Job descriptions and industry overviews

Government research officer: job description

19 Jul 2023, 08:54

Government research officers carry out research that provides government departments with evidence to help them formulate, implement and evaluate policies.

Two government research officers working together analysing charts while sitting at a desk.

Government research officer : Salaries | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Government research officers work for the departments of central government – eg housing, economic, environment and development. They conduct research and manage research projects using a range of methodologies.

Typical duties include:

  • liaising with colleagues to establish their research needs.
  • agreeing project requirements, objectives and research reference terms.
  • searching for and retrieving information from the internet, online databases and paper-based sources.
  • managing work provided by external organisations such as research agencies.
  • developing surveys and others means of gathering data.
  • carrying out interviews.
  • using a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods.
  • analysing data.
  • writing up and presenting findings.
  • supervising, tutoring and acting as a mentor to junior/external researchers.
  • making sure that agreed project deadlines are met.
  • 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 and academics.

The nature of the work means that most roles are in London, although some are based in government agencies outside the capital.

Graduate salaries

Government research is carried out by the Government Social Research Profession, which is part of the Civil Service. You can join the profession via the Civil Service fast stream, where the government currently reports graduate salaries to be around £29,000. Once you complete the fast stream programme and take on a permanent role, you could earn up to £55,000.

Other government research roles outside the fast stream are sometimes advertised. These have similar salaries.

Fast stream positions are advertised on targetjobs and via the government’s website. The government also advertises ad hoc research roles, as do professional bodies within the field of social research. Specialist recruitment agencies may also advertise ad hoc positions.

Competition for places on the Civil Service fast stream is tough so work experience involving research or policy – for example, with a local authority or a charity – will help your job application stand out. You could also consider an internship with the Civil Service to gain insights into their work and decide if this is the right career for you.

School leavers can join the Civil Service via an apprenticeship, which involves studying towards a qualification while working in a related job.

Qualifications and training required

To join the Government Social Research Profession via the fast stream, you’ll need a degree in which you’ve learned and used research methods and topics such as literature reviews, study design, data interpretation and the ethics of research. Your degree should be at least a 2.1, or alternatively you’ll need a 2.2 plus a postgraduate degree.

The fast stream is a three-year programme that includes ongoing training and professional development, so you’ll continue to learn while you work.

Key skills for government research officers

  • Strong research and analytical skills .
  • The ability to explain clearly and present confidently .
  • Teamwork skills.
  • Confidence using databases and statistical software packages.
  • A logical, rigorous approach to work.
  • Knowledge and experience of social research methods and statistical techniques.
  • Organisational skills.
  • The ability to communicate confidently with people in influential positions.

Head to targetjobs’ guide to the must-have skills for graduate careers in government to learn more about what it takes to secure a role.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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