Who Is A Research Assistant And What Do They Do?

Who Is A Research Assistant

Who Is A Research Assistant And What Do They Do- For any serious project or research work that is to be done, the project lead usually require some assistance, one of which is a research assistant. Even though, the project lead will be the brain behind the design and how the project is being implemented, the research assistant has a huge role to play in the execution process. In this post, we would be talking in great detail on who a research assistant is, what they do, how to become one and lastly helpful tips to land a research assistant job.

Who Is A Research Assistant

A research assistant is an individual who helps out in research activities. Research assistants are found in different fields such as sciences, technology, humanities, social sciences and engineering. They work alongside researchers to provide support and assistance to enable the research work realizable and more effective.

What Does A Research Assistant Do?

Research assistants play a very important role in assisting researchers advance their work and achieve research objectives. The work of a research assistant varies and largely depends on the kind of research project being done and also the field in which the research is being done. Research work go on in different fields such as technology, science, engineering, social sciences and humanities .

Here are some of the general responsibilities of a research assistant:

1. Collection and Analysis of Data

One of the responsibilities of a research assistant is to collect and analyze data. They do this via different methods . Surveys , interviews and even statistical software are some of the tools used in collection and analysis of data.

2. Literature reviews

This is another task a research assistant may be asked to do: writing of literature reviews. Literature review is a detailed summary of a research done previously on a topic. A literature review usually gives a theoretical background of the research done.

3. Help out with experiments

Research assistants provide support to researchers when its time to carry out experiments whether in the laboratory or on the field.

4. Manage research tools and materials

The research assistant has the role of handling and taking care of tools and materials used in research work. Some of the research tools and materials include equipment, data sets, software, articles, etc.

5. Writing of report, articles and journals

A research assistant also helps out in the writing of reports, articles and journals. Through the data collected and analysed, experimental results and other findings, a research assistant can be able to assist the researcher in the writing of reports , articles and some other papers.

6. Make presentations

Sometimes, the research assistant may be asked to make presentations based on findings and research done at seminars, conferences, etc.

Other roles assigned

Aside from the roles mentioned, the researcher assistant could be asked to carry out some other roles such as administrative support, keeping record of lab activities, etc.  

Who Does A Research Assistant Report To

Who a research assistant reports to depends on some factors such as the nature of the project (e.g its size, complexity), the organizational structure of the research team and some other factors.

A research assistant usually report to the lead researcher or principal investigator who is in charge of a research project. The lead researcher is one that will design the research project, coordinate the research team and also seek for funding.

Sometimes the research assistant could also report to a project manager or a project manager that is also working under the lead researcher.

How Do I Become A Research Assistant

1. You should have a chosen / preferred field

This will determine the kind of educational qualification you would be getting .

2. Get relevant education and training

You must have at least a bachelor’s degree in your chosen field e.g science, psychology, engineering, etc. A master’s or doctoral degree is an advantage.

3. Acquire experience

Experience in research method, academic writing and data analysis is an advantage. You can acquire some experience through internships or volunteering. Through such experience, you can gather skills and knowledge that will make you perform better as a research assistant.

Skills such as communication, organization, problem solving skills will highly be resourceful.

4. Build a professional network

You can do this by attending conferences and events that will help you connect with researchers and professionals in your chosen field. Such network will be helpful when you need to get referrals or get jobs.

5. Build your resume and apply for jobs

With the relevant educational qualification and some experience, you can now put together resume and start applying for research assistant jobs.

6. Prepare for the interview

Don’t just apply for the job role and go to sleep. You must stay optimistic by preparing yourself for interviews even when you have not received any invitation yet.

Career Path In Research Assistant

There are lots of career advance opportunities for research assistants. Below are some of them:

Graduate studies

You can advance your career by pursuing a graduate degree, Master’s or PhD in a relevant field. Then, you can have a better understanding of your research field and be able to develop advanced research skills. You can then be able to apply for a senior research role.

Opportunity for specialization

You can also get to specialize in some specific area of research e.g laboratory techniques, data analysis, etc.

Opportunity to work in the industry

With your qualification and experience, you can get to work in industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, etc. A number of industries are actually looking for research assistants with good technical and analytical skills.

Research coordination/ management

As you gather experience as a research assistant, you can advance by coordinating research activities and also provide leadership for other researchers.

Useful Tips To Getting A Research Assistant Job

Below are some helpful tips to land a research assistant job:

Be specific in your applications

Every research assistant job openings has its own peculiar requirements. You should be able to identify these requirements and customize your resume accordingly and also prepare for interview along that line.

You must be passionate

 You must be passionate about your role as a research assistant and let it be obvious during your job interviews. Let your employer know how eager you are to start working on their team.

Research well about your prospective employer

Before attending an interview, you should make enough research about the company, your employer, their values. This will boost your confidence and enhance your performance at the interview.

Be sure to mention past related projects

Experience in previous projects that is similar to what you will be doing on your current role is an advantage for you. Do not fail to mention such at your interview. Most employers prefer to hire people that already knows what to do. It saves time, money and energy.

Know how to use relevant equipment

Being able to handle different equipment as a research assistant will give you an advantage when hunting for jobs


A research assistant provides support and assistance to a lead researcher or principal investigator. Some of the responsibilities include collection and analysis of data, conducting of experiments, writing of reports and some other specific duties assigned by the lead researcher or principal investigator.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the roles of a research assistant?

The responsibilities of a research assistant depends on nature of the project and also the field/ specialty. Below are the general roles of a research assistant:

Collection and analysis of data
Carrying out experiments
Management of research materials
Writing of report, papers, etc.
Making of presentations

How do I become a research assistant?

To become a research assistant, you must have at least a bachelor degree in your chosen field. Then you should get some work experience and also relevant skills. Then start searching for a job.

What difference exists between a research assistant and a research associate?

A research assistant usually works under the supervision of a lead researcher or principal investigator. A research associate on the other hand holds an advanced degree and can run a research project independently.

Who does a research assistant report to?

A research assistant usually report to the lead researcher or project coordinator or principal investigator.

Can a PhD student be termed as a research assistant?

Most times, research assistant roles are taken  up by post-graduate students who are undergoing PhD programmes. The job role gives the students opportunities for prepare for a career in academics while also earning some extra income for themselves.  


  • www. comeet. com- What Does A Research Assistant Do?
  • www. indeed. com- How To Become A Research Assistant (With Tips)
  • www. discoverphds. com- What is a Research Assistant?


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