From your average nerd to the awkward wallflower, we have all at some point in our childhood dreamt of becoming a scientist.
But being a scientist - whether you are studying social science, physical science, or medicine - is quite a toilsome business.
Most of it has to do with tireless, rigorous research that requires a thorough understanding of the subject you are investigating, as well as a deductive mindset and persistent passion to unravel the mysteries of the world.
All that struggle, coupled with often disproportionate materialistic returns - juxtaposed against that of any other commercial sectors - may not sound too convincing for today's youngsters. You may ask:
Why should I pursue a career in research?
Well, a research career is quite exciting as you get to face new real-life challenges every day ranging from developing a model of supply and demand to determine the optimal price for your products, to finding out the genome sequence of a virulent bacteria.
Far away from the monotony of any nine to five job, the intense brainstorming alone will keep you constantly engaged.
Being a researcher is also a far more rewarding and fulfilling career choice.
As a researcher, you get to contribute to the realm of knowledge; contributions that may be used to change the lives of hundreds of fellow human beings.
When asked about reasons for choosing research as a career, Mohsin Bhuiyan, a research assistant working for a Dhaka-based English daily's research wing, said, "I always had a nag for policymaking and research felt like the way to make sound policies. I loved to study and learn about how economies work and how the different forces of an economy interact with each other and that is how I fell in love with research."
But having a passion is not all there is to choose a career in research.
Are there enough opportunities in the field of research?
Contrary to what some may think, research is a financially viable profession as well.
It may not be your key to becoming a billionaire, however, you should have more than enough to lead an affluent life. Research jobs usually pay more than any other job that does not involve multinational corporations.
For instance, a mere research intern at any reputable organisation can earn about Tk10,000-15,000 per month working only 20-25 hours a week. Salary for entry-level positions like research assistant or research associate can range from Tk40,000-60,000 per month along with admissible benefits.
According to Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director at Bangladesh's prominent think tank - Centre for Policy Dialogue, every industry is gradually realising the significance of research and analytics in this data-driven global market.
Opportunities in Bangladesh are flourishing as well and are expected to expand in the future with the further development of diverse industries in the post-LDC era.
"Research positions used to be confined to research organisations, academic institutions, and development organisations only. Now, private organisations are also looking to hire research professionals for their research departments," said Dr Moazzem.
He also mentioned that different streams of research professionals are currently being hired by private as well as government organisations while business-oriented studies are taking the place of academic-oriented studies.
"Private organisations are hiring researchers from different backgrounds like science, medicine, social science, business, and so on, depending on what suits their purpose. Tech-oriented companies are hiring researchers with a CSE background while many private companies are hiring researchers to improve their products, management, to measure their performance in the market as well as for forecasting purposes."
"Every government organisation has a planning wing which also requires researchers to aid in data-driven policy making. So, there are lots of opportunities for a researcher in today's job market," he added.
What skills do you need to become a researcher?
Dr Moazzem thinks the most important quality of a researcher is an inquisitive mentality and the ability to relate academic knowledge to real-life phenomena.
Prospective researchers should also stay up-to-date with recent literature and developments in their field. At the same time, a researcher should also have a respectable academic qualification accompanied by a strong understanding of mathematics and statistics.
"Any recruiter would look for a candidate with versatile knowledge and the ability to look for new dimensions to solve a problem posed to them. Most of the freshers I come across have a strong academic qualification but they cannot often apply their knowledge to the practical world," he said.
Dr Moazzem argued that most of these studies are open source; only a click away from the inquisitive mind. So, you have no excuse to slack off.
Research enthusiasts should also equip themselves with at least one or two data analysis software like MS Excel, SPSS, STATA, EVIEWS, R, Python, C, and C++ to be better suited for their jobs.
While YouTube is a great primary source to get yourself acquainted with these softwares, other online educational platforms like Coursera, Udemy, EdX, and Lynda also offer free courses (although you will not get certificates upon completion).
How important is your CGPA?
"Well, my CGPA is not that high" - is an excuse every fresher makes to shy away from a research career. Even if you have a relatively low GPA, there may still be hope for you in academia.
Academic qualifications are generally used as a preliminary tool for screening candidates among many other applicants. As Dr Moazzem said, "While CGPA can get you through the initial screening process, your critical thinking ability and the ability to effectively contribute your knowledge to the practical field is much more important."
At the same time, prior experience in research; working as research assistants/interns in studies, enumerators, publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals can bear testament to your excellence and may encourage recruiters to overlook your deficiencies in terms of CGPA.
What does the career path of a researcher look like?
Like any other sector, there are opportunities for upward mobility in academia as well. Researchers working at an academic institution can enter the job as lecturers and go on to become assistant professors, associate professors, and finally professors.
In research organisations, freshers can get a job as a research intern or research associate and with time, be promoted to senior research associate, programmer manager, assistant research director, and eventually research director positions.
Private organisations also have research wings, where they might hire you as a trainee or research assistant. From there on, you can go on to become assistant manager, deputy manager, general manager, and take up more superior positions depending on your research acumen.
Be that as it may, you can always switch fields; shift to the development sector or become a consultant for any private company or government organisation.
Do I need a higher degree (Masters, PhD) from abroad?
To excel in your career as a researcher, merely an undergraduate degree from a local university may not be enough. Any superior position in research like research director requires at least a masters or PhD degree from a reputed university abroad.
"While our local universities groom a student up to a certain degree, it is simply not enough for more complex research works that require sophisticated skills and a refined understanding of the subject drawn from diverse backgrounds. A researcher can acquire this diverse knowledge by pursuing a masters and/or PhD degree from a reputed university abroad," Dr Moazzem said.
So, before you plan a long-term career in research, you should be prepared to commit to a long and arduous journey through Masters and PhD degrees.
With the ever-augmenting significance of research and analytics in a data-driven market economy, pursuing a career in research should be an exciting prospect for freshers straight out of universities.
However, before committing to a career in research, make sure you have the passion for it and are willing to go the extra mile (literally!) while sacrificing some of the financial gains.