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Top In-Demand Research Jobs Outside Academia

Published by at June 13th, 2024 , Revised On June 13, 2024

For a long time, most aspiring researchers have been threading the same traditional academic career path that typically culminates in tenure-track university jobs. This common route has become very competitive, with few openings and severe pressure to publish.

At the same time, more and more organisations outside the academic require research skills, opening many doors of opportunities for researchers.

This article examines the transforming research career landscape, focusing on the most popular non-academic research jobs.

The Evolving Research Environment

The world witnessed in recent years a significant shift in research funding from academia towards private and public organisations. This change emerged due to various factors, but most significantly due to the demand for evidence-based policy-making and the emerging value of technological innovation in business.

Participation of the Private Sector

Private companies are making considerable investments in research and development activities to push innovation and achieve a competitive advantage. This direction is particularly noticeable in technology-intensive industries, especially in their R&D investments.

Public Sector Engagement

Public sector organisations and government agencies, like their private sector counterparts, are also advancing their research portfolio. These public entities’ areas of research concentration include addressing ecological issues, improving community health, and public policy dissemination.

Key research functions in the public sector like environmental scientists and policy analysts assume a vital function in framing public policies that foster sustainable development and enhance public welfare.

Government-funded think tanks and research agencies provide extensive opportunities to researchers to give their share in key societal development initiatives.

Advantages and Issues

Shifting from an academic career to another one outside academia has its demands and advantages. Researchers must adjust to the diverse organisational cultures and likely concentrate on business-oriented goals and directions.

Still, non-academic research careers offer comparatively better benefits. These include extensive project opportunities, bigger paychecks, and wider impact to society. These jobs can provide better stability than the typically-problematic academic tenure.

Top Non-Academic Research Sector

Industrial R&D

A number of businesses make substantial R&D investments to keep their operations running, sustain growth, and remain competitive.

For instance, biotechnology firms rely on research teams to help them in developing products or solve issues using living organisms. Likewise, researchers for IT companies help these organisations develop new technology products or improve existing software or hardware.

Example Jobs

Materials Engineer: Experts in this position create new types of materials with particular properties to be applied in aerospace, electronics, and other consumer products.

Drug Discovery Scientist: This job entails optimising drug formulations for different ailments and determining new therapeutic compounds.

Desired Skills & Qualifications

Ideal candidates should have robust project management skills, problem-solving acumen, and solid technical expertise. They value a proven track record of successful research projects and experience in interdisciplinary collaboration. In addition, employers commonly require knowledge on industry-specific standards and regulations.

Government and Public Research Sector

Think tanks and government research agencies assume a lead role in conducting different types of research that deal with national concerns and impact public policy. These agencies typically deal with national and municipal concerns like ecological protection, healthcare, and social welfare.

Example Positions

A policy analyst conducts research on the impact of pieces of legislation on today’s society. They also analyse past policy trends to make data-driven forecasts. Both private and public organisations work with them for guidance on policy-related matters.

Another example is environmental scientists. They study the effect of individual and group activities on the environment and make appropriate recommendations to support eco-friendly practices and stop harmful ones.

Impact on Public Welfare

Government research affects public welfare by providing the relevant baseline data necessary to provide evidence-based regulatory decisions and policy-making. For example, research reports written by environmental scientists can result in drafting policies that can protect endangered species or restore denuded forests.

Research Consultancies

These organisations provide specialised expertise to companies in various industries, offering them data-driven insights for making informed business decisions. These firms offer services to various business sectors from finance to marketing, providing mission-critical expert advice on operations and planning.

Different Kinds of Consulting Agencies

Management consultants advise businesses of any size on a wide range of areas related to the setup, operation, and planning of a business across different industries. They provide data-derived insights on business strategy, problem-solving, forecasting, etc., mostly for purposes like achieving business efficiency and better market performance.

While management consultants primarily concerned internal business aspects, market research firms focus on how businesses can better thrive in certain external market aspects. As such , market researchers advise businesses in the areas of market trends and the like.

