Scientist I, Scientist II and Senior Scientist Roles, Explained
It’s not uncommon for life sciences professionals to experience some confusion around specific scientist jobs and their corresponding responsibilities. To add to the complexity, there can be some ambiguity between various scientific roles depending on the industry, area of research and organization.
In addition to the proactive research you can do about unique organizations online, relying heavily on what’s specifically stated in the job posting is ideal. In the past, we’ve covered how to efficiently understand what an organization is looking for in a job description. That information is helpful for a variety of life sciences positions.
But sometimes, the difference between these three roles, in particular, can still be unclear. To help, we've created a guide to explain the duties and responsibilities of these three common roles: Scientist I, Scientist II and Senior Scientist.
Scientist I positions are usually seen as entry-level roles that collaborate with other scientists and cross-functional teams to enhance research efforts. Recent graduates and professionals with little experience often apply for these jobs, so they can be very competitive (especially at high-profile organizations).
Other titles you might see include Staff Scientist or Staff Scientist I. A bachelor’s degree in a related scientific field is required and most companies like candidates to demonstrate familiarity with experimentation, inventory management, problem solving, and analysis. Having a master’s degree, along with additional experience in the focus area, can help you stand out from other candidates.
These roles can encompass similar responsibilities of a Scientist I position, but they generally involve more complex projects. Scientist II candidates usually have at least 2-3 years of practical experience in an area, as well as an understanding of knowledge and theory within the field.
While some Scientist II positions only require a bachelor’s degree, most have a strong preference for professionals with a master’s degree or Ph.D. Many Scientist II jobs are geared towards individuals who also have developed presentation and communication skills, since they could be working with other team members in different departments.
A Senior Scientist is normally seen as a leader within their department. Depending on the organization, they can manage a team of other scientists while acting as a liaison with other business units such as marketing, sales, development, quality and engineering.
Senior Scientists can be subject matter experts within their company regarding specific areas in their field. Some of these roles only require a bachelor’s degree with extensive years of experience. However, the vast majority of Senior Scientist positions prefer candidates with graduate degrees. Aspects of project management, technical expertise, communication, and stakeholder management are vital for consideration.
It can be difficult to know if you are a viable candidate for varying scientist positions. In addition to these three roles, some organizations have Scientist III, Scientist IV, and Scientific Manager roles as well. The job duties of those positions usually increase in responsibility, but are very customized to the hiring company.
Because of this, conducting research beyond what you read in a job description can help you determine what the best option is based on your background. When in doubt, come up with a few focused questions to ask a recruiter or hiring manager.