RA 100: So you want to be a research assistant?

Believe me, I suck at being an adult. Now at 20-something, I’m still figuring out how to adult. My work life, for the most part, had been spent in hospitals, bending twice over helping save lives with minimal pay, and that is topped off with a smattering of odd jobs (e.g ESL tutor). During times when I was not working in the clinical area, I’ve been a research assistant to a university student, a grade-school professor finishing her masters, and, at present, a university professor (Ph.D.).

Being a research assistant has its perks: (1) You get to work at home, in the office, in a cafe–anywhere you feel comfortable at! If your presence is needed, all you have to do is show up. (2) The pay is awesome as well. Depending on the person who employed you, it could range from a 2-digit salary/paper to a 4-digit salary/paper (USD). You get to be paid per month while in their employ as well. (3) The data is, if you’re lucky, provided for.

An opportunity like this, however, is usually a “recommendation” basis. Meaning, someone in your circle of connections has to introduce you to the person seeking this specific service.

If you are interested in this kind of job, there are things that you need to know–and have–prior to jumping into this venture.



One must have to be at least a college graduate (or level, depending on the case) with a firm command of the English language (or whichever language is required). Aside from that, it is also helpful that one had attended a writing workshop or even have a blog (or any form of physical evidence of your writing skills). This is where that someone I had mentioned earlier would come in. He/she could promote you on your behalf. An RA should also be acquainted with MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint (or the Apple equivalent to these programs).



This one is essential to every RA. Make sure that the device’s anti-virus software is up to date since there will be a TON of file sharing.

Flash disks/ Flash drive

You might need tons of them. Just kidding. Only a couple…or three. Storage capacity must be at least, in my opinion, 4GB and up.

Email address

I’m the sort of person who has several email addresses and some of them I had forgotten the password to. Do not be like me. It is okay to have two email addresses: one for personal use (for Facebook and other SNS), and one for job/business-related use. Having two makes segregating emails a lot easier.

phone-14Phone (possibly with unlimited phone credits and internet connection)

Ah! Another essential gadget to have in our everyday lives. I think this is self-explanatory.


Sometimes we need a bit of help when a specific word eludes us while editing.

Pencils and paper/post-its

There will be a time that you will need these items. They are quite primitive but effective.

Calculator (optional)


Yes, an actual calculator. Why this when there’s an app on my phone, you ask? I personally think that it makes it easier to solve things since using a smart phone requires you to look at the screen so you wouldn’t make a mistake. An actual calculator takes away that annoying bit.

There will be times that you will be required to solve data such as getting the percentages or trying to figure out how they got the percentages in the first place when there is no n provided to help you with.  And it also helps when you terribly suck at Math like yours truly.


I think the most essential thing to do as an RA is to have a paper trail of all the transactions, online reference gathering, and the delivering that you have done during the couse of your term as an assistant. This is evidence that you had done your part (deliverables) since, normally, one isnt required to be physically present within the office you are hired in. This will be the employer’s basis for your salary*.

So there you have it. These are just a few things that you should know before becoming a research assistant.

If you have anything else to add or know someone in this venture, do not hesitate to comment down below.

Disclaimer: These suggestions are based on the times that I had been an RA.Other people who had been in this profession might have different opinions on the matter. Photos provided within this post are not mine.
*salary and deliverables will be on your contract.

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