How to Develop a Career in Research and Development


Research and development (R&D) is rapidly becoming an essential department in many profit and nonprofit organizations. This means the need for engineers and scientists with great research skills and an aptitude to innovate is increasing. If you are looking to develop a career in R&D – be it to discover an HIV vaccine, design efficient manufacturing processes, develop new consumer products, or simply gather more information on a particular subject – one thing remains constant: you must be a well-educated professional with the right occupational skills.

Let’s get started:

See also: How to Become a Research Scientist in the US

1. Develop a love for science

Without a love for science, your efforts to pursue a career in R&D may end in futility. Right from high school, science subjects should be your favorite. If you find yourself querying basic observations like why the sky is blue or why people age, then you are ready for this profession. Reading science journals and watching documentaries is a good way to increase your scientific curiosity. Oh, don’t forget math is equally important!

In addition to letting a love for science grow in you, familiarize yourself with the skills that make competent R&D professionals. You will need teamwork skills to productively collaborate with other scientists or engineers, analytical skills to assess the accuracy of your scientific findings, and outdoor skills, just in case the profession takes you to the forests!

2. Choose a specialty

R&D is an expansive academic field. It is wise to choose an area of specialism as early as possible, so that you can embark on pursuing college education that focuses on your chosen area.

Do you, for instance, want to know more about planet Earth and other celestial bodies so you can design space vehicles? Then pursuing a bachelor’s degree in space studies or rocket science will give you the best foundation.

Are you always keen to learn about the features of an upcoming iPhone and other telecommunication products? Why not pursue a bachelor’s in telecommunication engineering? In short, undergraduate school should not be about pursuing a general B.Sc. degree.

3. Pursue graduate-level education

In R&D, undergraduate training is not sufficient. It can only get you hired as a lab technician. As such, you have to follow up your bachelor’s with a master’s degree. Although you can proceed to pursue a PhD as soon you are finished with grad school, it is advisable to take a pause and find employment as a research associate or assistant. This is crucial as you will get the opportunity to put your innovative skills to test, develop report-writing skills, and gain research experience. Thereafter, go for your PhD.

4. Join professional associations

Joining a relevant professional association enables you to network with other R&D professionals in your field and access their published works. Examples of research associations you could join include:

  • British Science Association (BSA)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP)
  • National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

Some of these associations, like ACRP, offer research certifications that you can pursue to improve your competence and employability. Also, be sure to keep up with The Research and Development Society website.

With advanced qualifications and vast experience in R&D, no one will stand in your way to becoming an R&D manager.

See also: How to Become a Research Manager in the US

So if you think you are problem-solver with solid creative and innovative skills, this is how you can penetrate and excel in the research and development industry.