Scientific researcher is one of the best-known science careers. When most people hear the word scientist, they picture someone in a white lab coat experimenting in a lab. A person can do research in any of the scientific fields. Whether the person is working in a laboratory under the supervision of someone else or conducting independent research with laboratory technicians, the goal is the same—to learn something new about how the world works. Every area of science needs researchers, but the most active now are in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.

Workers in scientific research and development change our lives. Their discoveries of breakthroughs, such as vaccines, nanotubes, disease-resistant crops, and others, improve the quality and length of our lives.

A researcher can be involved in basic research, applied research, or development. Basic research covers experimentation without a specific goal. The researcher investigates to advance scientific knowledge. Applied research combines science and business and is focused toward solving a specific problem. Many solutions may be proposed and tested. Development takes concepts from the laboratory and puts them to use in an industry or factory.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of scientific research and development has a higher level of bachelor’s and advanced degrees than any other industry. Laboratory technicians typically have bachelor’s degrees, while those conducting research projects have at least a master’s and usually a PhD.

The work of a scientific researcher is mostly in a laboratory, with some office time. The hours can be irregular because experiments often must be monitored constantly or depend on other conditions, such as weather.

The BLS counted 621,700 people working in scientific research in 2009. They work for industries, such as biotech, pharmaceutical, and electronics, and for government agencies. The profession is expected to grow at a rate of 11 percent from 2009 to 2018, a progression that is about the average of all professions.

Salaries vary by scientific discipline, but in general, research technicians make about $66,000 in annual salary. Those in higher positions, such as supervisor and manager, make more, up to $140,000.