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Government research officers undertake research and evaluation activities that provide government departments and local authorities with evidence required for the formulation, implementation and evaluation of policies.

The information government research officers provide forms the foundation of government decisions.

What does a government research officer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Government research officers work for the departments of central government and within local authority housing, economic, environment, development departments etc. Primary responsibilities of the job include:

  • writing research specifications
  • agreeing project requirements, objectives and research reference terms
  • searching for and retrieving information from paper-based sources, the internet and online databases
  • interviewing members of the public
  • using a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • analysing data
  • making conference presentations
  • liaising with policy customers and external researchers
  • supervising, tutoring and acting as a mentor to junior/external researchers
  • making sure that agreed project deadlines are met
  • writing/editing draft questionnaires and reports
  • keeping up-to-date with research/policy developments
  • writing speeches, articles, policy papers and party briefs
  • liaising with, advising and answering enquiries from MPs, related agencies, parliamentary advisers, members of the public, academics and local council

Government departments typically recruit independently on an ad hoc basis. Opportunities are advertised online, in national newspapers and their websites, and on the online jobs boards of the Social Research Association and the Civil Service.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into becoming a government research officer for both graduates and school leavers.

Graduates should have a minimum 2.1 honours degree in a subject including substantial social research such as sociology, criminology, geography, political science, psychology, politics, human geography, statistics and economics. For graduates without relevant degrees, a postgraduate qualification may be beneficial. Graduates from a range of degree disciplines can also apply through the Civil Service fast stream to go into a number of government departments – check individual schemes for the specific entry requirements needed.

For school leavers, the Civil Service offers apprenticeship programmes. To find out more see the public sector section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for government research officers

Employers seek motivated individuals with good research, information, organisational, numerical, analytical, communication, interpersonal and teamwork skills. Knowledge and experience of social research methods, statistical techniques, social policy and specialist computer software including databases is usually required. Potential employees should be capable of dealing confidently with people in important and influential positions.

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