How To Become A Researcher In Australia: A Complete Guide

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Students want to know how they can become researchers in Australia.


Are you a person who enjoys research and finding facts? Then, you may like a career as a Researcher.


Researchers seek information in several capacities working across an array of industries. They use various sources, such as relevant literature, the internet, and online and offline publications like newspapers and journals to research and arrive at conclusions.


To become a researcher in Australia, you need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant scientific field such as biology, chemistry, etc. Employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree with scientific research experience.


Are you thinking of becoming a Researcher and planning the next step? Keep reading this blog. Here we discuss what a researcher does, what skills and qualifications they need, how much they earn, what is their work environment, the steps to become one and answer some of the frequently asked questions about this position.



1. What Are Researchers?


Researchers plan and conduct research using different sources and methodologies such as newspapers, internet searchers, journals, and other publications.


They mostly work as specialists in scientific research, medical research, market research, or public policy full-time or on a project basis.



2. What Are Research Assistants?


Research Assistants usually work under the supervision of the lead researcher to assist them in their daily tasks and provide them with regular progress updates.


Research Assistants support the research team in conducting experiments and research per the set protocols, collecting, and analysing datasets, fact-checking, and proofreading research documents for consistency and accuracy.


They work in various organizations, including medical research centres, universities, market research firms, consulting firms, and think tanks.



3. What Does A Researcher Do? 


The typical day of a researcher varies based on the area of research they operate in and the institute they work for. However, some of the things that most researchers can expect in a typical day are:


  • Collect and analyze meteorological, scientific, biological, or other forms of data 

  • Study the behaviour of animals to conduct zoological research

  • Study short-term and long-term trends in health and population growth to perform medical and health research.

  • Study social, economic, and industrial trends to help in policy development 

  • Perform record keeping, administrative, or statistical tasks for research purposes

  • Reviews regulations and policies to find out irregularities and out-of-date provisions.

  • Evaluate administrative and political feasibility of policies.

  • Coordinate with program administrators to identify policy needs.

  • Formulate policy options, prepare suggestions and briefing papers for policy changes, and advise on appropriate options.

  • Accurately transcribe verbal recordings and translate source texts from one language to another to maintain their original meaning.

  • Perform historical research; collect historical data from various sources such as archives, court records, publications, and historical indexes; and interpret and validate historical data for inclusion in studies.



4. Personal Requirements For Researchers


Getting a job in a research position is highly competitive. So, it is essential to demonstrate you have the necessary analytical and technical skills and soft skills such as critical thinking, organization, time management, and problem-solving.


Here is a complete list of technical skills and personal qualities that employers look for in a candidate: 


  • Enjoy doing research work

  • Familiarity with Microsoft Office and the organization's computer system.  

  • Strong computer skills 

  • Able to make presentations using various media like PowerPoint

  • Strong verbal communication and writing skills 

  • Able to analyze and collate information

  • Able to work in a team

  • Able to handle workload and work to deadlines

  • Good organizational abilities

  • Data analysis skills 

  • Critical thinking 

  • Proactive

  • Good listening, speaking, and questioning skills

  • Patience

  • Strong attention to detail

  • Capable of protecting the privacy and confidentiality of human subjects

  • Willing to keep their research skills up-to-date by attending relevant training classes, workshops, or conferences.



5. What Qualifications Do I Need To Be A Researcher?


You need a tertiary qualification or relevant work experience to work as a Researcher. Here are the steps to qualify for this role:


  • Gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education.

  • Complete a relevant undergraduate degree, such as a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, or any other degree in which you wish to conduct research, such as economics, biology, psychology, Indigenous studies, mathematics, medicine, geology, political science, sociology, or health science.

  • Gain industry experience working as a Research Assistant.

  • Consider undertaking postgraduate studies related to your chosen field of research. Some employers prefer candidates with a PhD in their field of specialization.

  • Knowledge of statistical analysis methods and prior research experience is beneficial.



6. How Do I Become A Research Assistant In Australia?


To become a Research Assistant, you usually need a degree in a relevant discipline. However, in some cases, an equivalent amount of work experience in the field of research may substitute for a qualification.


  • Complete a bachelor’s degree in your area of interest, such as science, arts, biomedical science, commerce, psychological science, or health science.

  • Gain research experience by completing an honours year that involves a research project related to the degree.

  • Though optional, you may consider earning a 1-2 years Master’s degree in your chosen area of specialization to improve your employability for the role.



7. How Do I Start A Career As A Researcher?


Follow these steps to learn how to become a researcher in Australia:



Step 1: Choose A Subject of Interest


Choose a subject you are interested in and want to perform research on. You should think about what type of work environment you want to work in, such as an office, laboratory, or on-site collect information from specific locations or people. 



