Becoming a researcher isn’t for everyone. For those who enjoy discovering new facts, collecting enormous amounts of data, solving problems and issues, and predicting trends, however, it can be the perfect career choice. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the career is expected to grow by 8 percent between 2018 and 2028, producing almost 11,000 new job opportunities nationwide. 

The term “researcher” is also broad and can be applied to many different disciplines, including, but not limited to, sociology, psychology, medicine, and science. One of the best degrees a researcher can earn that can be applied to a variety of fields is a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. Here, we will examine what a career as a researcher with a MLIS is like. 

Doing research in a library

What Does a Researcher Do?

A researcher’s job duties will vary depending upon the industry in which they work. In general, researchers are responsible for:

  • Gathering, organizing, and verifying necessary information for a specific subject
  • Analyze data, compare resources, ensure facts, and share findings
  • Adhere to required research methodologies
  • Perform fieldwork as needed
  • Keep critical information confidential
  • Be knowledgeable about current market trends
  • Align research findings with research goals

Based upon your research and where you work, as a researcher, you might be called upon to:

  • Lead focus group sessions and analyze data gathered from these sessions
  • Create Linux shell scripts to automate common processes
  • Manage social media publications
  • Optimize protocol used in research
  • Conduct research activities such as literature reviews, editing and publishing technical reports, preparing presentations
  • Post program experience
  • Collaborate with other researchers

Skills and Traits a Researcher Should Have

Depending upon the type of research you plan to do, the skills that will benefit you as a researcher vary. They may include knowledge of programming languages like Python. They will likely include excellent communication skills, both in writing and orally. Attention to detail is a must for researchers. Lab equipment can also be beneficial to a researcher, depending upon the field of research. It all depends upon the industry in which you want to work. General skills and traits that a good researcher should possess, no matter what industry or field you work in, are:

  • Open-mindedness – always keep an open mind when you are researching, and don’t approach anything with preconceived notions that you are not willing to change.
  • Flexibility– if things don’t work one way, you must be willing to change your methods to ways that do work.
  • Self-discipline – researchers work independently a majority of the time. Therefore, they must be extremely self-disciplined.
  • Enthusiasm – you need to maintain your enthusiasm for your research in order to keep going in your quest for new knowledge. 
  • Humility and being open to criticism – even if you think that your research is perfect and impeccable, you must realize that it is rarely without any flaws. There will always be possibilities for improvement, and you must be willing to listen to others’ feedback and opinions on your research.  
  • Building a social network – researchers who have many opportunities to network with others will be better at their jobs. This can be accomplished through attending conferences, meeting other faculty members and students, and contacting them to discuss problems and issues that arise in research. This not only creates collaborations for research, it also can lead to more job opportunities for you.
  • Work diligently, and be prepared to work long hours – realize that as a researcher, you will likely work longer than eight hours per day, five days per week. Many researchers set their own hours and may work every day of the week for up to 12 hours per day. Make sure that you plan your work well so that you get the maximum amount accomplished during your work day. Your time management skills, in other words, must be impeccable in order to be a successful researcher.
  • Be a good planner and set goals – you must have clear goals that you can meet along the way to achieving your “main” goal. Try to set dates for achieving these goals. When choosing research topics, try to choose one that is meaningful and will lead to making a good contribution to further research. 
  • Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone – researchers should always seek collaborations with other researchers, even if they are not in the same field.  This gives you a chance to explore new topics and ideas and even to study in other countries. 
  • Have excellent record-keeping skills – researchers must keep complete, accurate records of everything they do, as well as everything they learn. 
  • Hone your writing skills – researchers should always be striving to improve their writing skills, as they will be writing for many publications during their career. Make sure your writing is free from grammar and spelling errors, and that your ideas are organized clearly and well-written. You can achieve better writing skills through reading the works of other researchers and by writing your own research. 

Education for Researchers

Researchers usually have graduate degrees, including master’s and doctoral degrees. One of the best degrees a researcher can have is a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS). This degree will give you a thorough background in general research principles, as well as the technological knowledge necessary to perform many information-based research duties. See this list of MLIS programs accredited by the ALA for more information. 

Certification for Researchers

Many research jobs don’t require any certification, or require specialized certification based upon the industry in which one works. Two general researcher certifications that are usually recommended are Certified Clinical Research Assistant (CCRA, by the Association of Clinical Research Professionals), Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP, by the Society of Clinical Research Excellence) and Professional Researcher Certification (by the Marketing Research Association). 

Jobs for Researchers

Because researcher jobs are so vast and varied, it’s best to look for jobs researching in the specific industries in which you wish to work. This can also be accomplished through networking with people you meet in your college program, internship or other networking opportunities. A recent internet search came up with the following examples of jobs for researchers. 

  • User Experience Researcher – User Research International, remote- salary $75,000 to $95,000 annually
  • Researcher- Independent State Agency, Albany, NY- salary not specified
  • Sports Researcher – Warner Bros. Careers, Atlanta, GA – salary not specified
  • Researcher – Learning Economy, Nashville, TN – salary not specified
  • Digital Asset Researcher – The Block, remote – salary $60,000 to $80,000 annually