The Advantage is a regular series examining the benefits of undergraduate research and creative scholarship.  Each edition will explore one of the benefits of conducting research as an undergraduate student.

Vol. I – Career Pathways
Vol. II – Professional Advancement and Development

Vol. III – Development of Research & Professional Skills

The way we talk about activities, aspirations, and plans, among other things, frames how we view them. For example, most undergraduate students see themselves as preparing for either graduate school or the professional world. At a superficial level this makes perfect sense. But holding this view has the potential to shape a student’s college experience in unintended ways. This dichotomy of taking two paths through college may limit what students see as opportunities available to them and impact the choices they can make during their undergraduate experience. From this perspective, research is something that is only done by students planning on going to graduate school. This exclusive status risks steering students away from research, which goes against what research on student learning tells us is in the best interest of students, and contradicts the findings of recent reports* on labor markets and employer preferences. Not only is research considered a high-impact practice for students, being linked to engaged learning as well as higher rates of retention and graduation, but also the skills that employers are seeking in graduates are the same skills that are gained through research. In other words, research skills are professional skills. The skills developed conducting research in a lab, out in the field, or in the library, are the same skills that students will use working for businesses, not-for-profits, and government agencies.

Just look at the skills employers are looking for against those that are gained through research:

Skills Employers Seek * Skills Gained Through Research **
Ability to work in a team structure Communication – oral and written
Ability to make decisions and solve problems Problem solving
Ability to communicate Teamwork
Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work Ability to gather and analyze data
Ability to obtain and process information Ability to integrate theory and practice
Ability to analyze quantitative data Understanding the scientific method
Technical knowledge related to the job Writing for publication
Proficiency with computer software programs Tolerance for obstacles (persistence)
Ability to create and/or edit written reports Time management
Ability to sell and influence others Learning ethical conduct

* According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers
** According to Bauer and Bennett (2003), Lopatto (2004, 2006, 2010), Nagda et al. (1998), Seymour et al. (2004)

In conclusion, whether you plan to apply for graduate school or enter the professional work force, research is for you in the same way an internship or part-time job is. If you’re lucky, an internship may provide you with an opportunity to experience gains in the skills listed above, but in research, it is virtually guaranteed.

More information about how to get started in research.

More information about the research programs at the UO.