Spotlights

Job Description

One thing that every developed product or service on Earth has in common is this — it was researched first. Someone had to do the legwork to determine how an organization can take an abstract concept, such as an iPhone, and transform it into a reality. That’s where industrial research and development processes come in. 

Industrial research is partly defined as “the planned research or critical investigation aimed at the acquisition of new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services.” It also covers improving existing products by adding new features or enhancing the design elements. 

Conducting such research is complicated, so researchers often require the aid of trained Industrial Research Assistants. These invaluable helpers perform a range of tasks, from taking care of administrative duties to building lab prototypes or simulations. The work is very “behind-the-scenes” but without it, companies couldn’t bring their products and services to market.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Conducting research vital to the development of much-needed products and services
  • Contributing to the economy by laying foundations for products and services
  • Working with cutting-edge technology 
  • Learning in an assistant capacity while working your way up
TEH INSIDE SCOOP
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

Industrial Research Assistants may or may not be employed full-time. Student research positions are temporary, usually part-time, and filled by undergraduate or graduate students. Assistants may work nights or weekends, with duties sometimes requiring fieldwork. 

Typical Duties

  • Discuss research project scopes, timeframes, budgets, and other considerations with stakeholders and supervisors 
  • Design and build programs to perform statistical analysis
  • Perform research-based and fact-checking tasks using online and library tools 
  • Use programs to analyze and interpret data and statistics
  • Code and input data into software programs. Manage databases and ensure the accuracy of entries
  • Develop quality assurance measures
  • Draft and proofread presentations, reports, survey questionnaires, and other written materials 
  • Create graphics to summarize data and findings 
  • Present or explain findings to stakeholders or other parties
  • Conduct research interviews and testing with volunteer subjects
  • Collect, analyze, log, and store or dispose of physical specimens, as needed
  • Keep track of any follow-ups involving research volunteers 
  • File, manage, and safeguard documentation and other sensitive materials
  • Oversee inventory management to include lab supplies
  • Manage budgets and keep an eye on expenses
  • Supervise other team members or project participants, as needed

Additional Responsibilities

  • Complete administrative tasks as requested, such as note-taking
  • Attend meetings and conferences
  • Update websites
  • Be aware of and comply with all applicable rules, guidelines, and laws
  • Stay up-to-date on changes in relevant technologies  
  • Train, mentor, and supervise new assistants and other team members
  • Help with recruitment efforts
  • Keep work areas clean 
  • Discuss technical issues with the appropriate personnel
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Analytical
  • Compliance-oriented
  • Concentration
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Curiosity
  • Deductive and inductive reasoning
  • Detail-oriented
  • Discipline
  • Flexibility
  • Intuition
  • Observant
  • Patience 
  • Planning and organization
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Sound judgment 
  • Teamwork
  • Time management 

Technical Skills

Different Types of Organizations
  • Charities 
  • Governmental agencies and research labs
  • Private organizations and business enterprises
  • Universities
Expectations and Sacrifices

Industrial Research Assistants are relied on to do the background work necessary to produce products and services that conform to specific requirements. Their work must be methodical and meticulous, taking multiple factors into consideration, including what data to assess, how to obtain it in the allotted timeframes, and what to do with it. 

They need to carefully establish and follow procedures to ensure their findings are accurate, relevant, and timely. The day-to-day job requires tons of focus and critical thinking, but such sustained concentration can be exhausting at times. There may also be long periods of working independently, which can be a bit lonely for some. However, researchers do meet up to discuss how projects are going and to prepare findings.  

Current Trends

Just as technology is advancing, so too is the research and development behind it. As discussed by Brightspot Strategy, three overarching recent trends are that “research is becoming a more complex, collaborative activity,” there’s a “growing focus on the real-world application, societal impact, and commercial return,” and “technology has growing importance as a tool to enable more complex and collaborative research across disciplines.” 

Because of the increasing complexities of research, Industrial Research Assistants may expect more job opportunities! Researchers not only need help with the actual research, but also with several time-consuming operational and administrative burdens that come with it. Among these are tasks related to obtaining funding, managing data, finding volunteer subjects, and getting published in relevant journals. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

People who get into research fields usually enjoy reading, studying complex subjects, and figuring out solutions to problems. They may have been bookworms or computer programmers who loved being caught up in whatever they were engaged in. 

