academic or real-world experience in that setting.

Research Assistant Experience Requirements

Most candidates will have one or more years of experience as a Research Assistant. Most of this work is gained while in school, but it’s possible that a person would start working after graduating. Relevant experience is arguably more important than length of experience though. In your job description, make sure you clarify the field and what type of work will be done. Research Assistants can come from a variety of academic backgrounds, ranging from math and science to sociology and psychology.

Job Description Samples for Similar Positions

Research Assistants have a broad range of skills, so covering everything you need for the job can be difficult. If this template doesn’t fully cover what you’re looking for, check out some descriptions for similar roles:

Frequently asked questions about Research Assistants

 

What is the difference between Research Assistants and Researchers?

Research Assistants serve a support role to Researchers when working on a project, case study or experiment. Researchers decide on a topic, then have Research Assistants help them hone the scope of their research based on other published information and available resources. Research Assistants are responsible for reviewing large amounts of literature to determine what could be relevant to a Researcher’s projects. They then submit reports to the Researcher who reads relevant information and sets the procedures and parameters of continuing research. Research Assistants are often students, while Researchers may already have advanced degrees in their field.

 

What are the daily duties of a Research Assistant?

Research Assistants spend a significant amount of time reading and writing every day. They begin research by preparing a bibliography of information that could be relevant to the research project. Research Assistants input requests for interlibrary loans so they can access rare resources. They take consistent notes of every aspect of their research so they can report back to their supervisor or the primary Researcher. 

Research Assistants schedule interviews with experts, experiment participants and other people who could provide insight into a project. They compile their findings and handle some of the administrative aspects of conducting a research project and publishing their findings.

 

What are the characteristics of a good Research Assistant?

Good Research Assistants are highly detail-oriented. They need to be able to identify relevant information quickly and efficiently, then confirm the quality and accuracy of that information. They enjoy writing and are able to clearly express themselves on paper, enabling them to communicate with other Research Assistants and the primary Researcher as a project develops. 

Successful Research Assistants are good at following instructions and interpreting directions while still taking their own initiative to pursue various research avenues. They’re able to focus for long periods of time, dedicating themselves to projects regardless of the topic. When a good Research Assistant encounters a problem with their research, they brainstorm possible solutions and keep trying to find an answer.

 

What should you look for on a Research Assistant's resume?

Candidates applying for a Research Assistant position should highlight any subject-related experience on their resume. This includes any coursework relevant to the topic they would be researching and previous experience participating in scientific or academic studies. Selecting candidates that express an interest in the research topic on their resume can help you find the most dedicated and committed applicants. You should also look for research skills like critical thinking, data analysis and fact-checking.

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