Research Associate vs Research Fellow


Hi guys,

It's been a while since I posted. I hope you're all well! Life has been chaotic, moving cities, etc. I start my post doc in a weeks time, and just had a question...

When I was first offered the job, it was just before I submitted and got viva'd etc. When I got my contract through (just after passing my viva), my job title was that of a research associate, but there was a clause to say if I completed my PhD, my pay scale would be adjusted. So, obviously, I got my evidence of completion and sent it off to HR so they could adjust my salary. I got my revised contract through yesterday and my pay has increased (YAY!!), but my title has now changed to research fellow. What's the difference between a research associate and a research fellow??

Thanks 8-)


I'm not sure if it varies between Universities but my understanding is a research fellow usually has a PhD and a research associate doesn't necessarily have a PhD.

Research assistant is a lower grade than a research associate and a research associate is a lower grade than a research fellow.

You've done well.

Good luck!


Well, I was a Research Fellow in 2007-08, and after a long period out of academic employment I am about to be interviewed for a Research Associate position. Downward mobility!

The difference can often be one of control over the research - and RA will typically be contributing to a Principal Investigator's (usually RC-funded) resarch project, whereas an RO will typically be working 100% on their own research (as long as that research accords with the needs and themes of the relevant dept. or research unit).

Much of the enjoyment of an RA position is dependent on how far the PI trusts you with significant autonomy over the research vs. how much he/she just wants to "dump" the undesirable aspects that they would rather not bother with onto you.


This is an interesting question. Congratulations to JinKim65 on your new job status. I'm bringing a new perspective to all this so might be some good news for those who think they were downgraded from Research Fellow to Research Associate. In the school were I trained, one of the top schools in the country, a research associate and research fellow are basically considered to be the same. Only difference is that an associate previously had an association with the school e.g. was an employee in another capacity or a recent graduate from one of the school's program. A fellow on the other hand is usually someone who comes to do the same work usually from another country and maybe on a J1 visa. Seems to me to be just a matter of semantics. The responsibilities given to the person depends on his/her prior experience. For e.g. one RA could be doing much more advanced research in one department compared to an RF in another department! God bless