If the thought of a position on the cutting edge of science and innovation excites you, a career in research and development (R&D) could be the ideal fit for your ambitions.
R&D departments are crucial for any company, organization or institution that wants to produce competitive products and services. But in order to make that happen, those employers need to find the best and brightest new recruits to study the status quo, understand a market, and develop solutions that drive progress across all kinds of sectors; from medical to mechanical, consumer packaged goods, telecommunications to information technology, and farming to renewable energy.
In this post we’ll look at the many reasons the R&D industry is attracting top talent across the country, and the various (and very different) kinds of R&D jobs that you could apply for or work towards – whether you’re a college leaver, or weighing up your options for the right bachelor’s or higher degree.
Is research and development a good field to work in?
In a word, yes. As well as presenting a chance to be involved in new inventions that can push humanity forward, in a purely financial sense this is a 600+ billion-dollar industry that’s growing significantly year-on-year. As a result, jobs in research and development are:
- Creative: Whether they’re conducting experiments to gain a deeper understanding, using those insights to develop industry-appropriate solutions, or involved with managing the process along the way, R&D industry professionals all play a vital part in producing something that can move the needle in a big way, even helping to solve some of humanity’s most pressing challenges.
- In demand: While the average growth rate for professions across America in the past four years is 1.9%, the Better Business Bureau has R&D industry growth at more than double that at 1%. All of which goes to show just how in demand jobs in research and development are – and just how big an opportunity the field presents for those with the right skills, experience and passion to push things forward.
- Stability: Because jobs in research and development require such specialist skills, demand such innovative outlooks and help produce such industry-redefining products, it’s understandable that salaries in the field can lead to a comfortable lifestyle for those dedicated to pursing this career path.
Popular jobs in research and development
Research and development jobs typically fall into one of three categories: research-based, development-based, and supporting business functions that help manage and oversee R&D projects.
Six of the most common roles that fit these categories are as follows.
Research chemists use extensive knowledge of chemistry and science to conduct experiments and analyze the results. Research chemist jobs lend themselves particularly well to work in the medical and/or pharmaceutical field, where the chemist’s work can inform creation of new drugs, toiletries and other health-related items that improve consumer’s lives in innumerable ways.
Research analysts take responsibility for researching, understanding and even presenting their findings on a commercial subject area. They typically gather and analyze large amounts of quantitative data and show particular talent and affinity for organizing that information into a logical set of findings that can inform the production of real-world products and services on a deep level.
For this reason, the research analyst role often dovetails nicely with the chemist role by taking the research chemist’s findings and applying deep analysis in order to draw effective and useful conclusions.
R&D engineering roles can come in all shapes, sizes and specialisms. Essentially, an R&D engineer’s role is to take the theoretical findings produced by those in research analyst and research chemist jobs and use those to inform the design, prototyping, testing, and eventual full development of a market-suitable innovation. This could mean creation of a new semiconductor, the development of a new kind of fuel, or the synthesizing of a life-saving vaccine.
A specific type of R&D engineering job, packaging engineers design, develop and produce packaging for whatever goods a client needs to bring to market. Such is their expertise that packaging engineers might also be used to help develop new machinery or modify existing packaging systems to increase factory efficiencies. Additionally, it’s not unheard of for a packaging engineer to help with the rigorous process of package testing. Crucially, a packaging engineer will often bring enough technical knowledge to specialize either in either primary packaging (outer boxes and slip cases), secondary packaging (inner packing and slip cases), or any combination that’s needed.
R&D project manager
R&D project managers will ensure a project runs as smoothly as possible by taking an overview of the entire project and making sure the different teams are informed of and managed to hit certain milestones. Specifically, they’ll research, plan, and implement new protocols and programs to make sure everyone keeps on budget and working to deadline.
Perhaps a less glamorous, but no less essential job in research and development, administrators help support project managers as well as those on the research and development sides by ensuring a smooth flow of information across all necessary touch points. They’ll not only make sure information is kept up to date, but will also manage everything from documents and databases to apps and wider working processes. Fantastic for getting a good overall understanding of how the R&D industry works, admin positions can be one of the best entry-level jobs for those looking to break into the field.
Starting your R&D career?
With the R&D field growing so rapidly, many companies are actively looking for graduates hungry to begin a career in the R&D field and create amazing things for our brands. If that’s you, then we could have the ideal role for you. See our full list of current research and development jobs, or check out our R&D teams page.
For a deeper dive into the skills needed to break into the R&D industry, check out our blog post on getting into research and development.