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Research Scientist vs. Assistant Professor: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in science can be both exciting and rewarding. Two common positions in this field are research scientists and assistant professors. Though both roles involve scientific research, there are several key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the differences between research scientists and assistant professors, and we provide additional scientific professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Research Scientist?

Research Scientists are responsible for designing and conducting scientific experiments to further our understanding of the world around us. They use their expertise in a particular field of science to develop hypotheses and test them through controlled experiments. Research Scientists typically work in academic or industrial settings, such as colleges and universities, government research laboratories, or private companies. They often work in teams with other scientists and technicians to complete their research. Research Scientists typically hold a Ph.D. in their field of study and have several years of experience conducting research.

What is an Assistant Professor?

Assistant Professors typically teach undergraduate and graduate level courses at colleges and universities. They may also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books in their field of expertise. In addition to their teaching and research duties, Assistant Professors may also advise students, serve on departmental committees and participate in professional organizations. Many Assistant Professors are also actively involved in their field outside of the university, working as consultants or experts for businesses, government agencies or non-profit organizations.

Research Scientist vs. Assistant Professor

Here are the main differences between a research scientist and an assistant professor.

Job Duties

Research scientists perform a wide variety of tasks to complete their research projects. They may conduct experiments, analyze data and write up findings in research papers. In addition, they may communicate with colleagues and collaborate with other scientists on different projects. These professionals also manage their own schedules and set goals for completing research projects quickly and efficiently.

In contrast, assistant professors typically have a more focused job description. They usually teach classes, advise students and conduct research as part of being an educator at a university. Assistant professors also may occasionally conduct research or advise community members outside the classroom.

Job Requirements

Research scientists typically need a bachelor’s degree in a scientific field, such as biology, chemistry or physics. They might also pursue a master’s degree or doctorate to qualify for more advanced positions. Many research scientists work in laboratories and use scientific equipment to conduct experiments. They often write reports on their findings and present them at conferences.

Assistant professors usually need a doctorate in their field of study. They might also need to complete postdoctoral research before they can teach at the collegiate level. Assistant professors typically teach classes, mentor students and conduct research. Some assistant professors also work as administrators within their department or university.

Work Environment

Research scientists typically work in laboratories, where they may spend long hours conducting experiments and analyzing data. They also travel to conferences and collaborate with other researchers on projects.

Assistant professors usually work in classrooms or offices at colleges and universities. They often teach classes and meet with students one-on-one to discuss coursework. Assistant professors may also attend departmental meetings and participate in school events.


Both research scientists and assistant professors need to have excellent research skills. This includes being able to design experiments, collect data and analyze results. They also both need to be able to write papers and give presentations about their findings.

However, there are some key differences in the skills that these two jobs require. For example, research scientists typically work more with numbers and data, while assistant professors may spend more time reading and writing. Additionally, assistant professors typically need to be more adept at working with people, as they often teach classes and mentor students. They need to be able to communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively.


Research scientists earn an average salary of $93,368 per year, while assistant professors earn an average salary of $77,042 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the type of research you’re doing, the size of the company or university you work for, your level of experience and your location.


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