Careers Service

Research in non-academic organisations

Information and advice on pursuing a career in research outside of academia

Research is carried out in many organisations outside of academia. You could consider:

  • Working for a non-academic organisation that conducts research in your subject area.
  • Using your research skills but applying them to a different subject.

You should take time to find out how academic research may differ from research in other organisations. This will obviously vary depending on the type of research and the organisation but some questions you could ask yourself include:

  • How much freedom would you like to pursue your own research interests?
  • Would you enjoy working in a research team towards a common business goal?
  • Would you like your research to influence government policy?
  • Would you enjoy planning and managing research projects rather than conducting the research yourself?

There are a few examples below of specific organisations where research is carried out to help you get started. Use the resources at the bottom of this page to generate ideas specific to your interests and to help you to answer some of the questions above.

Private sector

Researchers can be found working in private sector organisations across a wide range of industries. Some examples include:

  • Science and engineering research and development in pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing firms, IT companies, engineering companies and, often small, biotechnology companies.
  • Social research in market research organisations and commercial social research companies.
  • Other varied research and analysis opportunities including in financial services (e.g. for investment management companies), for business information providers (such as Bloomberg), management consultancies, and more.

Public sector

Public sector employers such as the Civil Service, local government, National Health Service, and many other publicly-funded organisations, employ researchers across all subject disciplines. This can be to conduct research directly, or to manage research projects contracted to external organisations. Examples include:

Civil Service departments:

  • Government Social Research Service
  • Government Economic Service
  • Forestry Commission
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Marine Scotland Science

Publicly-funded bodies :

  • British Museum
  • British Antarctic Survey
  • Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
  • Environment Agency / Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • BBC

Third sector

Third sector organisations employ researchers for a variety of reasons; to gather evidence to help them to influence government policy, to define their strategic aims, to assess effectiveness of their work, or to address the aims of the organisation. Examples of employers include:

  • Medical research charities such as Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and the Wellcome Trust which either employ or provide funding for medical researchers and often social researchers too.
  • Think tanks such as Chatham House, Institute for Public Policy Research and Reform.
  • Social justice charities such as Shelter, Oxfam and Children First.

Use the links below to research options in areas which interest you.

Looking for Work

You should think carefully about the strategy you use to search for jobs in this area. Networking, speculative applications and applying for advertised vacancies will all be of use. You should use some of the websites listed in the related links section below to identify organisations to target speculatively but also to find sources of advertised vacancies. For advice on all approaches to job-hunting see the looking for work section of our website.