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Become An Associate Scientist

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Working As An Associate Scientist

  • Getting Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $68,103

    Average Salary

What Does An Associate Scientist Do

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings.

Duties

Medical scientists typically do the following:

  • Design and conduct studies that investigate both human diseases and methods to prevent and treat them
  • Prepare and analyze medical samples and data to investigate causes and treatment of toxicity, pathogens, or chronic diseases
  • Standardize drug potency, doses, and methods to allow for the mass manufacturing and distribution of drugs and medicinal compounds
  • Create and test medical devices
  • Develop programs that improve health outcomes, in partnership with health departments, industry personnel, and physicians
  • Write research grant proposals and apply for funding from government agencies and private funding sources
  • Follow procedures to avoid contamination and maintain safety

Many medical scientists form hypotheses and develop experiments, with little supervision. They often lead teams of technicians, and sometimes students, who perform support tasks. For example, a medical scientist working in a university laboratory may have undergraduate assistants take measurements and make observations for the scientist’s research.

Medical scientists study the causes of diseases and other health problems. For example, a medical scientist who does cancer research might put together a combination of drugs that could slow the cancer’s progress. A clinical trial may be done to test the drugs. A medical scientist may work with licensed physicians to test the new combination on patients who are willing to participate in the study.

In a clinical trial, patients agree to help determine if a particular drug, a combination of drugs, or some other medical intervention works. Without knowing which group they are in, patients in a drug-related clinical trial receive either the trial drug or a placebo—a pill or injection that looks like the trial drug but does not actually contain the drug.

Medical scientists analyze the data from all the patients in the clinical trial, to see how the trial drug performed. They compare the results with those obtained from the control group that took the placebo, and they analyze the attributes of the participants. After they complete their analysis, medical scientists may write about and publish their findings.

Medical scientists do research both to develop new treatments and to try to prevent health problems. For example, they may study the link between smoking and lung cancer or between diet and diabetes.

Medical scientists who work in private industry usually have to research the topics that benefit their company the most, rather than investigate their own interests. Although they may not have the pressure of writing grant proposals to get money for their research, they may have to explain their research plans to nonscientist managers or executives.

Medical scientists usually specialize in an area of research. The following are examples of types of medical scientists:

Cancer researchers research the causes of cancers, as well as ways to prevent and cure cancers. They may specialize in one or more types of cancer.

Clinical and medical informaticians develop new ways to use large datasets. They look for explanations of health outcomes through the statistical analysis of data.

Clinical pharmacologists research, develop, and test current and new drugs. They investigate the full effects that drugs have on human health. Their interests may range from understanding specific molecules to the effects that drugs have on large populations.

Gerontologists study the changes that people go through as they get older. Medical scientists who specialize in this field seek to understand the biology of aging and investigate ways to improve the quality of our later years. 

Immunochemists investigate the reactions and effects that various chemicals and drugs have on the human immune system.

Neuroscientists study the brain and nervous system.

Research histologists have a specific skill set that is used to study human tissue. They investigate how tissue grows, heals, and dies, and may investigate grafting techniques that can help people who have experienced serious injury.  

Serologists research fluids found in the human body, such as blood and saliva. Applied serologists often work in forensic science. For more information on forensic science, see the profile on forensic science technicians.

Toxicologists research the harmful effects of drugs, household chemicals, and other potentially poisonous substances. They seek to ensure the safety of drugs, radiation, and other treatments by investigating safe dosage limits.

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How To Become An Associate Scientist

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.

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Associate Scientist Career Paths

Associate Scientist
Quality Assurance Specialist Human Resources Manager Human Resources Vice President
Chief Science Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Scientist Research And Development Scientist Senior Scientist
Chief Scientific Officer
7 Yearsyrs
Research Technician Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical Project Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Research Technician Research Coordinator Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical Study Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Laboratory Technician Registered Nurse Nursing Director
Director Of Clinical Operations
12 Yearsyrs
Laboratory Manager Laboratory Director
Director Of Laboratory Operations
15 Yearsyrs
Analytical Chemist Laboratory Manager
Director Of Laboratory Services
13 Yearsyrs
Chemist Quality Control Analyst Quality Assurance Analyst
Quality Assurance Supervisor
6 Yearsyrs
Chemist Laboratory Manager Quality Assurance Manager
Quality Systems Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Analytical Chemist Quality Assurance Manager Regulatory Affairs Manager
Regulatory Affairs Director
12 Yearsyrs
Laboratory Technician Quality Assurance Technician Quality Assurance Manager
Regulatory Affairs Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Research And Development Director
12 Yearsyrs
Scientist Senior Scientist
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Senior Software Engineer Senior Analyst
Research Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Senior Manager Of Research And Development
12 Yearsyrs
Quality Control Chemist Scientist
Senior Scientist, Project Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Quality Control Chemist Analytical Chemist Research Scientist
Study Director
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Research And Development Director
Vice President Of Research And Development
13 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Senior Scientist 4.9 years
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Staff Scientist 3.5 years
Scientist 3.4 years
Contract Scientist 1.4 years
Top Careers Before Associate Scientist
Internship 5.4%
Scientist 5.3%
Chemist 5.2%
Technician 2.1%
Researcher 2.0%
Top Careers After Associate Scientist
Scientist 27.2%
Chemist 4.1%
Consultant 2.9%
Manager 1.7%

Do you work as an Associate Scientist?

