Engineering researcher

An image of a seed bank.

What do you do?

University lecturer's and researcher's time is usually split between teaching (40%), research (40%), and administration (20%).

What’s a typical day like?

Maybe giving a lecture to 60-200 students, or meeting with a student whose PhD, Masters, or Undergraduate dissertation you are supervising; some administration: emails, phone calls, reading applications from undergraduate students; actual research: computer modelling, a lab experiment, analysing data, writing reports, producing graphics for reports.


This career would suit people with:

  • Commitment and passion about their research area and willing to put in long hours.

  • Entrepreneurial skills: research can only happen when it is funded, in reality this means convincing other people to give you money (a valuable skill!).

  • Creative flair: research occurs at the limit of what we already know, to find new better ways of doing things you need to be able to think outside the box and be working at the cutting edge.

  • Academic aptitude: there are increasingly high academic requirements for students to complete PhDs and post doctorates. You will probably need a first class degree.

What makes it a green career?

Research occurs into almost anything you can think of, in order for this to be a green career you need to choose a field of study which enables research into something related to sustainability. For example, research into heat powered heat pumps which sounds like a typo, but it means using solar energy to power refrigeration or air-conditioning. Or maybe the economic and ecological costs of heat: this could be the impacts of district heating systems on people and the money in their pockets or the effects of installing heating systems in the developing world, again on people and the money in their pockets and the environment. It could involve research into any aspect of any 'green' technology: onshore or offshore wind, tidal power, biomass, solar PV. Or preparation for climate change in the fields of ecology (protecting wildlife and biodiversity) or flood defence. It also involves educating students on these things and the importance of sustainability as a design requirement.


What qualifications do you need?

You will need a good undergraduate degree in a type of Engineering, Geography, Maths, or Computer Science, or a related field, a masters and a PhD (this will probably mean at least 6 years in academia before attaining a lecturer position, sometimes less if you are a lower level researcher). You'll be conducting research from your undergraduate degree right up until you're a wise professor and you should end up being a true expert!

How much could you earn?

As a PhD research student (working towards becoming a Dr!), on average you will earn £15,000 - £18,000 per year. Once your PhD is complete you can expect to earn £25,000-£35,000 per year. As a professor this will rise up to £90,000 per year.