Job descriptions


This page is still in draft form and being discussed and developed. See the note on the parent page.

These are job descriptions for RSE descriptions. They are not yet formal HR job descriptions and won’t be directly used as such, but provide a vision of our career ladder.

A RSE is researcher whose advancement of science is not defined by number of papers, but by quality of software and contributions to open science.


A RSE1 is just starting their career and is being introduced both to software tools and the research process. This RSE would get mentoring much like a new doctoral student does, but instead of aiming to publications, they would aim to quality, released software.

Qualifications: Masters degree, thesis in combining computation and research or software development with some research qualifications, but little real-world research experience.

Pay/job level: roughly like master’s employee or PhD student. Advancement: would be expected within 1-2 years.


Able to competently work on own projects using tools they know while learning new tools effortlessly. They are currently learning to finding the right tool for the job and to connect the technical task (software and data related) to the impact to society, Aalto, and individual grants.

This is roughly equivalent to a postdoctoral researcher, a transition time between academic skills of a doctorate and whatever may come next. In particular, this can serve as a bridge between a (somewhat more theoretically focused) doctorate degree and a job in industry, and CV and skills development is in line with this.

Qualifications: Doctorate or extended work experience. Pay/job level: similar to postdoc.

Advancement: expected to advance within 2-3 years. This person is still in training (much like a postdoc) and is probably deciding which way to take their career.


Like above, but is additionally able to independently negotiate with research groups to plan a project, including deciding tools and expected results. In particular, a RSE 3 should be able to explain the value of good software practices to the researchers and plan/advocate for good open science and research data management practices across various fields.

Pay/job level: like staff scientist, always permanent.

Advancement: A person is a competent, independent scientist/engineer at this point, and advancing is not needed for everyone. Of course, lifelong learning always continues. To be honest, advancing in the academic system is difficult, and many people will make a horizontal move to another place.


At this point, you are not exactly developing RSE skills but leadership skills. This is surely adjusted to each person individually, but two possible layers include:

  • RSE leader responsible for a department, school, or research area.

  • RSE group leader responsible for university-wide leadership.

Other internal/parallel advancement

Other career development is not a part of the Aalto RSE program (yet?), and to be honest it’s hard to see an internal advancement in the current academic system (by the time you get to the top of our team, you are already at the top). Still, there are many ways people can continue their career development depending on their career goals, for example:

  • Tech lead of larger RSE projects (few projects require this)

  • Study and develop new technologies for production (perhaps a parallel move to an IT team)

  • Management, either of RSE group or other services

  • Applying for grants, leading projects, etc. as a staff scientist might do (this would be outside the RSE service team)

  • Mentoring or supervising students or other researchers

At Aalto, these aspects are not yet developed, and some of them would be horizontal moves outside the RSE team (or collaboration with someone outside the team). At some point, people have to take their careers in the direction they want and begin combining various unique skills.

Commercial developers

We don’t plan on competing with commercial developers, but the difference with a RSE3 is that:

  • A software developer can do what is asked, but not work with the researcher to figure out what they actually need. The software developer will probably be slightly more requirements-product based, rather than agile-research work to develop a tool over time.

  • A software developer make produce a product that is not sustainable in an academic setting: requires too much focus and specialized knowledge to be improved in an academic environment.

  • A software developer may use more modern and industrial-scale tools.

  • A software developer from outside would come in and leave, a RSE in this group would provide longer-term support (but this is more a property of the group, not the person).