Ethel Currie's research interests were palaeontological. She became an authority on Mesozoic and Tertiary echinoids especially of Africa and southern Asia

She began a comprehensive description of the Scottish Carboniferous Goniatites 1n 1937. This was a major piece of work which gave precision to the zonal sequence of the strata, demonstrated the great gap in the Namurian series, delineated Lower from Upper Carboniferous, and proved that the rocks of the Calciferous Sandstone group in all their goniatitic horizons belong to the Viséan stage.

Currie was the first woman to win the Royal Society of Edinburgh Neill Prize (1945), for a paper on Jurassic ammonites, and one of the first three women to become Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1949.