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Become A Clinical Scientist

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Working As A Clinical Scientist

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

  • $98,848

    Average Salary

What Does A Clinical 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 A Clinical 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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Do you work as a Clinical Scientist?

Clinical Scientist Jobs

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Average Length of Employment
Senior Scientist 4.9 years
Staff Scientist 3.5 years
Scientist 3.4 years
Clinical Scientist 3.0 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 4.3%
Scientist 4.0%
Fellow 3.7%
Director 3.3%
Associate 3.3%
Top Employers After
Director 5.4%
Manager 4.5%
Principal 3.6%
Scientist 3.6%
Consultant 3.1%

Do you work as a Clinical Scientist?

Clinical Scientist Demographics

Gender

Female

57.7%

Male

38.2%

Unknown

4.1%
Ethnicity

White

53.5%

Asian

19.1%

Hispanic or Latino

12.6%

Black or African American

9.7%

Unknown

5.1%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

24.0%

Hindi

8.0%

Russian

8.0%

Portuguese

4.0%

Chinese

4.0%

Vietnamese

4.0%

German

4.0%

Marathi

4.0%

Cantonese

4.0%

Japanese

4.0%

French

4.0%

Gujarati

4.0%

Persian

4.0%

Sanskrit

4.0%

Korean

4.0%

Mandarin

4.0%

Catalan

4.0%

Italian

4.0%
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Clinical Scientist Education

Schools

Temple University

11.1%

Thomas Jefferson University

8.6%

George Washington University

7.4%

University of the Sciences

6.2%

Walden University

6.2%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

6.2%

Saint Joseph's University

4.9%

University of California - Los Angeles

4.9%

Drexel University

4.9%

University of Pittsburgh -

4.9%

University of Connecticut

3.7%

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

3.7%

University of California - San Diego

3.7%

New York University

3.7%

Rochester Institute of Technology

3.7%

Stanford University

3.7%

Baylor College of Medicine

3.7%

Fairleigh Dickinson University

3.7%

University of Nevada - Reno

2.5%

University of Texas Health Science Center Houston

2.5%
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Majors

Biology

18.3%

Pharmacy

10.3%

Microbiology

8.0%

Nursing

8.0%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

6.7%

Business

6.7%

Public Health

4.9%

Pharmacology

4.0%

Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science

3.6%

Health Care Administration

3.6%

Chemistry

3.6%

Physiology And Anatomy

3.1%

Medicine

2.7%

Biomedical Sciences

2.7%

Veterinary Science

2.7%

Project Management

2.7%

Psychology

2.2%

Clinical Psychology

2.2%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.2%

Management

1.8%
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Degrees

Masters

31.7%

Bachelors

30.3%

Doctorate

21.3%

Other

10.3%

Certificate

3.7%

Associate

1.3%

License

0.7%

Diploma

0.7%
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Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Clinical Scientist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Principal Clinical Scientist Coopervision, Inc. Pleasanton, CA Dec 31, 2015 $180,000
Clinical Scientist Lumiata, Inc. San Mateo, CA Apr 28, 2016 $160,000
Clinical Scientist Genentech, Inc. South San Francisco, CA Sep 03, 2013 $148,500
Clinical Scientist Inventiv Health Clinical SRE Summit, NJ Nov 30, 2015 $145,600
Clinical Scientist Inventiv Health Clinical SRE, LLC Cambridge, MA Apr 20, 2015 $145,600
Clinical Scientist Specialist Genentech, Inc. South San Francisco, CA Oct 01, 2011 $133,000
Scientist, Clinical Pharmacology Forest Research Institute, Inc. Jersey City, NJ Nov 30, 2009 $120,000
Clinical Scientist Philips Electronics North America Corporation Baltimore, MD Feb 09, 2016 $115,000
Clinical Scientist Forest Research Institute, Inc. Jersey City, NJ Jan 20, 2013 $113,027
Clinical Discovery Physician Scientist Glaxosmithkline LLC King of Prussia, PA Sep 13, 2016 $111,800 -
$229,200
Pet Care Clinical Scientist The Procter & Gamble Company Lewisburg, OH Sep 14, 2014 $110,000
Scientist-Clinical Pharmacokinetics Allergan Sales, LLC Irvine, CA Sep 13, 2010 $105,567
Scientist-Clinical Investigations Amway Global Services Inc. New York, NY Mar 28, 2016 $104,162
PHD Clinical Scientist The Procter & Gamble Company Lewisburg, OH Sep 06, 2012 $104,000
Clinical Scientist Lumiata Inc. San Mateo, CA Jun 23, 2015 $97,240
Clinical Scientist Thoratec Corporation Pleasanton, CA Sep 04, 2012 $95,000 -
$151,000
Clinical Scientist Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Scientific Research Santa Clarita, CA Oct 16, 2009 $95,000
Clinical Scientist Forest Research Institute, Inc. Jersey City, NJ Sep 28, 2011 $95,000
Clinical Safety Scientist Recruitech, Inc. (DBA Recruitech International) East Hanover, NJ Oct 01, 2011 $95,000 -
$110,000
Clinical Safety Scientist Recruitech, Inc. (DBA Recruitech International) East Hanover, NJ Oct 15, 2011 $95,000 -
$110,000
Clinical Scientist The Fountain Group LLC Gaithersburg, MD Jan 04, 2016 $93,915
Clinical Scientist The Fountain Group LLC Gaithersburg, MD Apr 01, 2016 $93,915
Clinical Scientist Philips Medical Systems (Cleveland), Inc. Highland Heights, OH Oct 01, 2012 $87,200 -
$143,900
Clinical Scientist I Forest Research Institute, Inc. Jersey City, NJ Jan 20, 2010 $85,000
Clinical Content Quality Scientist Qiagen Redwood City, Inc. Redwood City, CA Aug 24, 2016 $84,000
Scientist-Clinical Investigations Amway Global Services Inc. New York, NY Apr 01, 2013 $81,099 -
$100,000
Clinical Scientist Cellex, Inc. Rockville, MD Dec 01, 2009 $80,000
Clinical Scientist Philips Medical Systems (Cleveland), Inc. Highland Heights, OH Mar 09, 2013 $77,700 -
$128,300

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Top Skills for A Clinical Scientist

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  1. Clinical Trial Design
  2. Regulatory Documents
  3. Protocols
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Supported clinical trial design, performed medical monitoring of study data, and summarized study results.
  • Collected Regulatory documents, responded to monitor reports requiring site interventions.
  • Provided valuable input with Study Design & Study Protocols and ensured that feedback provided was adequately integrated into study protocols.
  • Perform reconciliation of clinical trial adverse event data captured in Clinical Safety and Data Management databases.
  • Led Cross Functional Team that developed plans for communication/motivation of global clinical trial team members.

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