Love Research? Don't Miss Out on Careers in Research Administration and Development

Lisa Rumiel, PhD, offers a deep-dive into careers for PhDs in research administration and development. Lisa is the Manager of Research Priorities and Strategic Partnerships in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University. She earned her PhD in History from York University in 2009. After completing a two-year postdoc at McMaster University, she moved into research administration in 2013. She held a number of positions providing administrative project support, as a grant facilitator, a strategic and institutional research specialist, and an awards and nominations specialist prior to her current job at York.

While research does not always revolve around money, research administration heavily involves the procurement of funds to carry out research in a variety of settings. Research administrators often divide this larger mission into two separate but interrelated periods: the pre-award period and post-award period. PhDs know that grant applications feature many intricate steps. Before the award can be granted, research administrators work to administer internal and external research grants, develop proposals and budgets, and navigate proposal submission platforms. After the award is granted, research administrators find themselves managing research project finances, research ethics, internal controls and compliance, as well as knowledge mobilisation.

What does a typical work-day look like for someone in research administration and development? Day-to-day, a research administrator does extremely varied work, including (but not limited to):

  • Reviewing grant application drafts & advising faculty
  • Drafting nominations for research awards and honours
  • Coordinating letters of reference
  • Administrating internal research funding programs
  • Supporting and advising research committees
  • Developing research administration processes & policies.

When applying for jobs in research administration and development, Lisa’s advice is to highlight many of the skills you earned through your PhD. As a doctoral student, you probably gained experience in writing grant and fellowship applications. This required you to present complex information to highly skilled audiences, a skill that is valued in this field. Highlight your teaching, mentoring, or advising experience to demonstrate that you are able to offer critical feedback. Coordinating workshops, conferences, and other research-related events are also an essential skill in research administration.

One thing that struck Lisa about her doctoral experience was how lonely and isolating academic work could be. She really enjoys her work now, because she likes working with groups of people and having a community that she can turn to when she has questions about her work. Research administration could be a great career fit for you if you love the processes of research, but also love the idea of collaborating with a team. There are many places one can start looking for jobs as a research administrator: universities & colleges, government ministries and funding agencies, non-profit organisations, and hospitals. There are a lot of opportunities for growth in this sector!

If you’re looking for entry-level positions in research administration and development, look for titles like “grants facilitator,” “research officer/facilitator,” or “institutional research specialist.

Rent Lisa’s webinar below to learn more about how you can prepare for a career in research administration

Learn more in Lisa's webinar:

Beyond the Professoriate Community Members attend events like this for free each month and access replays free for two weeks. Ready to launch your next great career? Join the Online Career Hub for PhDs.

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