How to get a research assistant job

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How to get a research assistant job
Research assistant doing research (student with papers image by Petro Feketa from

Taking a job as a research assistant can be a great stepping stone to a career in academia or business. When looking for a research assistant position, it's critical to define what type of job you want to do as a research assistant. You can be a research assistant across a great number of disciplines, from English literature to economics to laboratory sciences. Getting a research assistant job involves maintaining your relationships with people in academia, finding a niche as well as being on the lookout for opportunities in different outlets where you can do research.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Information about research classes
  • Schedule of research classes
  • Information about academic conferences
  • Contact information of professors
  • Career centre address
  • List of academic journals in your field
  • Information about requirements of the position
  • Job application
  • Resume or CV
  • Evidence of research work
  • Recommendation letters
  • Transcript

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  1. 1

    Develop a speciality by taking specific classes in your field of interest. It's easier to focus your search when you have a specific speciality that you want to develop. This speciality can help you get your first job in research, even if it may not be your dream position. To prepare you for research in a speciality, take classes that will develop your knowledge in a specific speciality.

  2. 2

    Gain experience by doing research in your class or by presenting a paper. Each academic field has several academic conferences where students and professors can present original research work. Work with a professor as part of an independent study class in order to immerse yourself in research and produce a research paper. Knowing basic research methods is critical; and many academic departments offer classes and programs specifically geared for research, such as directed research or a honours research program.

  3. 3

    Contact your professors that specialise in the type of research you want to do. Ask them if he is in need of a research assistant, or if he knows anyone in the department who needs one. With networking, you can uncover jobs that may not be listed on a job board. Professors are also more likely to recommend or hire their students with whom they have closely worked. You may also e-mail the chair of your department to ask who may be hiring, and he can forward your message to key individuals he knows who may be able to help you.

  4. 4

    Utilise other outlets such as your university's career centre. These career centres have job boards that may post internal listings within the university. You may also check recent press releases from your department or university to find out which professors have received a grant or funding recently. They may be looking to hire individuals for their research.

  5. 5

    Read academic journals in your field. Academic journals are great resources to find out the hot topics being researched and talked about in your field. The articles have the bylines of their researchers and writers attached, as well as the name of the universities they're affiliated with. Some research may come from "labs" or "centers" within a university dedicated to specific type of scholarly research and innovation, and knowing which schools offer these will help you focus your inquiry for specific research assistant jobs.

  6. 6

    Find out the requirements for the position by contacting the professor in charge or the job poster. The qualifications needed for research assistant positions vary. Some may require a specific postgraduate degree, while others require specific coursework or experience completed prior to applying. It's best to ask what the requirements are so you know how to prepare the application materials.

  7. 7

    Apply for the job by submitting your resume, evidence of research work, recommendation letters and transcript to the professor who is hiring. Be aware that some positions may require a CV instead of a resume. A CV is a longer summary of your previous experience which details papers published, classes taken and research completed. Unlike a resume, a CV can be more than one page. You may also need to submit your application to an internal website so they have your information on file. It's important to be aware of other requirements for the position so you can submit a complete application.

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