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What is a Research Assistant

While you won't leading a research project, you will have some pretty important tasks that lead to the success of research projects as a research assistant. In fact, you're tasked with a number of responsibilities that assist the main researcher on the project.

Pretty cool, right? You might get to conduct literature reviews or analyze data. Maybe you'll even get to prepare a grant to help with the project. Basically your position is essential to the project, which also means you have a lot riding on your shoulders.

Depending on who you'll be working for, you may need a bachelor's degree or you may just need an associate's degree. Chances are you'll probably be a research assistant to a professor or another professional in the field. And no matter what, you'll definitely receive some on-the-job training.

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to being a Research Assistant. For example, did you know that they make an average of $19.92 an hour? That's $41,424 a year!

Between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 20% and produce 139,200 job opportunities across the U.S.

What Does a Research Assistant Do

There are certain skills that many Research Assistants have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed Analytical skills, Communication skills and Detail oriented.

Learn more about what a Research Assistant does

How To Become a Research Assistant

If you're interested in becoming a Research Assistant, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We've determined that 74.2% of Research Assistants have a bachelor's degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 14.2% of Research Assistants have master's degrees. Even though most Research Assistants have a college degree, it's impossible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Choosing the right major is always an important step when researching how to become a Research Assistant. When we researched the most common majors for a Research Assistant, we found that they most commonly earn Bachelor's Degree degrees or Master's Degree degrees. Other degrees that we often see on Research Assistant resumes include Associate Degree degrees or Doctoral Degree degrees.

You may find that experience in other jobs will help you become a Research Assistant. In fact, many Research Assistant jobs require experience in a role such as Internship. Meanwhile, many Research Assistants also have previous career experience in roles such as Teaching Assistant or Volunteer.

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Average Salary
$41,424
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
20%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
58,700
Job Openings
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Research Assistant Career Paths

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Average Salary for a Research Assistant

Research Assistants in America make an average salary of $41,424 per year or $20 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $61,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $28,000 per year.
Average Salary
$41,424
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How much should you be earning as an Research Assistant? Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to get an estimation of how much you should be earning.
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12 Research Assistant Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Research Assistant Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Research Assistant resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Research Assistant Resume Examples And Templates

Choose From 10+ Customizable Research Assistant Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Research Assistant templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Research Assistant resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Research Assistant Demographics

Research Assistant Gender Distribution

Male
Male
46%
Female
Female
54%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among Research Assistants, 53.7% of them are women, while 46.3% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among Research Assistants is White, which makes up 58.8% of all Research Assistants.

  • The most common foreign language among Research Assistants is Spanish at 36.8%.

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Research Assistant Education

Research Assistant Majors

13.4 %

Research Assistant Degrees

Bachelors

74.2 %

Masters

14.2 %

Associate

4.5 %

Top Colleges for Research Assistants

1. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582

2. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Private

In-State Tuition
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

3. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

4. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,740
Enrollment
5,567

5. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

6. Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, MO • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,399
Enrollment
7,356

7. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

8. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,188
Enrollment
15,105

9. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

10. SUNY Stony Brook

Stony Brook, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$9,625
Enrollment
17,407
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Top Skills For a Research Assistant

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 9.8% of Research Assistants listed Lab Equipment on their resume, but soft skills such as Analytical skills and Communication skills are important as well.

Best States For a Research Assistant

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Research Assistant. The best states for people in this position are New Jersey, Illinois, California, and Massachusetts. Research Assistants make the most in New Jersey with an average salary of $55,605. Whereas in Illinois and California, they would average $49,730 and $49,630, respectively. While Research Assistants would only make an average of $49,125 in Massachusetts, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. New Jersey

Total Research Assistant Jobs:
994
Highest 10% Earn:
$80,000
Location Quotient:
1.26
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Massachusetts

Total Research Assistant Jobs:
2,486
Highest 10% Earn:
$67,000
Location Quotient:
2.73
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Vermont

Total Research Assistant Jobs:
93
Highest 10% Earn:
$62,000
Location Quotient:
1.22
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Research Assistants

How Do Research Assistant Rate Their Jobs?

What do you like the most about working as Research Assistant?

What I like is that,you get to interact with different people from various communities.Relationships are formed in the process Show More

What do you NOT like?

Language barrier can be a problem,because communication needs to be formed in the language that each community you interact with understands. Show More

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Top Research Assistant Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ Research Assistants and discovered their number of Research Assistant opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that University of California Press was the best, especially with an average salary of $40,119. University of Michigan follows up with an average salary of $34,498, and then comes University of Illinois Springfield with an average of $59,116. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a Research Assistant. The employers include Humana, ICF, and Abt Associates

Research Assistant Videos

Becoming a Research Assistant FAQs

How long does it take to become a Research Assistant?

It takes 2 years of professional experience to become a research assistant. That is the time it takes to learn specific research assistant skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education. If you include the normal education requirements to complete a college degree, then it takes 5 to 7 years years to become a research assistant.

Can anyone be a research assistant?

No, not anyone can be a research assistant. A research assistant position, typically in a clinical or academic setting, is usually for individuals who already have a bachelor's degree or master's degree and are considering a career in academia (e.g., Ph.D.) or more advanced clinical research procedures (e.g., DNA extraction).

