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I'm beginning to think that I might be best suited for a job in R&D. The reason being that I like jobs that allow me to be creative and I generally am more interested in solving puzzles than building things. I really dislike jobs that just boil down to translating requirements into code.

Here's the kicker though: I don't have a bachelor's much less a masters or phd. Is it possible for me to land a job like this?

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closed as off topic by MichaelT, Glenn Nelson, GlenH7, Robert Harvey, Eric King Feb 11 '13 at 17:48

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You might have to be more specific as to what area of R&D, it's a big field. Natural Language Processing, for instance, is much different than Human Computer Interaction. –  Steve Evers Oct 9 '10 at 2:47
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My bosses say that the best way to get into R&D is just not leaving it after you graduate... –  Pavel Shved Oct 9 '10 at 5:49
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Agree, go to university, get a masters, much of what you will be doing is R&D. –  Bjarke Freund-Hansen Dec 6 '10 at 13:02
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7 Answers 7

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I work at R&D. For one thing, most of it is about the "D" part, that is, building things. You can't escape it. The primary goal of any commercial R&D department is to develop things that work (and that can be sold to customers in order to pay your salary). As Edison put it: 1 % inspiration and 99 % perspiration.

Then there's of course the rare "R" part, tinkering, which is quite enjoyable. The proportion between R and D certainly depends on the field and firm where you're working, but it's typical that making things that work (D) is the high priority, and trying to come up with something completely new (R) gets the remaining time, which may not be much.

I can only talk about myself, but if you're a decent programmer, you have a good chance of getting a R&D job via ordinary job interview. Look for firms that inspire you, and let them know about yourself. Don't ignore small, innovative firms; if you get to work at such, you can actually affect what they and you are doing (not so with giant corporations).

If you meant academic research, then it's definitely less work to first get the degree and then a job at the university than trying to do any meaningful research alone, without a degree, unless you're a genius.

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Heh, that sounds like my day to day work, and I'm not classified as an R&D developer. Of course, my job inherently involves some research(ie we obfuscate things, so we're always fighting deobfuscators and staying ahead of the curve).. Also, to put in context education requirements, I have exactly 1 year of college, no degree at all. –  Earlz Oct 26 '12 at 15:55
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At my second development job there was a guy who, to this day, I think had the best job on the planet.

He spent all day messing around with new technology and techniques and evaluating them to see if they had value for the business. He presented his research to the developers - who would then do the grunt work. He did a bit of architecture, but 90% analysis and problem solving.

He joined the company as an intern, and never left. So he had no formal qualifications at all and he made a ton of money.

If you haven't got a degree then you're going to have trouble getting your foot in the door at an interview. So maybe do what this guy did. Identify some companies that will contain research opportunities and get a developer job there. Then once you've proved yourself and you have some reputation make the transition.

If you have aspirations like this, then bring them up at your Review(s). As long as you are worth keeping, then your boss will try to keep you happy and fulfilled. And the more value that you add, the more they will be willing to appease you.

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Get a PhD. Then, either apply for grants or apply for jobs in the private sector.

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I would suggest you to apply for R&D jobs. If it's what you love, and can't do it in your current job, you must move until you become a zombie :)

If you persevere, you will find a position. This may take few months, but if you fail 10 interviews, that means nothing. Maybe the job is at interview 11. And you don't care if it's at interview 25. Each interview will allows you to capture typical questions they ask and you will be able to improve your knowledge by yourself.

Meanwhile, do R&D in your spare time.

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I would say that your best bet, without getting a higher education, is likely to find out everything you possibly can about the field you intend to do research. Then independently produce some high quality papers and proofs of concept for that area. Get the papers published in reputable journals and get the proofs in the hands of other researchers in the field.

From there, you can look at companies that are doing research in the same areas and consider applying.

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Your best shot it to get at least a masters degree. You may get lucky, but most interesting R&D positions require smart people and a higher degree is like a "smart persons badge" to a typical HR person.

You learn lots of interesting things doing a good Uni degree that are hard to pick up in a boring coding job. And you will start learn how to do the R part of R&D.

From there you can decide whether you are better suited to academia or industry. A PhD is pretty much essential for an academic career, and is also useful if you want to land an R&D position with a top rank IT company like Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and so on.

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Start your own research foundation and beg for grants.

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Something you have experience doing? How did it go? Which grants have you applied for? Did you get any? –  Bjarke Freund-Hansen Dec 6 '10 at 13:04
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