Step 2: Earn The Education You Wish To Research


To become a researcher, you must first get into an entry-level position, such as a research assistant, and gain several years of work experience and a postgraduate qualification. 


The minimum qualification to start as a research assistant is a bachelor's degree in arts, science, or any other subject you want to research. Some of these other subjects could be general clinical research, economics, biochemistry, chemistry, psychology, biology, mathematics, medicine, political science, sociology, geology, or health science.


Engineering researchers may study industrial, mechanical, or aerospace engineering. In addition to the basic bachelor’s qualification, you should also take courses about mathematics, the scientific method, statistics, and how to perform proper research.



Step 3: Apply For an Internship or a Research Assistant Position


Learn from experienced researchers, acquire some hands-on experience and expand your professional network  through an internship.


Many research assistants can get a job without experience if they possess the necessary skills and education. Alternatively, you can look for universities allowing bachelor’s degree holders to participate in research projects. 



Step 4: Focus on Refining Your Skills


While you gain industry knowledge and experience, focus on refining your skills crucial to working in this role. You may take additional courses to brush up on your soft skills, such as:


  • Verbal and written communication skills to liaise with other researchers and prepare clear work summaries.

  • Critical thinking and attention to detail to conduct accurate research as a missed or incorrectly counted variable can alter the research findings.

  • Organization skills to arrange and keep records of methodology and results of every study in a systematic way.

  • Patience, as it takes several years of education and work experience to be a researcher.



Step 5: Gain A Postgraduate Qualification


To become a researcher and lead a research project, you usually need two years of master's degree or 4-5 years of doctorate that involves working with others on an academic paper and a research project.


Doctoral candidates perform original research, and the university faculty or an advisor observes their progress. They also defend their research through formal methods as part of the degree program.



Step 6: Apply For A Research Job


Once you have the required qualification and work experience, you can apply for research jobs. Ensure you list qualifications, experience, and accomplishments on the resume. Mention the studies you conducted, including numbers and statistics.


Use the same keywords as present in the job description to increase your likelihood of getting an interview.



8. How Much Does A Researcher Make In Australia?


Due to the broad range of environments research assistants operate in, their earning potential varies. The key factors influencing a researcher’s salary are work experience, geographic location, and the industry.


According to PayScale, the average Researcher’s salary is AU$79,154 in Australia.



Estimated Salary based on Experience:


  • Entry-level Researcher (<1-year experience): AU$73,220 per year

  • Early career Researcher (1-4 years of experience): AU$77,810 per year 

  • Mid-career Researcher (5-9 years of experience): AU$80,000 per year 

  • Experienced Researcher (10-19 years of experience): AU$95,000 per year 



Highest paying cities for Researchers in Australia:


  • Sydney NSW: $97,744 per year

  • Melbourne VIC: $96,247 per year

  • Adelaide SA: $93,907 per year

  • Newcastle NSW: $91,117 per year

  • Townsville QLD: $89,993 per year

  • Canberra ACT: $88,315 per year

  • Perth WA: $88,086 per year



9. Where Do Researchers Work?


Research officers work in various research environments in medical, educational, social, biological, academic, economic, legislation and human rights, mathematical, HR, business operations, the arts and creative arts, communications technologies, logistics, mining and exploration, information sciences, political areas, and research operations.


Scientific researchers spend most of their time working in scientific laboratories. They may even work for educational institutions, private organizations and firms such as government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and non-profit organizations. 


Areas of Specializations: Operations Researcher and Research Officer



10. Working Conditions For A Research Officer


Research scientists often work in universities, private offices, or laboratories assisting other scientists in their research. Occasionally, they may require to work outdoors to collect samples.


Researchers generally work full time for standard business hours; however, they may work longer hours, or weekends or nights when conducting a research experiment that requires supervision.


Research assistants usually work flexible working hours that vary based on the project they are working on. They frequently work overtime to meet strict project deadlines.


While working, researchers often use specialized tools and machinery based on what they research. Also, the job can be risky as it exposes them to infectious diseases or hazardous materials, depending on the type of research.



11. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



How To Become A Researcher Without A Degree?


The minimum qualification to work as a researcher in Australia is a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as biology, chemistry, etc. Looking at the complexity of the role, employers usually seek candidates with a master’s degree in relevant fields and who have previous experience in performing scientific research.


However, in some cases, an equivalent amount of work experience in the field of research may substitute for a qualification.



How Do I Get Research Experience With No Experience?


Degree coursework (honours year) usually involves working on real-time research projects to help students build hands-on experience before starting their careers.


