How To Become a Scientist in 4 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are a naturally inquisitive person who enjoys research, you may enjoy a career as a scientist. With a strong earning potential and the ability to research a variety of different fields, many find this job extremely fulfilling. Learning about the steps you need to take to become a research scientist can help you determine if this role is right for you. In this article, we explain what a scientist does and how you can become one, plus examine the skills and qualifications you may need for the job.

How to become a scientist

These are the basic steps you can follow to become a scientist:

1. Obtain a bachelor's degree

There are several prominent institutes that offer undergraduate courses in science and technology. It is common for these institutes to require you to complete the JEE (joint entrance examination). Some institutes conduct their own aptitude test for admissions, while others give preference to board examination aggregate scores.

2. Complete a master's degree

Most engineering colleges give admissions for postgraduate courses on the basis of GATE (graduate aptitude test in engineering) scores. Some institutes offer an integrated course that combines bachelor's and master's degree programs. To pursue this programme, you likely have to take an aptitude test or receive admissions on the basis of your performance in your bachelor's course.

3. Gain work experience

You can practice as a scientist or do internships for public or private establishments to familiarise yourself with the research settings and work culture associated with the field. As part of your work experience, consider publishing research papers and presenting your work at national and international conferences. This can give you a competitive edge while applying for high-profile jobs.

4. Consider pursuing a doctorate degree

A doctorate degree establishes you as an expert in your field of study. Completing a PhD from a reputed institution can improve your chances of finding work opportunities. Most PhD programmes prefer to grant admission to candidates who have published research papers and a few years of work experience in a relevant field.

Related: How To Share Your Education Background

What does a scientist do?

Scientists conduct laboratory-based experiments and trials. You can find them in a variety of fields, including medicine, physics, biology, chemistry, computer science and environmental science. Some of their primary responsibilities include:

  • Planning and conducting experiments

  • Writing research papers and reports

  • Collecting samples and carrying out other types of fieldwork

  • Monitoring experiments and recording and analysing data

  • Training and supervising junior staff members

  • Demonstrating procedures

  • Staying up-to-date on the latest developments in scientific research

Qualifications to be a scientist

To become a scientist, here are some qualifications you may need:

Higher secondary education

Complete higher secondary education with a focus on science subjects like physics, chemistry, biology or computer science. Most colleges require that you have a minimum of 50% aggregate marks to be eligible for a professional course. Reputed institutes may have higher cut-off marks, around 90 to 95%.

Bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum qualification for professionals in this line of work. You may pursue a Bachelor of science in any related specialisation. Popular specialisations are:

  • Physics

  • Chemistry

  • Biochemistry

  • Biotechnology

  • Computer science

  • Zoology

  • Botany

  • Agriculture

  • Horticulture

Alternatively, candidates may also pursue a Bachelor of technology in a relevant specialisation like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science engineering or electronics and communication engineering.

Master's degree

Research is a competitive field that frequently demands postgraduate education. You may pursue a Master's of science or Master's of technology in any relevant field of specialisation. You can also find integrated courses which let you enter into an undergraduate course and graduate with a master's degree.

Doctorate degree

Many candidates pursue a PhD in a preferred field of specialisation to improve their career prospects. Popular PhD specialisations are:

  • Chemistry

  • Physics

  • Zoology

  • Clinical research

  • Applied science

  • Mathematics

  • Bioinformatics

  • Biotechnology

  • Bioscience

How long does it take to become a scientist?

A BSc course typically takes 3 years to complete, while integrated courses may take 5 years to complete. It is common for a master's degree to take two years to finish and for a PhD course to take three to four years. In addition to this, reputed laboratories, research facilities and teaching positions may require you to have a few years of work experience.

What are the skills required to be a scientist?

There are many skills that can help a scientist succeed in their role. Some of the most important skills to develop or enhance include:

Communication

Scientists must have strong verbal communication skills to articulate their observations to other scientists and technicians in a laboratory. Strong writing skills can also help them to successfully write grant proposals to pursue funding for their research or write summaries and reports with their findings. Many scientists publish the results of their work in journals.

Related: How To Improve Communication Skills

Data analysis

Scientists conduct experiments and research, gather information and analyse that information to reach a conclusion. They often have to generate useful inferences from large volumes of data. With strong analytical still, you may be better able to perform this work confidently and accurately.

Related: Analytical Skills: Definition, Tips and Examples

Critical thinking

To solve a specific problem, scientists must first use their critical thinking skills to determine the best method for exploring the problem and conducting an inquiry. In research roles, good critical thinking skills can speed up work processes by eliminating potential errors before they even occur. You may even be able to help fellow scientists who may be experiencing a hard time with their own research.

Read more: Critical Thinking Skills: Definitions and Examples

Interpersonal skills

Scientists often need to be able to work well with various team members, including other scientists, technicians and staff members. Interpersonal skills like listening, speaking and questioning skills can ensure strong working relationships and effective teamwork in research environments. The collaboration that comes from having strong interpersonal skills can help a scientist and their team find success with their research and data gathering.

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Patience

It can take a long time to see results in an experiment. Research scientists often have the patience to stay optimistic and engaged throughout the course of their research. It is also common for successful scientists to believe in the potential and importance of their work, even when they do not get timely results.

Attention to detail

To record information accurately and design repeatable procedures, research scientists must have strong attention to detail. While handling large amounts of data and juggling a variety of tasks, it is easy to miss out on crucial aspects or details. However, scientists train themselves to avoid such situations.

Types of scientists

The service of scientists is crucial to the development of many industries. Scientists work across a wide range of disciplines, industries and research fields. These are some important types of job roles in this line of work:

Physicist

Physicists conduct research and study within the field of physics and its branches like applied, quantum, particle and engineering physics. The focus of their study lies in understanding the nature of matter, energy and physical reality. Physicists may perform theoretical or experimental research and practice.

Botanist

Botanists are scientists who study plant-based life forms and their living environments. They may specialise their research within botany, in fields like soil, chemical compositions, plant medicine and plant interaction with humans and animals. Botany is a field that often provides interesting work opportunities in remote areas of the world and biodiversity hotspots.

Microbiologist

A microbiologist is a scientist who studies micro-organisms invisible to the human eye. They may specialise in different kinds of microbes like bacteria, fungi, viruses and in the interaction of these microbes with humans and their environments. For example, a pathologist studies pathogens, or disease-causing microbes, and their interactions with humans.

Related: How To Become a Microbiologist: A Complete Guide

Computer scientist

Computer science is a relatively new field in science, but the demand for research roles in computer science is immense. Computer scientists study and research computer systems and their development, functions and capabilities. They may specialise in theoretical studies, engineering or applied sciences as they relate to computers.

Biologist

Biologists study living organisms including plants, animals and microbes, along with their life processes, functions and interactions. Biologists may specialise in different disciplines within biology, like marine biology, toxicology, genetics and ecology. They typically hold a master's or doctorate degree in their specialised field of study.

Astronomer

Astronomers are involved in the research and study of celestial bodies including planets, stars and galaxies. They may specialise in different disciplines like physical cosmology, solar astronomy and planetary science. Typically, astronomers hold PhDs or master's degrees in astronomy or physics.

How much do scientists make?

Your pay as a scientist largely depends on your work record, accomplishments, recognitions and experience in the field. The average base salary for a scientist is ₹7,21,025 per year. For senior research roles, this figure can go up to ₹10,83,685 per year.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing.

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