This guide focuses on RAs who work in one of four kinds of environments: academia, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or think tanks. We don’t go into the experiences of RAs working primarily on data collection in the field (“field-based” RAs) because these jobs can look quite different from the rest.
Geographically, all three types of RA positions can be found all over the place.
- Academic RAships are typically based at universities, but can involve travel to other locations as well.
- Federal government RAships (in the U.S.) are generally at one of the 13 Federal Reserve locations, which are scattered across the country in major cities, or for agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or Treasury Department, which tend to be in D.C. Some state and local governments may also have RAs.
- NGO office-based RAships focused on development work, such as those at the World Bank or J-PAL, can take you anywhere in the world. These positions are often based at the NGO’s headquarters or at a university, but can also involve frequent travel “to the field” in the country your work is focused on.
- Think tanks, like the Brookings Institution and RAND, are another kind of non-profit that take on RAs. Many think tanks in the U.S. are based in Washington, DC.
Some institutions will be flexible about where you are physically located while you work as an RA. Although in-person connections with peers and supervisors add a lot of value, lots of RA work can be done very effectively remotely, with the exception of positions in which you need to be onsite to access restricted data or to help run survey operations.
Especially in a world with COVID, in which most RAs are currently working from home, it’s worth checking with every place you apply to whether you’ll be expected to relocate.