After gaining the requisite qualification in your preferred research subject, you can consider enrolling in a relevant internship to build more research experience.


With the relevant qualification and experience, you are ready to apply for an entry-level research assistant position. Gradually build your work experience, and advance to a Researcher’s position.



How Long Does It Take To become A Researcher?


It takes about ten years to become a researcher in Australia, considering the total years of schooling and research experience. 


To apply for this role, prospective researchers need to complete a 4-year bachelor's degree in the field they want to conduct research. Since most researchers hold a research doctorate, consider completing 1 to 3 years of a related master's degree or 4-5 years of a PhD program at a graduate school to gain a competitive edge.


For those who want to know how to get research experience with no previous experience, both post-graduate programs mentioned above involve research experience opportunities and give you the much-needed experience.


After graduation, most researchers also undertake 1-3 years of postdoctoral fellowships to refine their research skills within their area of specialization. It can significantly improve your chances of landing a research role.



Do You Need A PhD To Become A Research Assistant?


No. It is not mandatory to complete a PhD qualification to work as an entry-level research assistant. Most positions will require you to possess an undergraduate degree, preferably a Master’s degree in a relevant subject.


Employers prefer PhD qualifications for senior positions like a lead research scientist. Irrespective of the qualification requirement, you need an in-depth understanding of the subject area and be capable of demonstrating research skills such as data analysis and data collection skills to impress potential employers and be considered for a research assistant role.


A few Australian universities run undergrad research assistant programmes that enable undergraduates to engage in academic research under the guidance of experienced lecturers and prepare them for a career in the academic world.



Is Research A Good Career?   


The job outlook for researchers is quite favourable in Australia. It majorly depends on the nature of the research they perform.


Since the growing population facilitates the spread of diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer, increasing the possibility of new ones, it results in a rising demand for medical research scientists.


Likewise, with the growing need for innovative and better technology, particularly cybersecurity, the demand and employment for computer and information research scientists are projected to increase substantially faster than the average for all jobs.



Is A Research Assistant A Good Job?


Working in a research assistant job is a great way to gain hands-on experience and prepare for a career in applied research or academia. You get the opportunity to involve in publishing papers, lead the research work, write up the manuscript, and become the first author of a publication.


Research assistants move from project to project and gain experience working in varying environments and teams. It helps them experience several aspects of research life and develop transferable skills like communication, problem-solving, and data analysis, helping almost any industry.


Furthermore, the profession allows you to “earn while you learn”, which makes it ideal for those who need extra income to support their studies. Being a research assistant, you get a glimpse of research life without committing to a full-time research career and pursuing related post-graduate qualifications. 


Moreover, there are opportunities to study and specialize in countless research areas to advance your career. If you are interested in many of them, you can become a research assistant in multiple fields or change fields during your career.


Another important reason that makes becoming a research assistant worthwhile is flexibility in the work schedule. You can choose to supervise lab activities, teach students, or assist in research projects and perform your tasks at your convenient time i.e., in the evenings or over the weekend, to enjoy a work-life balance.



How To Become A Research Assistant In Psychology?


If you are enjoying studying and observing psychology, this role is perfect for you to pursue. The responsibilities are managing correspondence, summarizing results, attending project meetings, responding to research-related emails and surveys, preparing interview questions, and supervising admin and operational tasks.


To qualify to work in this role, you need a bachelor's degree in counselling, psychology, or biology. It is necessary for this role to be detail-oriented with technical, communication, and analytical skills, including knowledge of research projects, data analysis, data collection, and literature reviews.


Many psychology research assistant jobs also require experience in a role like an internship. A prior work experience as a volunteer or research assistant can help you get the initial break quickly.



How To Become A Researcher In History? 


It is a great career option for those who enjoy examining the historical record to accumulate data that could lighten up moments of history.


Individuals pursuing a career in historical research can apply their skills in various future professions related to academia, military, economics, government, museums, and the private sector.


To become a History Researcher, you need academic preparation, such as a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field and real-world experience through internships and jobs.


An Arts Bachelor’s in History, museum studies, historic preservation, or archiving could suffice for entry-level historian positions, but most historian jobs require completing a relevant master’s degree or doctorate. 


Researcher aspirants who want to know how to become a researcher online can undertake an online Master of Arts in History degree at Deakin University.



How To Become A Researcher In Chemistry?


If you like working with chemicals and applying your knowledge in researching and finding new ways to create and enhance products and processes, this is the perfect role for you.


As a researcher in chemistry, you would work for a chemical manufacturing plant in the area of quality control or production. You would perform tasks related to testing chemical compounds, quality control, or helping senior chemists in their research works.


