Research Scientist


October 30, 2016


Research scientists work in all fields of science. Chemistry, biology, medicine, information and computer science, as well as social sciences like history, anthropology, and law all need highly trained research specialists to test hypothesis and confirm or refute theories about the world.

While the types of research done by research scientists varies widely, certain fundamental skills and activities are the same in all fields. A research scientist must have an innate curiosity about the world and how it works, as well as highly developed analytic skills, a devotion to accuracy, and the ability to write clearly and concisely.

Research Scientist Job Description

Research scientists begin with a hypothesis about a specific question in the human or natural world. A hypothesis is an educated guess about why something is the way it is. The hypothesis must be solidly grounded in the research work of other scientists who have previously published research in the same area, and it must then be stated in a way that can be falsified.

Next, the research scientist gathers data on the question being asked. This usually involves field work where the scientist and research assistants collect samples, take surveys, create computer models, or in some other way accumulate data. Once the data is collected, it is analyzed using statistics and interpreted to judge its meaning and how it relates to the existing body of knowledge on the subject. Finally, the results are written in a report that is often published in a peer reviewed scientific research journal.

Publication of the results of completed research studies in peer reviewed research journals is usually a requirement for research scientists who work in university settings.

Research Scientist Salary Statistics as of 2015

Average annual salary for a Research Scientist is $74064 based on statistics in the U.S. as of 2015. The highest salary recorded was $110941. The lowest salary reported was $40761. These figures will vary on a state to state basis as these are averages across all 50 states.

Median hourly wage for a Research Scientist is $27.655 based on statistics in the U.S. as of 2015. The highest hourly rate recorded was $46.68. The lowest hourly rate recorded was $8.63. These figures will vary on a state to state basis as these are averages across all 50 states.

Bonuses for a Research Scientist are based on the years of experience using statistics from the U.S. as of 2015. The average bonus recorded was $4981 from people with 15+ years of experience. The average bonus recorded was $4973 from people with under 1 year of experience.

These are the highest paying states for a Research Scientist. These numbers are based off the median annual salary as of 2015.
California – $48,747 – $115,801
Maryland – $39,666 – $98,316
Massachusetts – $44,467 – $100,217
New Jersey – $50,028 – $113,046
New York – $40,755 – $104,279
Pennsylvania – $38,784 – $93,193
Texas – $41,811 – $107,510

These are the highest paying cities for a Research Scientist. These numbers are based off the median annual salary as of 2015.
Boston, Massachusetts –
San Diego, California –
Seattle, Washington –
San Francisco, California –
New York, New York –
Cambridge, Massachusetts –
Houston, Texas –

This chart outlines the average annual salary of a Research Scientist from the past 5 years. In 2015 the average annual salary was $74064 while in 2007 it was just $68685.66

Work Environment

Research scientists work in many settings, including universities and colleges, government agencies, nonprofit businesses, and private companies. Research is commonly conducted in field settings, laboratories, and classrooms. Library and Internet searches are indispensable for performing the literature searches that precede the formation of an hypothesis.

Scientific research also involves working effectively with other people. Good communication skills are important for directing assistants, discussing ideas with colleagues, and presenting research results to the public or to other scientists at conferences and symposiums.

Familiarity with using a computer is essential for any research scientist. Spread sheets are used for analyzing data, statistical programs are needed for interpreting the significance of results, and word processors are used for producing reports and articles for publication.

Research scientists often put in long hours when they are working on a research project. Competition between researchers to publish findings first can be intense.

Specialized Fields

  • Biomedical researchers investigate diseases and treatments, as well as discover new information about how biological systems function;
  • Environmental scientists answer questions about the human impact on the natural environment;
  • Computer and information technology researchers discover new ways of processing, transmitting and storing electronic information;
  • Engineering scientists test ideas about new materials and construction methods;
  • Social scientists and historians explore hypothesis about human society and principles that underlie human interaction.
  • How to Become a Research Scientist

    Post doctoral training is required for many specialties, and a Ph.D. in the scientific field of study is needed for doing research at a university. Some private and public corporations employ researchers who have masters degrees.

    Generally, becoming a research scientist involves:

  • Receiving a bachelors degree and Ph.D. in the desired field,
  • Doing postdoctoral research under the direction of another researcher.
  • Job Outlook

    There will always be a need for qualified researchers in all disciplines. The outlook for jobs in medical and environmental research is increasing. Computer and information technology research is also on the rise, while research in the social and biological scientists is expected to remain flat in coming years.

    Gender Statistics

    Related Jobs



    Based on our stats gathered across the U.S. 63% of Research Scientists were males while 37% were females. These numbers are based on averages across all states combined. Some individual states may have a much different ratio however.

    Past Jobs

    Postdoctoral Research Associate
    $31,207 – $58,227
    Research Associate
    $28,908 – $67,530
    Graduate Assistant
    $12,347 – $31,571

    Future Jobs

    Research Scientist, Biotechnology
    $40,221 – $106,962
    Senior Research Scientist
    $60,817 – $141,667
    Senior Research Scientist, Biotechnology
    $61,105 – $132,158

    Research Scientist Jobs






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