Researcher career stages

The objective of the Science, Technology and Innovation Act is to make the career of researcher attractive nationally and internationally, and to develop it 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 State Research Centres attached to the Public Administration, other Regional Government Research Bodies and also state universities when they receive funds the purposes of which include recruiting researchers. The specific employment contracts for research personnel are as follows:

In addition, the entities listed may contract research personnel under the employment contract modes established in the consolidated text of the Workers' Statute ( A09654-09688.pdf).

As stated in the CTI Law, the scientific community must be equipped with a foreseeable technical and scientific degree, based on merits and socially recognised, whereas the Spanish System of Science, Technology and Innovation must include the criteria of maximum mobility and openness governing the international scientific community.

The general objective of the Spanish Strategy on Science and Technology and on Innovation is the recognition and promotion of talent in R&D&I and its employability. This is aimed at increasing the training capacities in R&D&I of the System; encouraging job placement and the employability of trained resources, both in the public and business sectors, and facilitating their temporary mobility among the public institutions and between these and the private sector for the implementation of R&D&I activities. Therefore, the consideration of the research career always considers the possibilities of professional development in both the public and the private sector.

Research personnel linked to a public body to which they provide services, in a relation subject to the administrative or labour laws, may hold a career position, or a temporary position in the civil service, or may be part of the permanent or temporary staff.

More specifically, the professional career of civil service research personnel is structured around a design of scientific scales which aim to homogenise the selection, payment and promotion regime. In addition, objective systems are established to assess the performance of civil service personnel for the purposes of a horizontal professional career, training, the provision of jobs and the receipt of complementary payments.

Public employment as regards a career as a researcher working for Public Research Centres that report to the Public Administration is divided into the following scientific categories which will have full research authority: PRC research teachers, PRC scientific researchers and PRC graduate scientists.

Public university lecturers employed by the Government will belong to the following categories and will have full teaching and research authority: university professors and university lecturers.


Predoctoral contract

Employment contracts under the predoctoral contract mode are signed in accordance with the following requirements:

  1. The contract is for research work as part of specific, original projects undertaken by degree-holders, engineers, architects, recent university graduates with at least 300 credits (European Credit Transfer System – ECTS), a university masters degree or equivalent who have been accepted onto a PhD course. The chosen persons will receive the title of predoctoral research trainees.

  2. The contract will be signed in writing by the predoctoral research trainee, as the employee, and the public university or research centre leading the research group, as the employer, and must be accompanied by the written acceptance of the former onto the PhD programme issued by the department responsible for the programme or by the PhD or postgraduate school if applicable.

  3. The contract will have a specific duration and will be full-time.

    The contract must have a duration of more than one year, but not exceed four years. When the duration of a contract is less than four years, it may be extended subsequently. Such extensions must not have a duration of less than one year under any circumstances. The activity carried out by the predoctoral research personnel shall be assessed annually by the academic commission of the doctorate programme —or, where applicable, the doctorate school— while the person remains in the programme.

  4. The salary for this contract must be no less than 56% of the salary set for equivalent categories by the collective bargaining agreements in the field during the first two years, no less than 60% in the third year and no less than 75% in the fourth. Nor may it be less than the minimum wage (SMI) established each year.

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. Consequently, 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.

  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. Such extensions must not have a duration of 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 remuneration for this contract must be no less than that of a researcher who carries out the same activity.

  5. Researchers who are recruited subject to this type of contract can complement their work with teaching activities related to the proposed research activity up to a maximum of 80 hours a year.

From completion of the second year of the contract onwards, researchers with a contract of this type could be subject of an evaluation of their research activity. Evaluations will take into account criteria of excellence, will be performed in accordance with the regulations of the university or employer and will include an external report that will be binding if negative and will be written by:

  1. in the case of researchers contracted by state universities, the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA) or an equivalent external organisation in each Autonomous Region; and,

  2. in the case of researchers contracted by Public Research Centres, the National Evaluation and Foresight Agency (ANEP) or an equivalent organisation determined within the National Research Agency, or an organisation equivalent to the ANEP in Autonomous Regions if the employer is accountable to them.


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

In the case of a negative evaluation, researchers may request a second and final evaluation of their research activity before the contract or its extensions end.

Distinguished researcher contract

Spanish and foreign researchers of renowned prestige in the scientific and technical field who hold PhDs or equivalent can be recruited under distinguished researcher contracts, in accordance with the following criteria:

  1. The objective of the contract is to perform research activities, to lead a research teams, research centres, unique scientific and technological facilities or 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.