Researchers in chemistry have the flexibility to choose to specialize in any of the branches of chemistry, such as analytical, inorganic, organic, physical, theoretical, medicinal, and materials chemistry.


A Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry or a related field such as life science, engineering, or physical science is the qualification you need to qualify for a research assistant, associate, or other entry-level position.


To qualify for advanced roles like a researcher in chemistry, you would require earning a relevant master's or doctoral degree. The degree lets you specialise in discipline niche fields, such as forensic chemistry, biochemistry, theoretical chemistry, environmental chemistry, medicinal chemistry, analytical chemistry, or nuclear chemistry.


However, to get into a graduate school, having practical experience in chemistry through an internship or work-study program is advantageous. It will also benefit you in expanding your professional network and obtaining a reference.



How To Become A Researcher In Biology?


A biomedical researcher is responsible for performing various lab and scientific tests on fluids and tissue samples, supporting clinicians in diagnosing and treating diseases.


To qualify for this position, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field. The University of Western Australia offers the following undergraduate courses to pursue a career as a Biomedical Researcher:


  • Anatomy and Human Biology

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

  • Microbiology and Immunology

  • Neuroscience

  • Genetics

  • Pharmacology

  • Physics

  • Physiology

  • Pathology and Laboratory 

  • Medicine

  • Public Health


You can study for the above undergrad courses full-time/part-time as part of a 3 years Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Biomedical Science/Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) qualification. All these courses are delivered On-campus at Albany (Regional campus) and Perth (Crawley campus).


Graduates from the above courses must additionally pursue a relevant 2-year postgraduate qualification to apply for a researcher role. The University of Western Australia conducts the following postgraduate degree courses that students can choose based on their preferred area of specialization.


These courses equip you with the necessary skills, knowledge, and work experience to prepare you for a researcher’s role:


  • Graduate Diploma in Infectious Diseases

  • Master of Science Communication

  • Master of Infectious Diseases

  • Master of Infectious Diseases and Doctor of Philosophy

  • Master of Biomedical Science

  • Master of Biotechnology

  • Master of Biological Arts


The above courses are delivered Full-time/ Part-time at the Perth (Crawley campus).



How To Become A Researcher In Medicine?


Are you interested in medical research, health care, and lab work and want to use your knowledge to find treatments to improve human lives? Then this could be the ideal career option for you.


Medical researchers conduct research and experiments to identify diseases and health issues and devise treatments to offer high-quality health care services to patients.


To apply for this role, you must complete a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, life sciences, mathematics, or physical sciences. Entry to these courses is usually offered based on your performance in the 10+2 exam or the university’s entrance test.


Next, you must gain industry experience as a research assistant through an internship or job. Working under the direction of experienced scientists before advancing your career is beneficial as it would help you familiarise yourself with medical practices and lab settings and widen your skills and knowledge in a specific field.


This experience is necessary to apply for a relevant master's / doctoral degree course in your chosen area of specialization. After you complete the post-graduate qualification, you are ready to apply for researcher’s jobs in your field of research.



How To Become A Researcher For Writers?


Research writers, also called technical writers are capable of doing in-depth research and have a strong understanding of the creation and maintenance of databases.


As a research writer, your responsibility is to gather, organize, analyze, and present pieces of information in simple terms for the audience. You may be required to write on numerous technical or scientific subjects, conduct strategic research, and collaborate with clients who specialize in web content.


To become a research writer, you must learn the basics of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Some employers seek candidates with a bachelor's degree in arts, and others look for writers who have majored in English, communications, or journalism.


Around 71.3% of research writers hold a bachelor's degree, and 17.8% of research writers have master's degrees. Employers favour previous career experience in roles like researcher or writer.



How Do I Apply For A Research Position?  


As research assistant/researcher jobs aren’t well advertised, candidates often find difficulty in finding Research Assistant Positions. Once you meet the eligibility criteria, you can browse the research section on the university websites you are interested in.


You can also speak to university staff about available research positions within their department and the best course of action for applying for those positions.


Some organizations advertise their job openings on social media, so you can join Facebook groups and follow alumni and department pages on Twitter to stay updated on relevant job openings.


When identifying a job position that matches your qualification and skillset, update and craft a strong cover letter and well-targeted resume for the role you are applying for. Highlight your skills and relevant educational or career experience gained throughout your academic career. It will differentiate you from other candidates.


12. Conclusion


Being a research assistant is a fulfilling career path for interested candidates. It offers above-average earning potential and the opportunity for a lifetime of learning and advancement in various fields.


We hope the blog has given you the much-needed information and direction to pursue a “researcher” profession in a variety of specializations in Australia.


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