Finding research experience after you graduate

Posted in: Advice, Postgraduate Study, Subject Related Careers

This week we're focussing our events and resources on further study, which is something we know lots of you are considering.

If you're thinking about doing a PhD, one of the things that will help you to be more competitive in applications is having some existing research experience. This could be gained through a final year or Masters project or dissertation, through experience gained on a placement, or through gaining some part-time or summer vacation research experience during your degree; see our previous blog post on how to find this.

This post will focus on how to find research experience after you graduate; you may want to do a PhD at some stage but build up further research experience first or test out whether research is right for you. People are increasingly doing a PhD at different stages in their careers. If you're thinking that you may want to do a PhD at some stage but work elsewhere first, it's always worth considering how much the roles you take on will help prepare you for a PhD, such as whether they have a strong research/technical component or are related to the subject area of your PhD. In engineering disciplines, it is relatively common for people to work in an R&D/technical role in industry before doing a PhD.

First things first, what kinds of organisations do research? As well as universities, research is done by a wide range of organisations including large manufacturing firms, hospitals, tech start-ups, research councils and research institutes, government agencies, charities and think tanks. Our helpsheet on careers in scientific analysis and R&D has an overview of the organisations that carry out scientific research. Academics are increasingly partnering with external organisations as part of their research, so if you're interested in research roles in other organisations, particularly if the research is connected to modules or projects at Bath, it's definitely worth asking them if they can suggest organisations or contacts. The company search function on LinkedIn and the library databases are also useful for finding small and niche research organisations.

Research assistant roles in universities

 University research assistant roles will exist across all disciplines but may be particularly prevalent in biosciences, health, psychology and engineering.   Research assistant roles in many organisations, particularly universities, will usually be fixed term, lasting anywhere between 6 months - 3 years, but this can be an advantage if you want to build additional research experience, research networks or 'test the waters' before doing a PhD. Research assistant roles in UK universities will usually be advertised on It's also always worth writing directly to academics to ask if they have any projects coming up that you could work on; you can find people working in relevant research fields through asking your lecturers, using academic networking sites such as ResearchGate , or through looking through publication databases such as  or Google Scholar to find out who is publishing in fields that interest you. You'd then craft an academic-formatted CV and a speculative covering email outlining why you're interested in working with that person, the research area that interests you and your relevant skills and experience (e.g. relevant modules, projects from your course or summer research placements). You'll also find research assistant roles in government-funded research institutes; again, is a good place to look for these.

Research experience in other organisations

Depending on your subject area, research assistant roles will exist in a number of different organisations. If you're in a science discipline, you can find RA roles in industry on vacancy sites such as Nature Jobs and New Scientist. Smaller R&D firms, including biotech firms, which may also employ research assistants, are often clustered on Science Parks. The UKSPA has a list of science parks which you can use to research organisations, and again, contact them directly to ask if they have any opportunities. If you're interested in pharma and biotech, the UK biotech database and the ABPI have lists of recruiters.  You may also want to do a research and development graduate scheme or direct-entry research role in industry directly after finishing your first degree or Masters and then do a PhD later on. Job titles may not necessarily have 'research' in the title but could still give you relevant lab-based experience; look at job descriptions carefully and talk to academics about how much a role you're considering would be valuable experience for a PhD.

Within areas like psychology, health and sport, research assistant roles may exist within charities, private research labs, mental health providers or the NHS. Use vacancy sites such as NHS jobs, CharityJob, JobsGo Public and Civil Service jobs to find roles .Again, you may see a variety of job titles used, so the important thing is to read job descriptions thoroughly and consider to what extent research is part of the job. Policy or project officer roles within the Civil Service will have a research component, and statistician or intelligence analyst may give relevant experience too. 

Our helpsheets on careers in the charity sector and careers in mental health and psychology may have other useful links and resources.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Knowledge transfer partnerships are collaborative research projects between industry and academia, and as such are are a great way to build research experience. You would be based with the industrial partner company but also have supervision from an academic. KTP Associate roles are advertised on the KTP website, individual university websites and Here from a current KTP Associate from the recording of our recent panel event on working at the interface of industry and academia.

If you'd like to consider further whether doing a PhD is right for you and how to gain relevant experience, book a careers appointment or sign up for the 'Considering a PhD' workshops happening this week via myfuture  

Posted in: Advice, Postgraduate Study, Subject Related Careers


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response