Research assistants’ jobs are vast and varied, and available at a range of different levels, depending on your education and work experience.
Whether you are planning to apply for an undergraduate post at a university, a graduate or post-doctoral position in a hospital, or a private business, you’ll need a well-presented resume that shows you have the skills and expertise the employers are looking for.
We are going to help you write one.
Resume objective for a research assistant
When an objective is included in a resume, it needs to be short and to the point. While it is important to reference the job description, you don’t want to regurgitate what it says.
There is no point in stating the obvious – that you are seeking a position as a research assistant at the university that has placed the ad. If you weren’t interested in the job you wouldn’t be applying for it!
In its career guide, Indeed suggests that research assistants include a summary statement or headline that communicates what your qualifications and goals are.
If a summary of your experience and skills doesn’t indicate your match for the job, you could include an objective that highlights what you can do for the business, organization, or institution.
Highly motivated research assistant with three years of experience researching funding and philanthropy. Passionate about clean and organized data. Proficient in MS Excel and Salesforce databases.
Resume skills for a research assistant
It is important to highlight any skills you can offer the employer that match the requirements of the job.
These will, of course, vary, depending on the position. For instance, the skills a legal research assistant needs will not be exactly the same as those required by a university history department or a company undertaking climate change research.
But there are some skills that have a certain commonality and are usually required for any research assistant job.
ZipRecruiter has identified the top 10 job skills a research assistant must have. Interestingly, they are not the same as the top 10 job skills that applicants mention in their job applications.
The top job skills they say employers ask for are the ability to experiment, work with statistics, sample information, understand biology (though this would depend on the position), recruiting and quantification skills, psychology, data analytics and working with databases, as well as social media skills.
The skills that research assistants mention include experimentation, statistics, data analytics, biology, and databases, for the others are different. Most tend to believe undergraduate education is the most important skill and they highlight MATLAB and Python. They also list psychology and spring frameworks.
Experiments | Quantification | Attention to detail | Sampling | Statistics | Databases | Salesforce & Qlik | Communication | Confidentiality | Analytics
Research assistant work experience
Work experience is essential for many research assistant jobs, though some positions are available to graduates with no formal research experience.
We did extensive research on popular online recruitment sites and found that some jobs balance the value of work experience with education.
So, for instance, a research assistant might qualify for a job with a bachelor’s degree and no experience, or an associate’s degree and two years of relevant experience, or four years of experience.
We found some jobs advertised for undergraduates who were pursuing a degree in a field relevant to the job. Sometimes hands-on research experience was also required, but they would accept practical research projects undertaken at university.
Similarly, if applicants had a high school diploma plus some college study, they qualified for some jobs.
Getting undergraduate research assistant jobs is relatively easy because it is considered by universities to be part of the student’s academic training in specific fields. Duties are carried out under supervision.
According to The University of Texas at Austin, graduate research assistants are expected to be registered in courses that count towards the graduate degree for a specified length of time.
They and other universities appoint research assistants based on percent time employment and this is usually done on a semester-by-semester basis.
Sample Work Experience
Phoenix Children’s Hospital, AZ
Research assistant, 2015 – 2018
Assisted in the coordination of various research projects and supported the principal investigator and other clinical research support staff getting specimens and extracting data from patients’ charts.
- Provided administrative and regulatory support by assisting with the recruitment of patients for research. Increased the number of patient participants by 20%.
- Scheduled study participants.
- Provided operational support for the implementation and delivery of research studies.
- Maintained complete and accurate data and source documentation.
- Processed regulatory documents.
University of Washington, WA
Research study assistant, 2012 – 2014
Worked as a part-time research assistant in the Division of Critical Care Medicine supporting trial protocols and revisions. Assisted in the successful execution and completion of clinical studies.
- Attended investigator and lab meetings and established and organized study files.
- Participated in data collection from study subjects at multiple sites including external labs, hospitals, and medical centers.
- Performed basic calibration of optical equipment and reviewed optical data for quality.
- Reported data relevant to carrying out research projects including any adverse events that occurred.
- Maintained accurate data records of all the study subjects.
Oregon Health & Science University, OR
Research Assistant, 2010 – 2011
Involved in basic research required by medical scientists searching for new treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases. Provided daily lab maintenance and oversight of molecular lab-related activities.
- Maintenance work involved reagents and biomedical and chemical waste.
- Responsible for ordering and stocking supplies.
- Provided help in routine mouse work maintaining different mouse lines, genotyping, and keeping of records.
- Regularly cleaned the work areas in the lab which involved washing and autoclaving glassware, defrosting refrigerators, and keeping track of CO2 and liquid nitrogen tank fills.
Research assistant education
We have already mentioned that job requirements often call for a mix of education and experience and that many jobs want candidates with a university or college degree.
Research assistants who have degrees often major in subjects that relate to the research they hope to do.
According to the University of Cincinnati’s College of Arts and Sciences, even if you don’t plan to make a career out of being a research assistant, the research experience you can get at college is invaluable and can help you get a job after graduation.
Not only will experience in the role of a research assistant help you to develop skills like problem-solving, organizing, commitment, and reliability, the fact that you have this experience will help you stand out in the graduate admissions process if you plan to study further.
Working as a research assistant at college also enables students to develop mentoring relationships with faculty members and it offers results in excellent letters of recommendation for both graduate school and future jobs.
According to the University of California Berkeley, undergraduate research projects allow undergraduate students to get first-hand experience of research discoveries and knowledge.
There are lots of research opportunities in different areas including bioengineering, engineering, the humanities, and the social sciences.
