A research specialist studies within a chosen field, performs experiments and case studies and then records his or her findings. He or she also performs other maintenance tasks in the lab and has experience with various research methodologies. Research specialists commonly study the sciences, social sciences, marketing or medicine and work in many industries, including hospitals, laboratories, corporations, marketing firms and universities. To become a research specialist, your specific needs will depend on the field you wish to research. Requirements typically include a bachelor's or master's degree, excellent research skills, computer skills and strong communication skills.
Although some research jobs allow a communications or journalism degree, the degree needed to become a research specialist is usually related to the subject you want to research. While market researchers may get a degree in marketing or business administration, those who want to work in a hospital or laboratory may get a biology, chemistry, psychology or medical degree. Those who want to work in a university may need a master's degree or a doctorate to perform research, and many master's degree programs include a class on research methodology that provides skills you may find useful as a research specialist. A class in statistics or data modeling also is beneficial in most fields.
Laboratory experience or research experience is important, and you'll want to gain this experience as much as possible during college so you'll be prepared to become a research specialist after college. Most science degrees include laboratory classes, but you may need to do research outside of school if your degree does not include a research-based component, especially if you're earning a business or communications degree. If you can't arrange any laboratory experience with your college, you can look for an internship or possibly volunteer at a local business. You should still check with your college before deciding on an internship, because some degree programs let you earn class credit for the experience.
Although many research specialists work independently, they need to have excellent written and oral communication skills to be able to coordinate their findings with others. Additional requirements to become a research specialist include the ability to perform research using a computer, knowledge of productivity software, excellent writing and editing skills, and the ability to think critically and analyze information. To be able to keep track of all information gained from their studies and to sort it correctly, research specialists need to be highly organized and feel comfortable working with large amounts of data.