A research assistant position is a lot like taking a university course, only the work that you do is really relevant for your employer.
These are often term or contract positions that will give you a taste of what working in research would be like, so it’s a great chance to see whether you’re cut out for that graduate degree that you’ve been considering. However, the tasks of a research assistant are not always clearly defined, so you’ve got to learn to ask questions and communicate effectively.
As in my previous post on Job skills from part-time work, here are some three types of skills that you might take away from working as a research assistant:
- Analytic skills – whether its history, biology, or even nursing research, you need to be able to collect and sort through a lot of data, break it down, and identify the most important parts. You may also develop your figure and table making skills, apply statistics to real-life scenarios, and write manuscript outlines.
- Reflection – this is a skill that’s often overlooked, but comes up a lot when conducting research. You learn to reflect on the bulk of the information you’ve collected, as well as the best ways to present your findings.
- To develop a systems based approach – learning to conduct your research tasks in a logical manner is a must for any successful research assistant. You need to be able to look at your research topic as a whole and then consider how it fits into the current research in your field. This job takes you one step farther than your university experience because you must learn to summarize your findings for someone else’s use.
Working as a research assistant is an excellent opportunity for someone who is interested in taking their academic experience a little bit further. I learned a lot in my short time as an assistant and really appreciated having the time to reflect on pursuing research as a possible career. I’m not sure that I’ll be headed in that route, but at least I have a better idea of what it might entail!