When applying for non-research related work in the commercial sector, how should confusion be avoided over the term "Research Assistant" being used in a CV?

Are human resources staff at companies, and recruiters, at risk of assuming "research" means market research, as opposed to scientific research, especially if they're skimming through the CV?

  • 4
    Many people's CVs include a line or two for each job, explaining its duties, responsibilities, etc. This is where you could clarify this. Another thought: the phrase "Graduate Research Assistant". Jun 15, 2015 at 5:30
  • 2
    In my university, most student write it as "Graduate Research Assistant" rather than just "Research Assistant" and write a couple of lines mentioning their area, work, contributions etc..
    – Aditya
    Jun 15, 2015 at 5:39
  • 3
    Perhaps this is more appropriate for Workplace SE?
    – Kimball
    Jun 15, 2015 at 5:46
  • 3
    What about "Scientific Research Assistant"?
    – Davidmh
    Jun 15, 2015 at 5:59
  • 4
    But you probably want answers more from the kind of people who be doing the hiring than those with similar backgrounds as you. Though the answer I suspect you will get is that this is typically clarified in the brief job description on work CVs, as @NateEldredge comments.
    – Kimball
    Jun 15, 2015 at 6:35

2 Answers 2


I know I'm resurrecting a dead thread, but considering I'm going through a similar process right now I figured I would leave my 2 cents.

I would caution against the advice of individuals who say "don't worry about it, let your resume explain your position", at least in reference to non-academic positions in the US. You should have two resumes/CVs, one for academia and one for everything else. In academia the recruiter or PI should understand what "Research Assistant" or "Graduate Research Assistant" means. However, in industry some large companies hire 3rd parties to do their recruiting. In the US the average time for a recruiter like this to read a resume is 5-7 seconds. While this website might not be representative of all recruiters, it does emphasis the importance of your position title. Here is an excerpt, emphasis is mine:

  1. Level. If I’m doing a VP level search and your title is “manager” and you have never been a VP – goodbye. There are exceptions to this, but again it is the 80/20 rule. Again, clients pay me to find them the perfect fit. It is generally way too big of a jump from manager level to VP level, all other things being equal. It works the other way too. If I’m looking for a manager and you are a VP – goodbye. I know you are qualified to do a manager level role, but it is clear you have grown past. Most clients and recruiters aren’t willing to take the chance that when a VP level position comes along that you won’t be gone. Less than 5 seconds to figure out.

Accordingly, I think it is completely feasible that even if you have your PhD and multiple publications the recruiter could see an "Assistant" Research applying for the "Senior" Research position and immediately reject you simply because of your position title.

  • Please don't leave the same answer on two separate threads. If you believe the two questions can both be answered by the same answer, you can flag the question as a duplicate.
    – eykanal
    Apr 22, 2019 at 14:42

Generally speaking, I don't think this is something you should worry about, and I don't think anywhere you'd want to work would be likely to have an HR department that would confuse (graduate or undergraduate) research assistants with market researchers.

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