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Medical scientists typically have a Ph.D., usually in biology or a related life science. Some medical scientists get a medical degree instead of a Ph.D., but prefer doing research to practicing as a physician.Education
Students planning careers as medical scientists typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or a related field. Undergraduate students benefit from taking a broad range of classes, including life sciences, physical sciences, and math. Students also typically take courses that develop communication and writing skills, because they must learn to write grants effectively and publish research findings.
After students have completed their undergraduate studies, they typically enter Ph.D. programs. Dual-degree programs are available that pair a Ph.D. with a range of specialized medical degrees. A few degree programs that are commonly paired with Ph.D. studies are Medical Doctor (M.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). Whereas Ph.D. studies focus on research methods, such as project design and data interpretation, students in dual-degree programs learn both the clinical skills needed to be a physician and the research skills needed to be a scientist.
Graduate programs emphasize both laboratory work and original research. These programs offer prospective medical scientists the opportunity to develop their experiments and, sometimes, to supervise undergraduates. Ph.D. programs culminate in a thesis that the candidate presents before a committee of professors. Students may specialize in a particular field, such as gerontology, neurology, or cancer.
Those who go to medical school spend most of the first 2 years in labs and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and medical law. They also learn how to record medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses. They may be required to participate in residency programs, meeting the same requirements that physicians and surgeons have to fulfill.
Medical scientists often continue their education with postdoctoral work. Postdoctoral work provides additional and more independent lab experience, including experience in specific processes and techniques such as gene splicing, which is transferable to other research projects.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Medical scientists primarily conduct research and typically do not need licenses or certifications. However, those who administer drugs, gene therapy, or otherwise practice medicine on patients in clinical trials or a private practice need a license to practice as a physician.Important Qualities
Communication skills. Communication is critical, because medical scientists must be able to explain their conclusions. In addition, medical scientists write grant proposals, because grants often are required to fund their research.
Critical-thinking skills. Medical scientists must use their expertise to determine the best method for solving a specific research question.
Data-analysis skills. Medical scientists use statistical techniques, so that they can properly quantify and analyze health research questions.
Decisionmaking skills. Medical scientists must determine what research questions to ask, how best to investigate the questions, and what data will best answer the questions.
Observation skills. Medical scientists conduct experiments that require precise observation of samples and other health data. Any mistake could lead to inconclusive or misleading results.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Associate Scientist
Top Careers After Associate Scientist
Hispanic or Latino8.6%
Black or African American0.9%
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Johns Hopkins University8.1%
North Carolina State University7.6%
Pennsylvania State University7.3%
University of California - San Diego6.4%
University of Delaware6.1%
Virginia Commonwealth University5.8%
University of California - Davis5.5%
San Jose State University4.4%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill4.1%
University of North Carolina at Greensboro4.0%
University of Connecticut3.7%
University of North Carolina at Wilmington3.7%
University of Maryland - University College3.5%
University of Massachusetts Amherst3.4%
University of California - Berkeley3.2%
University of Massachusetts - Lowell3.2%
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University3.2%
Unfortunately we don’t have enough data for this section.
|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Associate Scientist||Horizon Discovery, Inc.||Cambridge, MA||May 10, 2016||$135,655|
|Associate Scientist||Brookhaven National Laboratory||NY||Jan 10, 2016||$121,004|
|Associate Scientist||Brookhaven National Laboratory||NY||Jan 10, 2016||$120,600|
|Biologist Research Associate/Scientist||Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory||Berkeley, CA||Nov 01, 2015||$114,252|
|Biologist Research Associate/Scientist||Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory||Berkeley, CA||Jan 11, 2015||$114,252|
|Principal Associate Scientist||Dart Neuroscience, LLC||San Diego, CA||Sep 14, 2016||$111,000|
|Associate Scientist II||Janssen Research & Development, LLC||San Diego, CA||Feb 23, 2015||$108,410|
|Associate Scientist||The Dow Chemical Company||Freeport, TX||May 20, 2016||$107,598 -
|Associate/Scientist||Abt Associates Inc.||Bethesda, MD||Apr 09, 2016||$107,120|
|Associate Scientist, Development-M and S||Genentech, Inc.||South San Francisco, CA||Aug 31, 2016||$104,894 -
|Associate/Scientist||Abt Associates Inc.||Bethesda, MD||Apr 09, 2016||$104,749|
|Associate Scientist||Brookhaven National Laboratory||NY||Jan 10, 2016||$104,496|
|Associate Scientist||Brookhaven National Laboratory||NY||Jan 10, 2016||$104,150|
|Associate Scientist .02 Molecular & Cellular Blgts)||Pro Unlimited, Inc.||San Francisco, CA||Feb 23, 2016||$79,872|
|Associate Scientist .02 Molecular & Cellular Blgts)||Pro Unlimited, Inc.||South San Francisco, CA||Feb 23, 2016||$79,872|
|Associate Scientist (Analytical Research & Method Developmen||G&W Pa Laboratories, LLC||Sellersville, PA||Feb 11, 2015||$79,500|
|Associate Scientist (Analytical Research & Method Developmen||G&W Laboratories, Inc.||Sellersville, PA||Feb 11, 2015||$79,500|
|Associate Scientist||Schlumberger Technology Corporation||Cambridge, MA||Feb 09, 2015||$78,894 -
|Associate Scientist||Schlumberger Technology Corporation||Cambridge, MA||Sep 02, 2015||$78,894 -
|Associate Scientist||EMD Serono Research Institute, Inc.||Billerica, MA||Dec 07, 2016||$78,507|
|Associate Scientist I||EMD Serono Research and Development Institute, Inc.||Billerica, MA||Jan 07, 2016||$78,507|
|Associate Scientist||University of Wisconsin-Madison||Madison, WI||Oct 06, 2016||$67,535|
|Associate Scientist||University of Wisconsin-Madison||Madison, WI||Jun 10, 2016||$67,535|
|Associate Scientist II||University Corporation for Atmospheric Research||Silver Spring, MD||Sep 14, 2015||$67,486|
|Associate Scientist II, Technical Development||Biogen IDEC, Inc.||Cambridge, MA||Jun 25, 2015||$67,289|
|Associate Scientist||Brigham and Women's Hospital||Cambridge, MA||Jan 01, 2015||$67,201|
|KH Associate Scientist||Kemin Foods, LC||Des Moines, IA||Sep 09, 2015||$67,200|
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