Government research officer: job description

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.

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

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

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

  • writing research specifications
  • agreeing project requirements, objectives and research reference terms
  • searching for and retrieving information from the internet, online databases and paper-based sources
  • 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
  • developing new methods of research and reporting
  • liaising with, advising and answering enquiries from MPs, related agencies, parliamentary advisers, members of the public, academics and local council.

Government departments typically recruit on an ad hoc basis. Opportunities are advertised online, via websites such as Civil Service jobs and the Social Research Association.

Qualifications and training required

In order to enter a career in government social research, you are likely to need an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject – usually including a substantial social research element. Subjects such as sociology, criminology, geography, political science, psychology, politics, human geography, statistics and economics can be helpful. 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.

Key skills for government research officers

  • Strong research and analytical skills
  • The ability to explain clearly and present confidently
  • IT literacy
  • Teamwork skills
  • Knowledge and experience of social research methods and statistical techniques
  • Organisational ability
  • The ability to communicate confidently with people in influential positions.

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