Discover your child’s strengths and passions

By 2023 science, research, engineering and technology jobs are expected to make up 7.8% of all jobs in the UK and occupy 2.5m roles – if your child enjoys their science, IT or technology lessons at school then encourage them to stick with it! Have they ever asked for a chemistry set or a ‘grow your own’ kit? Do they love sci-fi? Then this might be the industry for them!? Read on to find out how you can help them make the right choices whilst still at school. 

Career type:
Innovative

Education:
University

Avg. Salary:
£27k - £59k

What is Research and Development?

People who work in research and development manage research programs to meet the needs of companies and support the creation of new products.

There are a whole range of different roles you can go into in research and development, from Biologists and Chemists to Lab Technicians and Research Scientists. An organisation’s research and development department plays a key role in the innovation of new products and collaborates with sales and production to support the life cycle of the product – perfect if your child has a good imagination and is always coming up with exciting ideas.

 Here’s just some of the roles Research and Development covers:

  • Biologist
    Experts on all aspects of plant and animal life, they research and collect biological data to study how organisms interact with their surroundings.
  • Chemist 
    Use their knowledge of chemical compounds to create or improve a wide variety of things from revolutionary medical treatments, to new drugs all the way through to make up. They are usually lab based but can expect to get involved in teaching and giving lectures to students.
  • Physicist
    Specialises in researching structures, forces and physical phenomena. Although most physicists choose to specialise in just one area they have a great amount of flexibility and control over their research. 
  • Lab Technician
    Work with complex systems and perform advanced tests in laboratories. They work in any area of science they choose such as manufacturing or forensics so there’s a huge range of projects you could get involved in in this field. 
  • Research Scientist
    Plan and carry out experiments in a wide range of scientific areas which can include anything from meteorology and pharmacology, so if your child wants to change the world through ground-breaking discoveries this could be the job for them!   

How much could you earn in a Research and Development role?

At the start of a career in research and development you can expect to earn £27,000. In a senior role in, you could be earning up to £59,000 per annum depending on the company and location of the employer. There are lots of different roles though within this, all with different salary opportunities.

How to become a Research and Development specialist

Education

The scientific, analytical and research skills a job in research and development develops can be useful in many different careers. There are many ways to get into Research and Development from placements, internships and degrees to apprenticeships. You could also encourage your child to take science courses and watch scientific documentaries to spark their interest in the subject.

During GCSEs or Standard Grades, you could opt to study:

  • Triple Science - (Biology, Physics, Chemistry)
  • Design Technology
  • ICT/Computer Studies
  • Art & Design
     

For academic subjects such as A Levels or Highers, you could opt to study:

  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Product Design
     

Related subjects include:

  • Engineering
  • Philosophy & Ethics
  • Further Maths
     

If your child is unsure of what to study at school you could encourage them to take subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, English Lit, Geography, History, Languages (Modern & Classical), Maths, Further Maths and Physics. These are ‘facilitating’ subjects which are required for large number of university courses and will allow them to keep their options open until they’re more certain of the career path they wish to go down. 

Skills you need

If your child enjoys science fiction, discovery programmes and learning new things research and development could be the career for them. Here are just some of the skills that will be useful in the future and they can work on developing. 

  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Time management and organisation
  • Technical ability
  • Analytical skills 

Work experience

Work experience is a good way for your child to apply knowledge and build skills for the industry they want to enter, which can be in the form of volunteering or shadowing, internships or Research and Development related work placements.

Alternatively, during university, depending on the course, it may include a year in industry (also known as a sandwich course) where they can build a network of contacts and develop skills using the knowledge they’ve learnt on their course. 

Diversity in STEM

Although many women are already in this type of career, there’s still more work to do to attract women into the science industry as whole. The UK is trailing behind Europe in terms of female representation -  currently making up just 16% of the workforce.

Many companies, including EDF Energy, are committed to helping address the lack of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). We run a number of STEM initiatives including the Pretty Curious programme which sets out to challenge what girls’ think they know about STEM. There are some amazing careers that use science and it’s our job to help inspire girls to look differently at STEM using strong female role models and creative digital and hands-on experiences.

Research and Development is one of the most forward- looking, innovative industries to get into. Pretty Curious role model, Florence Adepoju, combined her love of science with her passion for make-up and created a product unique to her whilst building her own business. This is an area that attracts people who want a constantly evolving career in which they never stop learning and discovering new things.

EDF Energy also has its own Research and Development team innovating to make energy easier using new technologies. Take a look at the types of projects they are working on including Smart Cities and Teeside offshore wind farm.

What can I do to help my child?

  • You could find a role model in a friend or colleague that can encourage them through their own experiences.
     
  • There are many free exhibitions and events that bring science to life outside of the classroom, for example take a look at our eight UK-wide visitor centres where you can explore science in a fun free and family-friendly way every school holiday or weekend.
     
  • Be supportive - we’re all unique in our passions and it doesn’t matter if they aren’t sure what they want to do yet.
     
  • Be patient, encouraging and provide the support they need to find their way whether that’s with tutoring, extracurricular activities or just celebrating their successes.
     
  • You could encourage your child to look at volunteering for organisations that marry with their interests. They get to explore a variety of working environments, develop employability skills and make new friends all of which will boost their confidence. You can find a list of volunteer opportunities here.
     
  • If your child is unsure of the subjects to take, you could encourage them to speak to a careers advisor or explore the below resources for guidance:

    My World of Work – choosing GCSE options
    Prospects career guide
    UCAS
    The Complete University Guide
    Which? guide to university
     
  • Your child is young and it’s okay for them to change their minds. Roma who was part of the team that design London’s iconic Shard building, did just that – watch her story in 360°.

Explore our other career profiles

  • Jobs in STEMLearn more about our other profiled in-demand careers
  • Early CareersWhether you’ve just finished your GCSEs or A Levels take a look at our range of apprenticeships and grad schemes