What is a Research Fellow?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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A research fellow is someone with a graduate degree, typically a doctoral degree, who performs academic research. Research fellows are treated differently around the world, depending on cultural and academic norms. In some cases, the position is essentially permanent, with some possibility for rising in the ranks, while in other instances, people employed in these positions can only expect temporary terms of employment.

Research fellows are sometimes known as post-docs, because they are doing post-doctoral research. Their work is dedicated solely to research, with no teaching or need to participate in the politics of the institutions they work for, although research fellows who are interested in advancement and research careers often take care to monitor trends in the academic world. While research fellows can opt to teach, this is rare.

By being able to dedicate all of their time to research, research fellows can often achieve advancements and accomplishments in their fields. They can also assist other people working in the same environment, such as advanced students and associates. In some cases, these fellows work under the supervision of someone else, and in other cases, they work independently.


When a research fellow works for a university, the advantage to the school is that he or she can add to the university's reputation in the academic world, and provide support to students and faculty. Research fellows also work in scientific laboratories, government agencies, and organizations which can vary in nature from groups studying cancer to associations interested in anthropological phenomena. In all cases, the research fellow can receive funding from a number of sources, including the institution and outside organizations interested in advancing the cause.

Medical research is often performed by research fellows, and they may also be involved in clinical trials and studies of everything from new surgical techniques to different approaches to psychotherapy. A research fellow can also work in the lab and in the field in an assortment of environments. Competition for research fellowships tends to be very fierce, as many academics enjoy the idea of being able to research at will without needing to teach, and to bring substantial sources of funding to bear on areas of interest and inquiry.

When research fellowships become available, they are usually advertised in industry publications and in public notices printed by the institution requesting applications for a research fellow position. People can also learn about research fellowships through professors and mentors in the field, and by specifically asking organizations of interest about the availability of fellowships and other research opportunities.


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Post 4

I noticed a vast array of fellowships available online from my university, as well as several others. Apparently, you can get paid to do research on anything from topology to terrorism.

I think it's great that there are fellowships available to just about every kind of student. Though not many from each graduating class may have the motivation and desire to continue in their studies, some truly keep that desire to learn throughout their lifetimes, and this leads to great careers in research.

I considered becoming a research fellow, but family issues prevented me from doing this. I still have the desire, and I understand why many graduates compete for fellowships.

Post 3

I am participating in a clinical trial for a drug to treat polycystic kidney disease. The first few times that I went to the university that is conducting the study, I saw a medical doctor. The last several times, though, I have met with the clinical research fellow instead.

He seems more willing to spend more time with me discussing my symptoms and side effects than the doctor did, likely because this is all he has to focus on. He writes down everything that I say, and he makes a checkmark by “yes” or “no” for every question that he asks me.

He is softspoken and thorough. He seems interested in getting all the details down and addressing any concerns I may have. He seems just as knowledgeable about kidneys and the drug as the doctor does.

Post 2

@lighth0se33 – My good friend is a postdoctoral researcher, and she makes about $50,000 a year. This is way more than I make as a graphic designer, and I have often considered switching to this field.

She works in a university lab, and she studies things related to medical issues. Her research topics vary, and she gets assignments from the lab.

Though she might not be incredibly interested in every topic that she gets assigned, she does enjoy the nature of the work and certainly the pay. It's not for everyone, because it can get really tedious, but if you are patient and don't mind dealing with details and lots of numbers, then it might be for you.

Post 1

Does anyone here know what a typical research fellow salary range is? It sounds like something that would be interesting and fun to do, but it also sounds like it might be a bit on the low end of the pay scale.

To me, a research fellow sounds like somewhat of an advanced student or an intern. This position reminds me of others in which people are just starting to get their feet wet, and they don't have a whole lot of experience to offer, even though they do have knowledge.

I have never met a research fellow, though, so this assumption could be totally inaccurate. I have always had an interest in research and the scientific method, so I am just curious about how this would pay.

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