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Research Career

A Research Carrer in Spain

The following is an extract taken from the "Guide for Foreign Researchers in Spain":

The Science, Technology and Innovation Act, passed in May 2011, establishes a common system for all public agencies to develop the career of a researcher, from the initial stages to consolidation. The objective of the Act is to make this professional career attractive, but for it to develop on the basis of respect for the constitutional principles of equality, merit and skill.


The Act stipulates three types of contracts that can be used by the Public Research Centres attached to the Central Government, other Regional Government research bodies and also public universities when they receive funds intended to include recruiting researchers. These researcher-specific employment contracts are:

a) Predoctoral contract;
b) Contract for Access to the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation System;
c) Distinguished researcher contract.



Contract for Access to the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation System
This contract was designed in the mould of the ‘tenure track’ used in other countries. Contracts for access to the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation System are signed in accordance with the following requirements:

  1. These contracts can only be offered to holders of a PhD or equivalent and five-year limits, or seven-year limits are not applicable if the employee is a disabled person.
  2. The work to be undertaken will primarily consist of research activity with the intention of helping researchers achieve a high level of professional perfection and specialisation to consolidate their professional experience.
  3. The contract must have a duration of more than one year, but not exceed five years. When the duration of a contract is less than five years, it may be extended subsequently, without such extensions being for less than one year under any circumstances. No employee can be offered a contract of this type in the same organisation or any other for a period of time in excess of five years.
  4. The compensation for this contract must be no less than that of a researcher who carries out the same activity.
  5. Researchers who are contracted under the umbrella of the provisions in this article can complement their work with lectures related to the proposed research activity up to a maximum of 80 hours a year.

After completion of the second year of the contract onwards, researchers with a contract of this type will be able to request assessment of their research activity.


The selection processes for permanent staff announced by government bodies will consider favourable assessments received during the course of a contract for access to Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation system as research merits.


Distinguished researcher contract
Spanish and foreign researchers of recognised prestige in the scientific and technical community and holders of a PhD or equivalent can be recruited under distinguished researcher contracts, in accordance with the following requisites:

  1. The objective of the contract is research activity or leading human teams, directing research centres, unique scientific facilities and programmes of great importance in the field of knowledge, in accordance with the functions and objectives of the employer.
  2. The duration of the contract will be determined by mutual agreement.
  3. Researchers offered this type of contract may not sign other employment contracts with other organisation, unless they have received express permission from the employer or a written agreement otherwise and without disregarding the regulations.
  4. Compliance of the contract will be subject to an objective monitoring system the employer will establish.
  5. The contract may be terminated due to abandonment on behalf of the employer, notifying the decision in writing with three months’ notice, notwithstanding the possibility of the employer cancelling the contract for just causes.

Consolidating a career in research
The consolidation of a career in research, implying a sequenced series of promotion opportunities and prospects for professional advancement, in accordance with the principles of equality, merit and skill is achieved in public institutions (universities and research centres) by gaining access to the civil services linked to research. Public employment is open to Spanish researchers, foreign researchers legally residing in Spain and also foreigners under the umbrella of International Treaties signed by the European Union and ratified by Spain that permit the free movement of workers.


Public employment as regards a career as a researcher working for Public Research Centres that report to the Central Government is divided into the following scientific categories which will have full research authority:

  1. Research lecturers of Public Research Centres.
  2. Scientific Researchers of Public Research Centres.
  3. Head Scientists of Public Research Centres.

Public university lecturers who are members of the civil service will belong to the following categories and will have
full teaching and research authority:

  1. University professors.
  2. University senior lecturers.