Military research involves developing new weapons and protective gear, but it delves into a wider range of topics as well. Scientists and engineers working for the military develop pharmaceuticals and medical treatments; combat corrosion and microbial contamination; preserve food supplies for soldiers in remote locations; and work on
portable energy sources to power equipment and vehicles. Much of the research funded by the military is designated as “dual use”, with both military and civilian applications in mind.
Typical Work Duties
- Conduct laboratory research in military or academic laboratories, as an active military member or reservist, civilian government employee or contractor, or grant recipient.
- Develop a product, piece of equipment, or method as a part of a funded program or contract.
- Perform environmental and field studies to assess pollution levels at ordnance dumpsites, design protective clothing for use in extreme weather or hostile environments, or test new materials under realistic conditions.
- Interact with officers and enlisted persons to learn about their daily operations and identify areas that could be addressed using technological improvements.
- Contribute to educational programs for college and pre-college students, often as a condition of an academic grant, and sometimes focused on underserved and disadvantaged communities.
- Military research and other science-related work takes many forms. Each type of job function requires its own set of skills, and no one position requires a person to be good at everything.
- Problem-solving skills and an interest in solving applied research problems.
- Critical thinking and analytical skills to design experiments, troubleshoot processes, and analyze data collected.
- Written and oral communication skills to explain findings and share results with scientists and non-scientists in the military and civilian sectors.
- Computer skills, including familiarity with computer modeling and data analysis.
- Organizational, budgeting, and record-keeping skills. An ability to fulfill government reporting and documentation requirements.
Career paths vary widely. Scientists enter the field of military research with military or civilian backgrounds. They might work full-time on military projects, or have a military grant as one component of their funding portfolio.
One possible career path begins with participation in a military-funded program for high school students. This might lead to acceptance to a summer workshop program for college undergraduates and an undergraduate research project. A summer internship at a military laboratory could lead to a graduate research program, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship working on a military project. This would be good preparation for a staff research position at a military laboratory. This could lead to a position managing a research program or consortium, which could then lead to an executive position at a laboratory or research funding agency.
Original content at acs.org