What is a Research Consultant?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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A research consultant is a specialist that performs targeted research and provides a final report to the client. This type of consultant is most commonly found in scientific, government or engineering services firms. The need for these types of specialist services is standard in these industries, as permanent staff are not experts in the specific areas.

Scientific companies range from pharmaceutical to oil production firms. The types of research consultants are just as varied. A pharmaceutical company may need to use a research consultant for information on specific techniques, existing patents and proposed product design and other items.

To become a research consultant, you must have at least a master's degree in your area of specialty. A PhD is preferred, as is at least ten years of industry specific experience. The ability to work quickly and efficiently is critical, as the period for these types of services is usually quite short.

Many university professors and researchers also provide consulting services to industry. There are conflict of interest policies surrounding these types of arrangements. It is important to ensure that these arrangements do not influence the academic's research and conclusions that may contradict a company’s plans or public statements.


To find work as a research consultant, you must first establish a professional reputation in your field. This involves a consistent quality and output of work. Publish articles in well-known journals and make presentations at conferences. This type of position requires at least five years of steady, high quality output. During this period, employment opportunities exist in industry and in post secondary educational institutes as a lecturer or researcher.

When hiring a research consultant, make a list of exactly what types of services they are required to perform. Think about the output required, written report or presentation. Review prior written work to determine if it will meet the needs of your audience. Many research consultants register with consulting firms that specialize in a particular industry. These firms build a clientele and reputation that allows large companies and government agencies to contact them for specialized personal as needed.

Most consultants aim to work in this type of environment. It allows the researcher to focus on their area of expertise and completing their consulting assignments. An independent consultant spends at least one full day on looking for new opportunities, administrative matters and bookkeeping. The use of a centralized firm provides added benefits and the ability to reach a wider client base.


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Post 3

What does the job market for consulting jobs look like? Is the industry growing, or is it experiencing a glut of consultants. I am asking in regards to IT and security consulting firms. I am trying to decide on what I want to go to college for.

Post 2

@framemaker- I am not sure what type of consulting you are looking for, but you will need to do a search specific to your needs. If you are looking for research consultants for an energy project then you should look for engineering consulting firms. You can also look to many of the multinational conglomerates that deal with energy. Many of these companies offer consulting services.

If you are looking for consultants for energy consultants in a certain type of technology, then you should contact the industry organizations associated with those technologies. They may have resources for you.

Post 1

This was a good article, but how do I find a research consultancy firm? I need a research consultant experienced with renewable energy. Is there some sort of association or registry of research consultants I can thumb through?

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