The most common way to enter a contract research career is via higher degree research studies. The vast majority of contract researchers have invested heavily to secure a career trajectory, and have a deep commitment to the intellectual project, despite their insecure employment conditions. Contract researchers may view their position as research-for-hire and expend substantial time, energy and emotion on looking for work, managing their lives around potential work and delving into new research areas as the work dictates. Working towards a long-term research career inevitably means understanding how research work is assessed and valued. While building a strong narrative of research interests is an ideal, the nature of contract employment means researchers cannot always work on projects that align with their own expertise or interests. The experience of working on larger projects affords contract researchers the chance to understand how research projects are designed and managed, and can provide insight into the pressures of research work.