Industrial Research Assistants must collaborate with others but don’t mind working on their own for long periods. They might have been independent and self-sufficient growing up, preferring to be left to their intellectual pursuits. They were probably interested in how things work and the behind-the-scenes of how products are made! 

Education Needed
  • Industrial Research Assistants usually need a bachelor’s in the field they are working in
  • Courses depend on the exact field of research, but general subjects include math, English composition, computer programming, and statistics
  • Candidates should be familiar with data analysis, databases and spreadsheets, statistics and analytical software, information retrieval systems, presentation software, and research methodology
    • Student research assistant positions may be available for undergraduates but are often for graduate students
  • Software-specific certifications may be available to boost your credentials
  • Six Sigma process improvement techniques are also useful in the R&D environment
Things to look for in an University
  • There are numerous possible majors that could tie into industrial research. Figure out your major before thinking about “things to look for in a university” 
  • General considerations include: tuition costs (including in-state or out-of-state rates), discounts offered, scholarship opportunities, and course delivery options (on-campus, online, or hybrid program)
  • If you’re considering a student research role, you may need to be on-campus. Check with the applicable program you’re interested in to learn more
Things to do in High School and College
  • Volunteer as a research project subject and ask lots of questions 
  • Take plenty of math, statistics, computer science, and English in high school
  • Get some real-world job experience via part-time jobs related to your major
  • Previous scientific research work or experience in labs using analytical software may be useful in preparing workers for this field
  • Review job postings in advance to see the common requirements employers are seeking
  • Keep track of contacts who might serve as future job references 
  • Study books, articles, and video tutorials related to developments in your areas. Study current research programs and processes
  • Understand how R&D works and who the key players are, such as the principal investigator
  • Learn about the patent application process
  • Look at the various existing products related to the area you intend to specialize in, and consider how they were developed
  • Participate in online forums to ask questions and learn from seasoned pros 
  • Engage with professional organizations to learn, share, make friends, and grow your network (see our list of Resources > Websites)
  • Start crafting a resume early. Keep adding to it as you go, so you don’t lose track of anything
How to Land your 1st job
  • Complete as necessary educational requirements to qualify for a research position
  • Check out job portals such as Indeed, Simply Hired, Glassdoor, and local college job boards
  • If you are a student, talk to your program manager or professors about opportunities
  • Get some practical shop work experience under your belt before applying, if possible
  • Be familiar with the research already being done, including any new breakthroughs
  • Speak with working Industrial Research Assistants about job-seeking tips
  • Visit your school’s career center for help connecting with work opportunities
  • Ask potential references in advance to see if they’ll recommend you or write letters of reference
  • Check out Research Assistant resume templates and review Research Assistant job interview questions
  • Wear appropriate attire for your job interview
  • Do your research about every company you interview with. Learn their mission, values, and products or services they currently offer or are working on
  • Companies thrive by improving current products and launching new ones, so come into an interview with creative, feasible ideas
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Conduct thorough, accurate research and build your reputation as a trusted, innovative assistant
  • Pay close attention to instructions given by your supervisor or project manager
  • Try to master all the duties assigned to you, and request increased responsibility if you can handle it
  • Ask your supervisor how you can improve your knowledge and skills to better serve the project
  • Be a quality assurance guru, and set the bar high for yourself and others 
  • Stay positive and motivated. Do solid work, follow procedures, and keep work centers clean and safe
  • Study manufacturer and software guides. Become the go-to expert and make yourself invaluable
  • Learn all you can from those with more experience
  • Reach out to other teams doing related research, and collaborate when possible (but don’t break any confidentiality requirements of your project)
  • Consider earning a Six Sigma belt
  • Post updates about your project, as allowed, and promote your own achievements (or better yet, get your boss to promote them!)
  • Collaborate effectively on teams, stay focused on goals, and demonstrate leadership
  • Train new assistants and treat them with respect
  • Stay engaged with professional organizations related to your field 
Recommended Tools/Resources

Websites

Books

Plan B

Industrial Research Assistants work in many fields and sometimes leave research behind to focus on other aspects of their careers. For those who enjoy research, there are many other career options that rely heavily on it, including: 

  • Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers
  • Clinical Data Managers 
  • Cost Estimators
  • Data Scientists 
  • Economists
  • Management Analysts
  • Mathematicians and Statisticians
  • Operations Research Analysts
  • Public Relations Specialists
  • Statisticians 
  • Survey Researchers

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