Someone who wants to apply for research assistant programs should have a passion for research and the research process.

Many research assistants, in particular, are recent bachelor's and master's degree graduates or soon-to-be graduates who are looking to experience working in a research lab before deciding on whether a Ph.D. is right for them.

In some cases, these positions are not paid but are there to help gain research experience for a C.V. (curriculum vita, which is a resume for academic professionals that highlights your research experience).

In other cases, a research assistant position may be specifically for recent Ph.D. candidates, also known as a postdoc research assistant fellowship. These positions are typically only for one to three years and pay between $50,000 and $70,000 a year, depending on the type of research.

Some labs may have other requirements, such as completing clinical research coursework before being eligible for a position. Overall, many of the requirements will depend on the area of study.

Some common areas for research assistants are medicine, biology, law, economics, psychology, sociology, physics, chemistry, and the humanities.

Almost all research assistants work under the principal investigator(s), who is usually a Ph.D. (s).

The role of a research assistant is to assist the principal investigator(s). This may include;

  • keeping the project on track by helping to collect and analyze data

  • prepare reports and materials

  • help to write and edit papers

  • apply for grants, and review the current literature.

Do you need a PhD to be a research assistant?

No, you do not need a PhD to be a research assistant. The minimum educational requirements to become a Research Assistant will depend on the employer.

A degree in a relevant discipline with research experience (Honours) is commonly required, although some employers may require a master's level qualification or enrollment in a PhD program.

If you're an undergraduate looking for a research assistant position, it is best to be a major in the subject and have completed higher-level major course credits. It also doesn't hurt to take classes from the professor of the lab you wish to work in before applying.

Some common areas for research assistants are medicine, biology, law, economics, psychology, sociology, physics, chemistry, and the humanities.

If you are a graduate with a bachelor's or master's application for a research role, it is recommended that you apply for a research assistant position in a lab that is aligned with your research interests. Working in a research lab is an excellent way to learn more about whether a PhD. program is something that you would like to do.

If you have a PhD, applying for a research assistant position (e.g., postdoc research fellowship) will give you time to gain more specialized research in your field and include the ability to publish more research.

Typically postdoc research assistant programs last anywhere from one to three years and pay between $50,000 to $70,000. Some of these fellowships may also require additional work, such as teaching courses.

Regardless of the qualification requirement, you will need to have a thorough understanding of the subject area and be able to show examples of research skills such as data collection and analysis.

It's important to do your research beforehand and find out what labs are available and what skill sets you will need to be successful as a research assistant.

How do I get a job as a research assistant?

To get a job as a research assistant, you should have a bachelor's degree and a general interest in conducting research in an academic or clinical setting.

Many research assistants are bachelor's students (or soon-to-be graduates). However, some research assistants have a master's degree or Ph.D. (e.g., postdoc research assistant fellowship).

Many students can find opportunities for a paid research assistant position at their university. It's a great opportunity for an undergraduate or master's student to gain experience in a research role before deciding to apply to a Ph.D. program.

A good way to begin is to find out what type of research labs are available in your desired field of study. A good deal of research assistant roles is usually not paid or done for research credit.

However, there are still opportunities to find paid research positions. Many labs work off grants, which they use to allocate funds to have one or several paid research assistants working on the study. These paid positions are usually harder to get without prior lab experience.

If you don't have much on-the-job experience, you should include things like this on your resume;

  • Experience from when you conducted a research project

  • Any technical skills you've honed that relate to the job (for example, a research assistant for a social scientist may need to be comfortable questioning subjects, so any experience interviewing others would be an asset)

  • A short summary of an independent study or thesis project, if you've done one

  • Any additional strengths, like statistical analysis skills, fluency in a foreign language, or relevant computer skills

What qualifications do you need to be a research assistant?

The qualifications you need to be a research assistant are a bachelor's degree (or in the process of earning one) and a keen interest in the research process.

The duties of a research assistant can vary throughout the life of a research project. In the early stages, you may be required to look for grants or funding opportunities. Many research projects cannot be undertaken without funding from an overseeing body such as a government department, research council, or private company.

Research assistants can be asked to prepare supporting material and help develop a proposal to secure funding.

Research assistants may also be responsible for planning the research project, coordinating tasks, preparing surveys, scheduling interviews, and identifying statistical models and analysis techniques to use.

In the middle stages of the project, research assistants may collect, analyze and interpret data. To do this, they will use data analysis techniques and use graphs, tables, and charts to present key findings.

Finally, towards the end of the project, they may need to prepare a written discussion of the findings and help produce reports or articles. The research team may need to present the outcome of the research project at a conference to the funding agency or any other interested parties.

Research assistants commonly help prepare material such as presentation slides and posters for these conferences. Also, they help in carrying out the following;

  • Carrying out experiments and research in alignment with protocols set by senior team members.

  • Collecting and recording data.

  • Conducting analyses of datasets.

  • Preparing models to display results.

  • Reviewing academic literature.

  • Creating presentations based on key results.

  • Fact-checking, editing, and proofreading research documents for accuracy and consistency.

  • Maintaining laboratory equipment and inventory.

  • Recruiting study participants.

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