Essential Skills

Research consultancy requires skills that let researchers efficiently identify the right sources of relevant and fresh data, analyse them in ways that allow smart data interpretation, and the framing of relevant, valuable insights from the data sets. As such, a researcher must have a skill set that includes problem-solving, resourcefulness, digital research efficiency, and critical thinking.

Diverse Research Careers

Unlike popular knowledge, research careers are not confined to lab environments. Research covers a wide area of exciting roles.

User Experience Research

This job involves gathering, analysing, and interpreting how customers relate to business product and service offerings. To help them develop improved user experiences, they conduct user interviews and usability tests and examine user feedback.

Data Analytics

Data analysts use internal and external business data to help businesses make better decisions, enabling them to perform better than their competition. This is why more and more organisations employ data analysts.

Social Science Research

These researchers focus their work on the study of relevant data about today’s and the future society. Social science researchers examine data on social systems and trends to provide insights for policy making decisions. They collect data through surveys, interviews, and other methods.

Market Research

This research helps businesses develop new products or improve new ones. Market researchers conduct surveys, hold focus group discussions, and utilise statistical methods to understand consumer behaviour and market trends.

Consumer Behaviour Research

These researchers explore why and how people make purchasing decisions. They examine things like social dynamics, psychological triggers, and cultural influences. Those who are drawn to delve into this field deeper could consider the convenience of gaining qualifications through online courses like those listed on Research.com cheapest online psychology degree, which can give a solid base for a career in this area.

Health Policy Research

This research job studies the impact of policies on public health. Health policy researchers explore data from population health surveys, patient records, and healthcare systems to comprehend how health-focused laws and regulations affect public health services and outcomes. Their findings provide valuable insights to policymakers in addressing public health challenges and enhancing healthcare delivery.

Health Policy Research

How to Shift to Non-Academic Research Careers

Here are practical tips on how to successfully continue your research career outside the academia:

Skills Development

A recent LinkedIn report says that 46% of executives think that the skills gap is greater in their own workplace. This clearly shows the importance of developing the appropriate skills, especially when transitioning from one type of career to another. Here are two ways on how to effectively improve your skill set:

Enroll in short online courses to gain industry-specific skills. Popular online learning platforms offer courses on regulatory knowledge, project management, and data analysis. These online programmes can help you gain practical skills that are necessary to land research roles in different business sectors.

Join online networks and attend industry conferences to reach out to non-academic researchers and relevant professionals, and keep updated on industry trends. These professional meets can also offer sessions and workshops that give insights on emerging technologies and industry practices.

Create a Compelling Resume

Crafting a solid resume customised to non-academic research positions is crucial. Here are a few practical approaches:

Employers that require data analysts are interested only in resumes from candidates with relevant skills and experience. You should only include information about your data analyst skills and related previous work experience.

Never send generic resumes. Always take time and effort to personalise each resume for each job you’re applying for. Elaborate how your experience aligns with the position requirements by providing particular examples. This customised approach will catch the attention of your potential employers.

Addressing the Challenges

Shifting to a research career outside academia is also a path filled with numerous challenges. Here are a few expert tips on how to successfully navigate them:

Be prepared to adjust to diverse organisational cultures and expectations. Non-academic roles have distinct workplace processes and structures. Comprehending and accepting these distinctions can help you to integrate into your new job seamlessly.

Establish and use the skills you gained from your academic research experience. Many businesses value skills such as problem-solving and analytical thinking. Showcasing these skills can show your capability to efficiently contribute to new jobs outside academia.

Transition with Eagerness and Courage

The demand for research skills beyond academia is increasing, opening doors to a broad range of interesting and lucrative career opportunities.

From consultancies to government research and industry R&D, non-academic researchers can find productive jobs that make the most of their skills and experience and contribute to socioeconomic development.

Researchers can successfully transition from academia to prosperous non-academic jobs by exploring the above career paths and gaining essential skills and experience. It is vital to maintain a keen, open mind for opportunities and continuously develop your skill set. Above all, you must go through the passage with curiosity and confidence.

About Alvin Nicolas

Avatar for Alvin NicolasNicolas has a master's degree in literature and a PhD degree in statistics. He is a content manager at ResearchProspect. He loves to write, cook and run. Nicolas is passionate about helping students at all levels.