Associate Scientist Demographics

Gender

Female

49.2%

Male

44.2%

Unknown

6.6%
Ethnicity

White

52.4%

Asian

20.5%

Hispanic or Latino

12.7%

Black or African American

9.8%

Unknown

4.6%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

35.3%

French

14.2%

Chinese

8.4%

German

8.4%

Mandarin

5.8%

Hindi

3.7%

Russian

3.7%

Cantonese

3.2%

Japanese

3.2%

Carrier

2.1%

Korean

1.6%

Portuguese

1.6%

Persian

1.6%

Urdu

1.6%

Sami

1.1%

Gujarati

1.1%

Dutch

1.1%

Tamil

1.1%

Xiang

1.1%

Swahili

0.5%
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Associate Scientist Education

Schools

Johns Hopkins University

8.3%

North Carolina State University

7.8%

Pennsylvania State University

7.4%

Northeastern University

6.7%

University of Delaware

6.4%

University of California - San Diego

6.0%

Temple University

5.8%

University of California - Davis

5.5%

Virginia Commonwealth University

5.3%

Drexel University

4.7%

San Jose State University

4.2%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

4.1%

University of Connecticut

3.8%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

3.8%

University of Maryland - University College

3.6%

University of North Carolina at Wilmington

3.6%

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

3.4%

University of Massachusetts - Lowell

3.3%

University of California - Berkeley

3.1%

University of California - Los Angeles

3.1%
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Majors

Biology

24.1%

Chemistry

23.6%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

10.9%

Pharmacy

6.4%

Biotechnology

5.9%

Microbiology

5.0%

Business

4.4%

Chemical Engineering

2.3%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.3%

Environmental Science

2.0%

Biomedical Engineering

1.9%

Pharmacology

1.7%

Biomedical Sciences

1.4%

Management

1.3%

Food Science

1.2%

Animal Science

1.2%

Zoology

1.2%

Physiology And Anatomy

1.0%

Project Management

1.0%

Public Health

1.0%
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Degrees

Bachelors

42.4%

Masters

35.7%

Doctorate

10.1%

Other

6.9%

Certificate

2.7%

Associate

1.9%

Diploma

0.3%
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Real Associate Scientist Salaries

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
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 -
$141,924
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 -
$164,200
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-Clinical Pharmacology Genentech, Inc. South San Francisco, CA Aug 20, 2016 $103,771 -
$149,400
Associate Scientist, Development Genentech, Inc. South San Francisco, CA Dec 08, 2016 $103,771 -
$149,400
Associate Scientist, Development Genentech, Inc. South San Francisco, CA Aug 12, 2016 $103,771 -
$149,400
Associate Scientist .02 Molecular & Cellular Blgts) Pro Unlimited, Inc. South San Francisco, CA Feb 23, 2016 $79,872
Associate Scientist .02 Molecular & Cellular Blgts) Pro Unlimited, Inc. 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 -
$104,700
Associate Scientist Schlumberger Technology Corporation Cambridge, MA Sep 02, 2015 $78,894 -
$104,700
Associate Scientist I, Process Development Gilead Sciences, Inc. Oceanside, CA Mar 09, 2015 $78,820 -
$102,295
Associate Scientist I EMD Serono Research and Development Institute, Inc. Billerica, MA Jan 07, 2016 $78,507
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
Associate Scientist II Nestle R&D Center, Inc. Marysville, OH May 08, 2016 $67,000 -
$87,000
Associate Scientist II, Technical Development Biogen, Inc. Cambridge, MA Mar 30, 2016 $67,000 -
$69,000

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Top Skills for An Associate Scientist

  1. Laboratory Equipment
  2. Methods
  3. Cell Culture
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Prepared purchases to maintain the laboratory equipment expendables inventory additional to prepared sample, reagent or laboratories materials to shipping.
  • Transferred methods to and from contract research and contract manufacturing organizations.
  • Trained new personnel in maintaining laboratory and cell culture for Genetic Toxicology screening lab.
  • Carried out surgical procedures on laboratory animals, performing experiments, analyzing data, and keeping accurate and up-to-date records.
  • Determined activity of stability samples and determined activity of drug product for sample release for clinical studies.

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Top 10 Best States for Associate Scientists

  1. California
  2. Delaware
  3. Maryland
  4. Maine
  5. Rhode Island
  6. Virginia
  7. Nevada
  8. New Mexico
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Connecticut
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