How to get a research assistant job: 5 steps to success

Researcher job interview

As an entry-level position, a research assistant job can be a great stepping stone to your future career, regardless of the field. Researchers are valuable in politics, science, business, etc.

With an average salary of $37,000 per year, a research assistant is one of the most popular jobs for undergraduates and professionals who want to help more advanced researchers collect and process data, conduct experiments, and run field studies.

If studying the unknown attracts you and your best skills and qualities include attention to detail, critical thinking, planning, and data collection, you might consider applying to work as a research assistant.

In this article, we will tell you how to become a research assistant, what qualifications you may need, and the responsibilities this job will include.

 Research Assistant Job: Where to Start

First and foremost, you should identify a field in which to work. This doesn’t necessarily have to be STEM disciplines and exact sciences, such as math, chemistry, physics, and biology. Anthropology, sociology, and psychology also require research assistants. However, it would be best if you chose a sphere in which you are interested and qualified. If you are a university student, the best option is to focus on your major.

Next, we recommend you analyze the skills and qualifications this position requires. We’ve already mentioned attention to detail, critical thinking, and some others, but you should not forget about technical skills as you may need to operate lab equipment and computer tools. Additionally, you should be motivated and self-disciplined to be able to work independently or with limited control.

Think about how your skills comply with the typical responsibilities of the position, which include:

  • data collection and analysis;
  • preparation of progress reports, articles, and presentations;
  • development of study protocols;
  • maintaining accurate records of interviews;
  • entering data into a computer database for further analysis;
  • and preparing, calibrating, and maintaining equipment.

To get a job as a research assistant you typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in the study area. Previous experience isn’t always necessary, but lab assistant experience is often required if you are going to be involved in a scientific investigation.

You will definitely be asked about skills and experience during the interview. Our recommendation is to check out the most common interview questions for a research assistant to give the right answers and impress potential employers.

How to Get a Research Assistant Job

Positions like research assistants are great for getting experience in your area of interest, bulking up your resume, and making some extra money.  With this list of 5 easy steps, you will get an idea of how to find research assistant positions.

1.   Talk to Your Professors

If you want to combine working as a research assistant with studying at the university, you can talk with professors. Many of them hire students if their major aligns with the research.

2.   Check Other Institutions

You can contact schools and universities located in your area to check out whether they have any open positions. Sometimes, you can also earn school credits while working then transfer them back to your school.

Moreover, we recommend monitoring job boards, such as Academic Positions, HigherEdJobs, or Indeed, as well as websites of research centers and laboratories, marketing companies, consulting firms, and non-profit organizations that typically hire research assistants.

3.    Use Social Media

LinkedIn and Facebook can become useful tools when searching for open positions. You can follow specialized groups and pages of the organizations you want to work for. Additionally, you can post or share information about your search to see whether your network can help. The more people you know in your research field, the more likely you are to find someone who can direct you to a job opening.

Think about joining a professional research organization, such as the American Center for Research Professionals or Society of Clinical Research Associates. This will help you learn more about the industry and expand your network.

4.   Create a Powerful Resume and a Convincing Cover Letter

Whether you’re looking for a part-time job as a student or you want to work full-time, you need to present yourself as the best candidate. It is crucial that your resume demonstrates relevant expertise and skills. Tell the employer about your achievements, the topics you’ve helped to research, and some information about the discoveries and research results.

For those interested in getting a research assistant job with no experience, this stage is quite tricky. With these basic tips, you can craft a resume that will impress the potential employer:

  • Mention your major and how it is related to the research field.
  • Focus on the research skills you gained while
  • Highlight your best achievements.
  • Mention courses, certificates, and volunteering experience, if any.

Bear in mind that your resume should not be longer than 1 page.

A cover letter can increase your chances of being invited for an interview. Moreover, it is a good way to demonstrate your interest and dedication, especially if you lack experience.

To write a perfect cover letter, you need to follow several important rules:

  • Don’t make it too long. 250-300 words are more than enough.
  • Use well-organized formatting. Choose a readable font (Times New Roman, Arial, etc.) and font size, and set 1.15 line spacing.
  • Focus on the most relevant experience, qualifications, and skills to demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the position.
  • Highlight your achievements using facts and data and connect them with job requirements to prove that you can conduct sound research.
  • Express your interest in moving on to the next step through a compelling call to action.

It’s essential to prepare a customized resume and cover letter for each position to which you are applying to help potential employers quickly see that you fit the job and put in the extra effort to earn it.

5.    Get Ready for an Interview

You found the employer you like. You applied and got your invitation to an interview. Congratulations! But the hiring process does not end here. You still need to impress your potential boss during the interview. Here’s what you can do to feel confident in your success:

  • Research the organization.

We hope you’ve already done this before writing your resume and cover letter, but it’s always useful to update the information you have. Check the recent activities and discoveries of the organization or a particular researcher you want to work for and make references during your conversation.

  • Emphasize your academic experience.

If you are a student and don’t have professional experience in research, you will have to prove your qualifications using academic experience. Tell about your high academic performance, specific courses, extracurricular activities, and what you’ve learned about the research methodology.

  • Talk about your previous projects.

Even if you’ve never worked as a researcher or research assistant, you might have done research as part of your coursework. Thus, tell the interviewer about your most notable projects, describe the role you played, and give details about the results you achieved. Additionally, you can highlight your team-working skills.

Don’t forget to make a list of questions to ask at the end of the interview. This will show you as an organized person who is genuinely interested in this position.

Wrap Up

Choosing a research assistant position is one of the best options to start your career while still studying. Besides gaining new knowledge, this job has additional benefits, such as skills that you won’t learn in the classroom, mentoring relationships with your professor, great recommendation letters after the end of the project, and communication with like-minded people. Moreover, past experience as a research assistant will make you a stand-out candidate in a variety of industries.

Now that you know how to get a research assistant position and are armed with useful tips to land your new job successfully, it’s about time to start a career you are passionate about. Good luck!

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How to get a research assistant job: 5 steps to success