Research skills are key at all levels of HE study, and we’re often asked about career options using these skills, outwith the obvious academic career route. There’s sometimes a perception that there are few opportunities to use these skills outwith academia. Hopefully the case-study below will dispel that myth, as we trace Ruth’s career from university research assistant to senior research executive with social and market research agency Progressive Partnership. (And for more research-career ideas (excluding the sciences), check out some of the research careers options on our website).
Ruth graduated from Psychology here in 2002 – below she outlines her path from new graduate to Senior Research Executive
My current job
I am currently a Senior Research Executive at a small private research company specialising in social and market research. I conduct research for both public and private sector clients, across a wide range of policy areas. My job involves research design, writing proposals, project management, conducting research (quantitative and qualitative, using a range of methods), analysis, reporting and presentation.
My career history
- Aug-Sept 2002: Research Assistant, Psychology Department, University of Nottingham
- Sept-Nov 2002: Office temp, various Edinburgh companies
- 2002-2003: Research Officer, Scottish Executive Social Research
- 2003-2007: Researcher, Senior Researcher, Consultant, then Senior Consultant, MVA Consultancy
- 2007-2008: Consultant, York Consulting
- 2009-2011: Research Manager, George Street Research
- 2011-2012: Research Manager, Lynn Jones Research
- 2012-present: Senior Research Executive, Progressive Partnership
How I used the skills and/or knowledge developed during my degree in my career.
After a brief spell in university research, none of my jobs have been directly related to my degree subject. However, studying Psychology gave me a strong background in research methods, data analysis and reporting which are crucial skills that I have developed further in all my subsequent roles.
My career decisions and how they came about.
My degree and personal interests, and experience gained during each role helped me to get where I am now. The start of my current career path was a combination of luck and accident – I happened to phone the head of social research at the Scottish Government to ask for further information when temporary positions were available. Most of my career decisions have been based on personal choices, eg deciding where I want to live first and worrying about the job second. Later decisions have been more reactive (I have been made redundant three times) and have also been influenced by contacts I have made in my profession over time. The best career decision I ever made was to go for a practice job interview at the careers service; the experience itself was excruciating but I am convinced that I would never have got my first permanent job without it!
Advice for students want to work in this area
– Join the Social Research Association – it helps to build up contacts and they also advertise research vacancies regularly.
– Don’t wait for jobs to be advertised – send speculative CVs to any companies you think are relevant.
– Offer to do a short work placement or internship – even if these aren’t paid, companies may well keep you on if you’re good.
My general advice for students making career decisions today
Personal contacts and experience can be more important than qualifications (once you’ve got your first position). Be proactive. Stay open-minded and don’t expect to find the ideal job straight away.
So if Ruth’s experience has stimulated your interest in research outwith academia, start your research career with career research via our web pages.