5+ Year Member
Nov 19, 2015
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  1. Psychology Student
Hi all,

Eventually, I want to become a pediatric neuropsychologist. I am graduating soon and beginning to look for a full-time research position to begin sometime in the middle of July. I am hoping to provide assistance in some kind of clinical research specifically studying neurodevelopment disorders.

So on career websites hosted by hospitals, there are so many different words used to describe researchers: research assistant, research coordinator, research associate, and so many more... What is the difference between them all? The job postings have so little information about the job / actual research I cannot figure out the differences and what I should be applying for. As well, how am I supposed to craft cover letters when I am unsure what research is being done? Am I looking in the wrong places? Should I be emailing individuals who are running projects I would like to help be a part of and see if they are hiring or wait for openings to pop up on websites like indeed ect?

Any guidance is much appreciated :)


5+ Year Member
Oct 5, 2015
Status (Visible)
  1. DO/PhD Student
Titles, responsibilities, and requirements can vary to some degree depending on the organization. Look for positions for which you are qualified, but with progressively increasing responsibilities beyond what you've already done. To make yourself more competitive for grad school, you want to be doing substantially more than, say, coding, data entry, and patient recruitment. You want to look for and/or ask about positions with higher level, more conceptual responsibilities, e.g. helping with grant applications, lit reviews, protocol development, data analysis, and manuscript prep.
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2+ Year Member
Feb 14, 2017
East Coast
About the job titles:
In my experience, they tend to vary based on job duties. Like, for example, research assistants may spend a lot of time doing the gruntwork of a research study (e.g., conducting lit searches, cleaning data, doing other tedious stuff that PIs don't have time for), whereas research coordinators may do things regarding overseeing the RAs, making sure the lab runs smoothly, doing regulatory/IRB stuff. In my opinion, there's not a whole lot of difference job duties in research assistant vs. research associate, except in my workplace, a research associate requires a masters-level education, whereas all research assistants are bachelors-level. You should check to see what the qualification criteria is for each position too, because I'd think that research coordinator and research associate would require at least a couple years of research experience, whereas research assistants likely aren't expected to have as much experience, since they'd just be starting out.

About the cover letters:
I'm not 100% sure how to go about this either, but I'm thinking of cover letters that I've read for interviewees, and I think they generally talk about their past experience (education, research) and how they're qualified, as well as their future career goals and how the position would help them achieve that. You could talk about why you want to work in a hospital research setting and what you would learn from that. Or alternatively you could just email whomever posted the job to see if you could get specifics about the research done, and then write the cover letter appropriately.
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