How to Become a Research Manager in the US

Research managers oversee the work of professionals engaged in research projects. They develop the standards for the project and ensure researchers have all the supplies they need to successfully complete the work. To become a research manager, you should have an advanced degree, extensive research experience backed by strong leadership skills.

What do research managers do?

Research managers can work in a variety of fields. For example, they could work as market research managers in the business field managing the work of market researchers, or as natural science research managers in the science field overseeing the work of various scientists.

Irrespective of area of specialism, their duties generally include:

  • Liaising with clients (project owners) to understand their objectives
  • Selecting or hiring the researchers to engage in a certain project
  • Identifying all the required supplies and coordinating their acquisitions
  • Developing research strategies—Involves deciding on the most appropriate research methodology
  • Ensuring researchers adhere to relevant regulations and policies
  • Resolving any challenges that might arise during the project
  • Assessing the need and benefit of a research and development activities in an organization
  • Supervising fieldwork activities such as collection of data
  • Developing systems to track ongoing projects
  • Managing finances by ensuring research activities are executed within the allocated budget
  • Writing research reports and presenting findings to clients

Work environment

Research managers typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. However, when research activities are conducted over the weekends, they may be present to handle any queries.

While market and education research managers mostly work from their offices, natural science managers spend most of their time in laboratories or field sites. Depending on the nature of the research project, they may need to wear protective clothing while at work.


The table below shows the annual average salaries for different types of research managers in the US.


Average annual wage

Market research managers


Natural science research managers


Technology research managers


Sources: Payscale,BLS,

Entry requirements

The first step to becoming a research manager is earning a business, scientific or engineering degree. The degree level depends on the field in which you want to work. For example, if you want to become a market research manager, you should secure a bachelor’s degree in marketing. If you want to manage scientific research projects, earn a master’s degree in physics, chemistry, biology or any other science field.

The next step is to find a basic research job, gain vast research experience and work your way up.

Important skills and abilities

To become a successful research manager you should have:

  • Superb research skills
  • A high level of attention to detail
  • Good analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Strong administrative skills
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills
  • Good project management skills
  • Strong analytical and research skills
  • Good communication and presentation skills
  • Good teamwork skills
  • Good time management skills

Career development

After becoming a research manager, you should work toward earning a graduate or postgraduate degree to improve your competence and career progression prospects.

You can also join professional associations in your industry to access alternative career development opportunities, such as seminars and training workshops. Examples of associations for research professionals include:

  • Association of Clinical Research Professionals
  • Marketing Research Association
  • American Educational Research Association
  • Computing Research Association

Job opportunities

As a qualified research manager, you can be employed by:

  • Government agencies
  • Research institutions
  • Manufacturing firms
  • Trade unions
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Corporate firms
  • Consulting firms
  • Engineering firms

According to the BLS, there will be a 7% job growth for management occupations between 2012 and 2022 – slower than the 11% average for all jobs. This means job opportunities will be scarce. It takes a genuine interest in conducting research activities and the drive to earn advanced qualifications to break into this profession.

With vast experience and advanced qualifications, you could be hired as the chief executive of an independent research center or a technical consulting firm.


Image: UW-Madison