A research analyst is a professional who is responsible for reviewing, collecting, and reporting on a variety of data sets and information sources. Analysts are very common in the sciences, particularly in pharmaceutical research, though they exist in almost any discipline that deals with data or information assessment over time. In most cases, research analysts have at least graduate-level education, as well as a great deal of experience within their subject area. Their reports are often used to drive new innovations or direct future developments.
Areas of Work
Work for research analysts is most plentiful in disciplines that rely on data for making decisions. The financial and banking industries, as well as many business strategists, hire analysts with some regularity. There also tend to be plentiful openings in the sciences, where test results and experimental outcomes must be documented, analyzed, and often codified.
Main Goals and Purposes
Most researchers work as members of information-gathering teams. They correlate and analyze data both internally and externally, and validate information against trade publications and other leading papers in order to provide support and validity to current theories or hypotheses.
Analysts typically compile the data they find into comprehensive reports for executives and, in some cases, corporate shareholders. Detailed data sets are usually very important when it comes to learning from the past and making reasoned predictions about the future. Executives often use the information in analysts’ reports to make decisions about investments and new projects.
Giving Advice and Making Statements
In many companies, researchers are treated as “resident experts” when it comes to understanding various facts and figures. They are often called upon to answer questions about future outlooks, as well as to speak to the progress of certain projects or tests. Depending on the company, analysts may also be some of the first people to speak to the members of the media about new developments or discoveries.
Nearly all research analyst enter the profession as a full-time career. Substantial subject matter experience is usually essential, which often begins with a graduate degree. It is rare to find an analyst without a master’s degree, doctorate degree, or equivalent.
In most cases, the high educational threshold ensures that all analysts have a deep understanding of the information they are dealing with. Companies often want only highly trained people providing advice about what numbers, test results, and data sets mean in a larger sense.
Other Needed Skills
A research analyst also typically needs to have excellent critical thinking and technical skills. Critical thinking skills can be difficult to quantify, but are usually described as investigation tools and techniques that validate a theory against a clear line of logic. These are mostly mental, and are honed over time.
Technical skills, on the other hand, are usually related to the actual methods of gathering and reporting on data. Spreadsheet use, mathematical ability, and an understanding of statistics all fall within this category. Data organization and presentation, whether through charts, graphs, or written reports, is also needed.
Use of Technology
Research analysts are increasingly relying on computers and technology-driven platforms for data correlation. Understanding how to use statistical software programs and certain online tools is often part of the “technical skills” requirement, particularly in the sciences. Knowing the nuances of these programs is not usually required at the outset, but having some familiarity with the available technology and how to operate it is usually an asset.
Most research analysts build the foundation of their technical and critical thinking skills in graduate school, but usually enter the profession with more experience than just academic credentials. Sometimes this comes through student internships alongside established researchers, but more often it comes from simply working in the field. It is not uncommon for a research analyst to begin his or her career in an office or lab job, then transition after several years to data and informational specialties.