What is the difference between "researcher" and "research scientist"? I often see them used interchangeably and therefore wonder whether they are synonymous.

2 Answers 2


A research scientist is a scientist who is engaged in the process of experimentation and investigation (ie doing research). If a scientist is not a research scientist they may be a teacher, or an engineer, for example. Research scientists will normally hold a PhD, or equivalent.

A researcher is not necessarily a scientist at all. For example, politicians will employ researchers to investigate political matters. Researchers investigate stories for journalists. In this context, researchers are typically a quite low level position, that may even be taken by an intern.

So while all research scientists are researchers, not all researchers are scientists.

  • 2
    +1 And eminent academic researchers in fields such as history and literature would probably blink a little at being described as "research scientists", however well-established their methodologies. Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 21:16

There are people in high level positions that do non-scientific research (liberal arts) and possess advanced degrees, but they usually don't identify themselves as "researchers".

  • 1
    How does this answer the question?
    – user22427
    Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 17:57

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