Columbia University in the City of New York
Bachelor of History, 2014 – 2017
- Worked as a Department Research Assistant in final year
Generally, research assistants gain their basic knowledge about the field they plan to research when they study for a degree. But, as you have seen, not all research assistants go to college and they may not have much knowledge of the topics they will be researching until they get stuck in.
The same may apply to research assistants who have worked in laboratories or extracting data from surveys, who get a new job that requires an understanding of another field.
Ultimately, it will be up to the employer to decide whether your knowledge is adequate. If you know, in advance, that it might not be, you could enroll in courses that would help you get some background knowledge.
But the type of courses research assistants are more likely to sign up for relate to data management, statistics, and the software that is required for researching in different industries.
- MS Excel and Salesforce
- Data collection tools
- MATLAB and Python
Generally, research assistants don’t need to be certified, though if you are a clinical research assistant, your credibility will be strengthened if you are certified.
Both exams require a sound knowledge of the procedures that need to be followed for clinical trials, as well as ethical issues and all the regulations and laws that are involved.
ACRP offers a Clinical Research Associate (CRA) credential, as well as the Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) and Principal Investigator (CPI) certifications for more senior researchers.
SoCRA’s Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) Certification program evaluates the knowledge, understanding, and application of clinical investigations. They offer computer-based and written examinations.
- ACRP CRA
- SoCRA CCRP
Complete research assistant resume sample
When we sampled job postings for research assistants we singled out the adverts below to use to create a resume sample. Now we are going to show you how to tailor a resume for this position.
You will see that the ad is for a clinical research assistant at a prestigious children’s hospital and that it involves working with the principal investigator who is developing and implementing research at the hospital in terms of hospital medicine and general pediatrics.
The job includes preparing research manuscripts for publication.
To be considered for an interview for this job, you will need at least a year of clinical research experience plus a whole lot of typical research skills.
The hospital wants a research assistant with a bachelor’s degree – they don’t specify what field.
The key is to be able to provide what they want and show how you will add more value than anyone else.
Clinical Research Assistant
Research assistant with clinical research experience, certification, and four years in the field. Excellent admin, editing, and data-related skills. Special interest in children.
Experimental research | Data analysis | Medical terminology | Microsoft Office Suite | SPSS | Admin expert | Clinical trials | Communication | Statistics
Research Associate I, 2019 – 2020
Participated in data collection in the Human Sleep Laboratory which included laboratory set-up, patient hook-ups, administering computerized neuropsychological tests, and MRI scans.
- Performed overnight polysomnographs for various research studies.
- Focused on a study about the development of adolescent brains.
- Worked as part of a dynamic team but functioned independently operating sophisticated equipment to record sleep and wake physiology.
- Recruited and screened patients and managed patients records, tracked the progress of studies, and entered data into the database.
University of California San Diego, CA
Clinical Trials Research Assistant, 2018 – 2019
Worked as an assistant to the clinical trials research coordinators performing standard repetitive field procedures that required scientific and technical knowledge and skills.
- Assisted the research team with communication between pharmaceutical company sponsors.
- Conducted phone screenings of patients.
- Assisted with patient interviews and data collection, completion of case report forms, and scheduling of patient visits.
- Maintained the inventory of relevant study regulatory documents.
- Lab duties involved assisting with the inventory of lab kits and supplies and processing and shipping of specimens.
Northern California Institute for Research and Education, CA
Research Assistant I, 2017
Organized research participants and study execution for studies funded by NCIRE and the University of California San Francisco Parnassus Campus.
- Managed calendars and appointments and did additional admin taste when required to.
- Transferred samples to the VA clinical lab and facilitated pharmacy paperwork delivery and pickup.
- Completed data entry as part of study tasks.
- Updated patient information and participant spreadsheets and databases.
- ACRP CRA
University of California Berkeley
Bachelor of Science in Psychology, 2013 – 2016
- Participated in the Haas Scholars Program in the field of medical research.
Research assistant jobs are available to university students, graduates, and people who have worked their way up the ladder without opting for college after high school.
- Fields of research are vast and varied, but it does pay to know something about the field you are wanting to work in.
- The only area relating to research assistants that offers certification in clinical research. But even that isn’t compulsory.
- The most important skills for research assistant relate to experimentation, the ability to work with statistics, data analytics, and various software applications.
Tips from Experts
“If you’re looking for a job as a research assistant, get a great reference. You’ll need strong references when you apply for clerkships, summer associate positions, and, indeed, almost any kind of legal employment. If you’re a faculty research assistant, you can get a great letter of recommendation from the professor. But be careful, you shouldn’t take a research assistant job just to get a letter of recommendation for your next job.” – Mark E. Wojcik, law professor
“For research assistants with no work history, consider listing volunteer positions or part-time work. Even if it doesn’t relate to the position for which you are applying, it will establish your work ethic and convince potential employers that you can handle the rigorous demands placed on a research assistant. Even work in retail can be beneficial on a research assistant resume because it showcases your ability to follow directions and remain accountable.” – Monster
“Completing research is NOT limited to a certain field, to juniors and seniors, or to graduate students. The possibilities for research are limitless! Though you may not know it, professors in the humanities and social sciences have supported undergraduate research for years. Students often connect directly with faculty members when they have an idea they would like to research. There are also many interdisciplinary projects that transcend departments.” – Twardowski Career Development Center, West Chester University, Pennsylvania
If you’re heading for a new job as a research assistant, you should use your skills to find out what the employer is looking for. Then tailor your resume to cater to their needs. Show how you can add value to the position.
Our sample resume shows how you can craft a resume around a specific job posting. Use the information we have provided to create a winning resume that will help you get that all-important interview that gets your foot in the door. Good luck!