What Is a Research Associate?

A research associate is a person who plans, organizes, and conducts research on businesses, markets, investments, or the economy. Research associates are primarily employed by asset management firms, financial institutions, consulting firms, and in-house research departments of companies. Depending on an organization's hierarchical structure, a research associate can be at the same level as a research assistant or above it, and at the same level or below a research analyst.

Understanding a Research Associate

A research associate has responsibilities in gathering data from primary and secondary sources of information, organizing and analyzing this material, and preparing written reports to superiors. The research associate either becomes an expert in specific areas or is utilized as a generalist to cover a broad range of products, markets, industries, etc. The end purpose of the job is to provide helpful information and analysis for decision-makers.

The research associate position usually requires a bachelor's or master's degree in economics, business or finance, facility with numbers and skills to distill large amounts of information and communicate it effectively within the organization. An example of this position would be an equity research associate who conducts fundamental company analysis with the goal of generating actionable information from the data. A written report with financial models is the typical product of the equity research associate.

Career Path of a Research Associate

The research associate generally spends at least two years at that level before he or she moves up the ladder, whether to a senior research associate position or research analyst position (most organizations place the analyst position above the associate position). By accumulating more and more experience, this individual can continue climbing vertically toward research head and beyond or move laterally inside or outside an organization. Inside, for example, the seasoned research professional could move to a product group of a company in a marketing role. In the case of an equity research associate on the sell-side, a career jump to the buy-side as a research analyst is in the realm of possibility.